December 29, 2013, by Guest blog

Noticing the confidence and fluidity of my spanish

Post written by Hannah Sheehan.

Language acquisition could never be gained from simply holidays abroad and lessons in class. It requires dedication, a love of the language and to be truly immersed in the country and its culture. I know now that my year abroad will enable this to be possible.

From the time I arrived in Madrid it became necessary for me to use my language skills and mix with local people to find a place to live. I felt like I was thrown in at the deep end and needed to acquire the confidence and life skills to find my way in an unknown and foreign city.

Working at the University involved time assisting in the Education and Innovation department and the International Relations department. Translation of letterhead documents, the university’s website and scientific pdf files were the first tasks I was assigned. This involved a great deal of reading in Spanish, interpreting and then translating it to my mother tongue. This may sound easy but it was not as simple as translating word-for-word as the Spanish language has a habit of using a lot of words for such a short sentence. I then moved onto organising University events such as Year abroad meetings and a study abroad fair. This required a great deal of writing and replying to emails in Spanish and contacting students and partners on the phone asking for their participation. Whilst working at the University I have improved my writing, reading, speaking and listening ability in Spanish, most challenging when liaising with native Spanish speakers whose dialect is generically faster than my own.

During my free time I meet up with a young Spanish girl for conversation classes once a week. It works as a language exchange (we speak 1 hour in Spanish and 1 hour in English) and it has helped the both of us immensely. I have noticed the confidence and fluidity of my Spanish with the help of these sessions and my vocabulary list has grown week by week.

Furthermore twice a week I have Spanish classes with a native Spanish speaker. These classes cover reading, writing, speaking, listening and grammar in a classroom environment. Whilst on your year abroad it is really easy to focus on your speaking and listening and to forget the other important skills such as grammar, writing and reading. This is where these classes have provided a lot of help as we are set regular homework through a group blog some of which include listening to podcasts, Spanish songs, and reading and comprehension activities. A highlight of these classes has been learning a huge amount of day-to-day expressions and slang. I never knew that Spanish people used so many expressions but now I find myself picking up on them in day-to-day conversation.

Language is undoubtedly acquired during those day-to-day mundane tasks that everyone does as you listen and speak Spanish without even realising. For example the weekly visit to the supermarket- asking and paying for food in the language, going out for dinner or drinks-ordering what you would like in Spanish, the monthly visit to the bank to pay rent or bills and the unfortunate time when it’s time to top up your phone.

Posted in Language acquisition