December 31, 2013, by Guest blog

Living with a Spanish family…the best decision I’ve made

Post written by Faith Locken.

I now arrive at the five month mark of my six month stay here in Seville and it is safe to say that, with regards to language acquisition, I have most certainly excelled. Before embarking on my year abroad one of the promises I made to myself was that I would steer clear of Erasmus students and really do my best to integrate myself with native speakers – a promise I think I kept well.

My decision to live with a Spanish family was probably the best I made. Working as an English teacher all day did not give much chance to practice Spanish, so being surrounded by Spanish speakers at home forced me to practice my Spanish. I would advise any prospective year abroad student to do the same; granted it may be daunting at first but the skills you will gain in the target language will be invaluable.

Another good way to improve your language skills which I have found extremely useful during my time here is searching for language exchange groups. Finding them is very easy; with a quick search on Facebook I found a variety of Spanish-English exchange groups who met up on a weekly basis. Alternatively if you are not keen on group meetings you can find individuals who are more than willing to meet up and practice on a one-to-one basis. These past months I took advantage of the connections I made with native speakers and took every opportunity I could to meet up and practice with them. In doing this I feel my speaking and understanding have improved a lot.

With regards to language acquisition I have found that my confidence has improved most; I am now able to handle myself in situations such as shopping or ordering in a restaurant. Watching the television and listening to the radio have also become second nature. I no longer have to speak to someone face to face to understand them perfectly; I can hold lengthy telephone conversations as well. Moreover, I have broadened my vocabulary; I now know and use a variety of colloquial phrases with ease when speaking. In the past I used to have to translate what I wanted to say internally before speaking, however now, I find that I hardly have to think, if at all, about what I want to say.

There is no doubt that being a resident here for five months has improved my Spanish more than if I had remained in England. It is no wonder that the year abroad is a compulsory part of language degrees, because there is no better way to learn than to fully immerse yourself in the target language country. To those organising their year abroad I would advise that you spend the most amount of time possible in each country. At first it can be scary spending so much time away from home, and more often than not, out of your comfort zone, but I guarantee you will reap the rewards at the end when you can speak and understand your languages fluently.

Posted in Language acquisition