January 8, 2014, by Guest blog

Necessity has broadened my vocabulary

Of the many aspects of learning a second language, pertaining to correct grammatical constructions whilst having a quick-fire (normal!) conversation is the one that proves the most difficult. Until spending an extended period in Spain, commonplace questions would leave me faltering, panicking to the point of absurd! Now I can proudly say that this is much less common. Noting the phrases most commonly used and the intonation with which they are said allows for increased confidence as you learn to essentially mimic your peers. In turn, the phrases become more natural when spoken by yourself, and thus language acquisition takes full hold.

Necessity has also broadened vocabulary and made me more able to think on my feet: setting up a bank account for instance, choosing a flat or discovering which mobile contract suits my needs the best. Not only is specific vocabulary needed, but these are all things that I hoped to get right the first time round! Solution: ask a lot of questions. This proves valuable advice given that, as a by-product of trying not to be a nuisance at the beginning of my stay and thus pretending I understood exactly what was going on, I now have three Spanish mobile SIM cards when obviously there is no need! Smiling and nodding when as a result of lack of comprehension just does not suffice.

There were several points where confusion got the better of me and a blank look was the best I could do but, after coming to terms with the uselessness of this reaction, I learned to use what I did know to talk around a query and listen out for the word I was looking for. More often than not it was a mental block, or a word I had come across but not necessarily absorbed effectively enough to think of it when needed. Therefore, the shop assistants/ bank manager attempting to understand my meaning provided me with the vocabulary I needed. Essentially this was a game of Don’t Say It, or Taboo.

As regards my bank account there seemed to be many complications, the most worrying of which was the fact it took three months to receive my card and PIN number. During this period, the number of visits to the bank in question, along with the post office, was innumerable. Though at the time this seemed more irritating than anything, it helped with communication as a general, and got me out and about talking to locals.

Overall, language acquisition has come bit by bit, but steadily and positively nonetheless, and I hope that the next five months here will prove just as useful in this regard.

Posted in Language acquisition