December 8, 2013, by Guest blog

The other day I asked for a human breast instead of a chicken breast…

Post written by Madeleine Pitkin.

I’ve now been living in Spain for almost three months, which is the minimum amount of time the university expects its language students to spend living in a country which speaks their chosen language, so I’d hope that my language skills would have improved by now. I was visited last weekend by my parents, who think my Spanish has improved dramatically since we last visited Spain together a few years ago. However, since I’ve studied Spanish from beginners’ level, this is less impressive than it first sounds!

I do agree that my Spanish has improved. I no longer hear ringing in my ears when I have to speak to people and am able to give people directions or the time when they ask, without having to first excuse my poor Spanish! I can decipher the meaning or headlines after carefully scrutinising articles and understand enough of conversations in the staff room to take part in them.

However, I still have a lot to learn and life here remains a daily struggle. When ordering food at restaurants and bars I often have to guess and gamble.  When my students shout, scream or mumble I struggle to pick out their words, let alone decipher them! The teachers at school have promised to teach me Spanish slang and swear words so I can understand them …although I can’t imagine they’ll be very useful for my exams in year 4! Just as I’m starting to gain the confidence I need to speak to someone new, they immediately ask me if I’m English because they can hear my accent! Having to concentrate on everything I hear is exhausting and I want to be in bed by half past ten every night, which definitely doesn’t fit in with the Spanish lifestyle!

I’ve made a lot of embarrassing, and often hilarious, mistakes. The other day at the supermarket, instead of asking for a chicken breast (pechuga), I asked for a human breast (pecho), not realising that there were two different words! Upon first meeting my intercambio, I told her that I was very horny (Estoy muy caliente) rather than too hot (Tengo mucho calor). Surprisingly, she did want to meet again!

Posted in Language acquisition