October 19, 2013, by Guest blog

Becoming more fluent in Salamanca

I’ve now been in Salamanca, Spain for roughly nine weeks, and I’m already halfway through the Spain part of my year abroad, which is pretty scary. Time has gone really quickly, and it feels just yesterday that I arrived!

Arriving in mid-August, the heat was unbearable. I spent a few days in a hostel when I first arrived, giving myself enough time to find an apartment. Looking back, I can’t really believe I did that, since I’m so organised and prefer to know where I’m going to live before going somewhere! Anyway, after a few exhausting days I found a great room; it’s really close to the city centre, the landlady is nice and for some reason it’s so much cheaper than what any of my friends here are paying per month.

When I first arrived, I barely understood anything anyone said to me: they spoke really fast and used vocabulary that I’d never learnt, even though they were basic, day-to-day words. I’ve quickly discovered that at uni I’ve not really learnt anything useful to hold a conversation, but when someone asks me about immigration or poverty I become much more fluent!

Whilst I’m here I’m working at the head office of a language school chain, one of the biggest in Spain and Latin America, in their marketing department. My general tasks are to translate documents into English and write articles about different things Spanish-related. The office is fun and laid back, and I like the job, but the only downside is that the other interns are English and Dutch, meaning not much Spanish is spoken. To make it worse, our two bosses are both American, and we’re all at the same table. In fact, I’ve probably learnt just as much English here from our constant debates about American English and British English.

So, with not much language practice in the office, I’ve been trying to improve outside. Aside from occasionally speaking in Spanish with my workmates, I meet up with a few Spanish people once a week for a conversation exchange, spending half an hour each talking in English and Spanish. I also teach English to someone who’s about to take an exam, and my Spanish is better than his English meaning I still get to improve.

Overall, my general impressions are mixed. On the one hand there’s a particular stereotype that all Spaniards are really nice and welcoming… but the majority of Spanish people I’ve met are actually quite rude and unhelpful, particularly impatient when you make a mistake. What’s weird is that the rude ones tend to be in customer service jobs… Having said that, my housemate’s parents are here as I write this, and they’re cooking us pizza for lunch, so I guess it depends who you meet!

Posted in First impressionsLanguage acquisition