Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finding my cojones

As someone who takes pride in how she communicates her thoughts, I find trying to speak in a new language infinitely frustrating. So despite having taken Spanish classes for some time now, it still pains me to attempt to communicate in Spanish—particularly when I know the other person speaks English well anyway.

But it's pretty much impossible to learn how to speak a language without making yourself speak it, no matter how terribly. Lest I waste several more years studying and yet never learning Spanish, I added this to my list to get a good kick in the butt to keep trying.

I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be but I've been pushing myself to practice much more thanks to this list.

In Ibiza, French turned out to be a more useful language to know, given our Belgian party crew. But I took a few shots at ordering in Spanish and attempting to converse with a woman who had dinged our friend Alain's car. 

In Mexico, I was much more agitated that I had to break out some Español when we got stopped at a military checkpoint than the actual fact that we were stopped at a military checkpoint (Thankfully they just wanted to know if we were going to sunbathe in Cancun. Si, Señor!). I got to use the language a teeny bit more to ask directions here and there. Very teeny tiny steps, but steps forward nonetheless.

While hanging out with Tamara, Michele and Juan in Macau, I got another chance to get some practice in. Granted, my two-minute conversation with Michele and Juan made sweatbeads appear on my forehead much quicker than our bungeejump off the tower, but at least I tried!

These days, the most stressful part of my workday is when my co-worker, dear sweet Paula, turns around from her chair and asks me random conversational questions in Spanish. I asked her to do this and I am so grateful that she does, but I hope the day will soon come when I won't feel like she's just asked me for the exact location of the Holy Grail every time we speak.

Crossing off this item is not as dramatic as most other things on my list, but it's one absolutely necessary item that has helped me quite a bit in overcoming something that I battle with quite regularly. People ask me if there's another list in the works now that I'm already 30 and the truth is, I haven't decided yet. But whether or not a new list comes to fruition, there's one thing I absolutely plan on tackling in the near future: Spend a month in a Spanish-speaking country for full-on Español immersion! 


  1. Good for you. I can identify with the frustration of being put on the spot to bust out with some Spanish. I only find myself speaking it when I am in Spanish speaking countries (or in Brazil because my Portugues isn't that great). I've forgotten how to speak it because I haven't been to Mexico or Spain in a few years but hopefully with a month in Peru this summer for skiing, I will be able to fall back into it. If I can do it, you can do it!

  2. Thanks Jan! Wow how exciting! Looking forward to hearing about your Spanish-speaking and skiing adventures in Peru!

  3. it helps to be in a place where you are forced to speak the local language where no one understands english. that happened to me on my 2 week trip to brasil. my portuguese got better in no time, that i even had a 2-hour animated discussion on capoeira with the hostel's receptionist. but no, once i left the country, i haven't practiced it as much. so im back to square 2 (i'd like to think i didn't lose it all). so, after that month long trip you plan on taking, make sure you still use it regularly. otherwise, *poof* and it's like it never happened.

  4. Thanks Cybs! I gotta keep that in mind!

  5. Not everything can be glamorous and adventure. Some things take time but are still just as big of an accomplishment!

  6. Oh my! I plan to do the same! :) I plan to lock myself in a far flung area of a Spanish speaking country (Castillan) so that I'll be forced to converse and dig every Spanish word I learned and be able to learn more. Hopefully a month will do it. :)

    Keep us posted. I love reading your entries! :)

  7. there's an TED talk by Tim Ferris where he talks about how he learned like 15 languages by using a verb sheet. It's actually pretty nifty.


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