Coming to another country to learn a new language can be intimidating. I want to share some tips that helped me while living here in Colombia as in intern with Volunteers Colombia! Once you are put into this position you notice that there is a lot more to interacting with others than just speaking. Body language, facial expressions, and gesturing are a big factor in communication. When not knowing anything in spanish besides the basics, these other factors of communication are extremely useful.
My name is Cassidy, I am from Canada and I am here, in Bogota for six months to attempt to learn spanish. I am an intern at Volunteers Colombia, and came to Bogota knowing little spanish, though to my advantage I speak french, allowing me to pick it up quicker.
1. Be patient: I have been in Colombia for two months now, though I cannot say I understand everything I can say that I do understand a lot, as long as the person is not speaking too fast! Speaking, on the other hand, is a different story. Though I can usually get my main point across when speaking, I am yet to fully speak my thoughts in spanish, which at times can be frustrating. Learning a new language is always a process which takes times, patience and a lot of practice.
2. Use your previous experience: In some ways learning spanish has been easier for me than for others. Due to my background in french I am able to understand more due to the similarity in the two languages. Many words are very similar in spanish and french. As well as the feminine and masculine for nouns, in both languages you have objects such as a chair in either feminine or masculine, which is very different than english.
3. Celebrate accomplishments, no matter the size: After about a month here, I went to the movie theater to watch a movie with some friends. The film was in spanish and although i did not understand every single thing that was said I was able to follow along with the movie and understand a good amount of what characters were saying or talking about. That was a huge accomplishment for me.
Although learning a new language can be fun, it also has it difficulties, sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves, which is not good. I was hoping that in two months, I would be able to speak fluently, which is obviously not the case, and I was frustrated with myself but , I had really underestimated myself until my visit to the movie theater, at which point I realized how far I have really come. I have started to correct myself with certain grammatical mistakes that I used to make often, and that’s important and a huge accomplishment. I have found that the most difficult part of the language barrier and not being fluent for me is not being able to fully explain myself or have an in-depth conversation, as I am very social. Coming from someone who loves to talk, it is extremely difficult, but also very motivating and it drives me to want to learn more.
4. Remember it’s worth it: This experience has been one of the best of my life. It’s only been two months and I have already learned so much, not only when it comes to speaking spanish, but also about culture, people and history. I believe traveling is such an amazing way to learn and grow as a person, as well as i believe that is it very important to become a well rounded individual not only because of the benefits that speaking other languages has, but because it makes you aware of different countries, cultures, histories traditions. It also enriches your souls with understanding and tolerance for diversity which ultimately makes you a better and more respectful world citizen