January 4, 2014, by Guest blog

My next goal is to improve to the point where I’m no longer asked “Ingles?” every time I walk into a shop

I’ve been living in Melilla (a Spanish protectorate on the northern coast of Morocco) for over three months now. I have yet to find a shop that sells cheddar cheese and still struggle to mask my oh so English accent when conversing in Spanish, but other than that I feel very much at home here. Owing to its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer, winter temperatures are comparatively warm in Melilla and the Rif. When stepping off the plane in Madrid en route to London for the Christmas holidays, the first thing that struck me was how cold and dry the air felt compared to Morocco.

While I still speak in English with fellow assistants and the students at school, the majority of my everyday interactions with my flatmates, colleagues and friends are in Spanish. By virtue of the number of Spaniards in Melilla hailing from Andalusia, trying to understand everything I hear can be challenging as most people from the region have the tendency to “swallow” (omit) the pronunciation of the letter ‘S’ should it appear at the end of a word. People that I’m conversing with are often confronted with an ominous pause on my part as I stop to work out whether certain words were said to me in their plural or singular form. Thankfully, most Spaniards are very patient when it comes to dealing with foreigners, and are happy to repeat what they said if they can tell I didn’t quite get it the first time.

While I enjoy learning about the intricacies of Spanish slang, I try my best to avoid using it so as to reinforce good habits for when I return to the UK for Fourth Year. My reading comprehension and oral communication have improved tremendously since arriving here, and my vocabulary has improved significantly too. Whenever I encounter a new word in an article or newspaper, I make an effort to look up the translation and make a mental note of it for future reference. I still struggle a little with written expression, as I’m extremely hesitant regarding my use of accents for fear of getting words wrong. I put myself in as many situations where I’m required to converse in Spanish as possible so as to improve my listening skills, and for this reason I take no shame in relaxing on the sofa to watch some Spanish television.

It’s only been three months and I can definitely feel as though my Spanish has come a long way. With a little less than five more months to go, my next goal is to keep improving, and maybe even mask my accent to the point where I’m no longer asked “¿Ingles?” every time I walk into a shop.

Posted in Language acquisition