Recently I have really been feeling the effects of the language barrier. As I become better friends with certain Spaniards, it gets harder and harder to say the things I really want to say! This is both good and bad. Good because it has really motivated me to make a big effort in improving my Spanish (like, I will actually try to sit down for an hour everyday and legit study, and I’m taking a Spanish class), and I am forcing myself to do something everyday that makes me uncomfortable to get over this crazy fear I have of speaking to people in Spanish. But bad because it is so frustrating to have to be the “mild” version of myself the majority of the time. I can’t be sarcastic, I can’t teasingly mock my friends, I can’t gossip tactfully… the list goes on.
I am, however, seeing little improvements, which I like. I took it upon myself to begin reading a novel in Spanish and I’m understanding it, except for a few words here and there. My roommate Nur and I even ordered these phrasebooks with lots of slang and colloquialisms which is really helpful… now I just need to memorize the entire thing..ha. Luckily my frustrations have forced me to just say basically anything in order to try to get my point across, where as a couple months ago I would have just given up and stopped talking.
Being in a place with the sole purposes of teaching a language and learning a language, you really begin to feel like everything you DO revloves around language… and really, if you think about it, it does. In “normal” life, that is, in a life where you live in the country and culture you grew up in, everything you do each day could not be done without language. Talking to your friends, going to the store, making recipes, etc. But in a place where these simple things need to be done in a different language, the salience of language is totally magnified.
I didn’t realize how much I liked being surrounded by a different language until I went to Manchester this weekend. I got off of the plane and everything was in English, people were speaking Englsih, I could understand everything around me and it was so easy to ask someone how to get to the train station I needed to go to. But it was so strange that I still felt really foreign when everything around me was seemingly so familiar. I have gotten used to always thinking and speaking and being surrounded by Spanish, that English has become a nice private get away. In Manchester, talking on the bus with my friends in English felt so conspicuous… no privacy at all! I like that in Spain I can mutter obscenities under my breath at people and no one around me can understand, and I like that everyday I am challenged with learning new words and phrases so that one day I can mutter obscenities under my breath in Spanish when I am in English speaking countries. My trip to Manchester was definitely fun; it was so good to see four of my friends, especially because two of them are from England so it’s pretty hard to arrange visits with them when I’m in the United States. But I felt “home” when I got back into Spain (though I also felt “hungover” and “exhausted”).
Last Thursday there was a tapas festival. There were a couple of beer tents set up on the paseo and a few different bars were serving tapas for one euro each, and with each tapa you got a beer. One of my students was there and he gave me all of the beer tickets that came with his tapas, so that was 3 extra free beers for me. Standing on the paseo, eating tapas in the sun, drinking Cruzcampo, all I could think was how Spanish it felt. Ramón just laughed at me, but it was true. I love being in Spain and even though at times it is a little frustrating, I am so happy to be surrounded by people who want to help me and I am so lucky to have found a place that feels like home.