As the doors of the subte (subway) opened, I looked around and spotted 2 women having a conversation. Perfect! I walked over and stood right beside them. I did this every morning on my way to my Spanish classes. I listened to people’s conversations to see if I could understand what they were saying. It was not my intention to eves drop on their conversation, I just wanted to test my level of improvement for learning Spanish.
After 1 week of studying Spanish in Buenos Aires, I had become so frustrated! I was not able to understand any of the conversations going on among people in the subway! It was like they were speaking a completely different language than the one I was learning in school. How could this be? By now, I was supposed to be practically fluent. I had an advantage, I spoke both Italian and French. Everyone kept telling me, “ It will be so easy for you, you will pick it up in no time.” It felt like I was trying to re invent the wheel!!! I thought about just quitting going to school, what was the point, my Spanish was not improving.
Week 2 of the first session, a new student from Ireland had joined the class. After about 1 hour, she made a comment to the teacher. “ The Spanish here is very different than in Spain, I just spend 7 months in Madrid, I was able to learn the basic just by working at a bar, speaking to the locals. I can not understand anyone here.”
The teacher laughed and replied, “ You are right, we speak a very dry, heavy dialect in Buenos Aires, almost like a different language compared to any other Spanish speaking countries.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh at myself or crawl under the table! I had been so focused on my pride, set myself a certain expectation, that I lost site on taking the time to understand my new surroundings and what is involved when learning something new, especially a new language. It was not only about the fact that the people in Buenos Aires speak in a heavy dialect, that day, I had an awaking! Just because I speak Italian and French didn’t mean I would learn Spanish in 1 week. I was so much in a hurry to want to speak, that I didn’t pay attention to other opportunities that were being discussed in the class. It was my own fault, I had become my own enemy! I felt like that Irish girl joined the same class that I was in to save me.
I continued going to my classes, this time with an open mind, patience and dedication. I participated in the group discussions. This allowed for my mistakes to be corrected on the spot. I put in more time on my homework, I wrote short passages and gave them to the teacher to correct…Soon, her comments, “cuidado con el Italiano” stopped and I finally got a “ Muy Bien” comment!
I attended language exchange events. This not only helped me to practice my Spanish, I met so many new friends and learned so much about their culture, their backgrounds and got invited to a few “asados”!
Learning something new takes time. It requires patience and dedication. I have always known this, but, sometimes, we tend to forget. When we start something new, we want to be good at it yesterday (I fell in that trap with learning Spanish). I was intimidated by the people who spoke to each other, I had not realized at first, hey, these people have speaking Spanish all their lives, I just started. I almost quit going to my classes, I am so grateful that the Irish girl joined the class, her presence was like a slap in the face for me!
After almost 3 months, I am able to carry on a conversation comfortably. I can not describe the feeling. Sometimes, I just take a moment and think, “I am speaking Spanish!” It is like a dream, I wanted it for so long… Yet, I realize that I still have so much more to learn. It is exciting!
Please, do not give up when learning something new, playing guitar, cooking, playing a sport, maybe a new skill or project at work! You will probably encounter people who already have mastered what you just starting to learn, do not get intimidated. You will not have it mastered in a week, be patient with yourself! Patience is what makes you pay attention to so much more than you could possibly imagine. Everything worthwhile comes in stages, never all at once. You will notice that the more you learn, the more there is out there to learn. It does not stop, however, as you keep going, you will build upon the things that you have already learned. As you advance a stage, you will want to shout it out from the highest mountain!!
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