I love traveling. I hate being a tourist, walking around with the massive camera I still don’t know how to use, having no idea what I’m doing and – worst of all – expecting the locals to speak English. And yet here I am, strolling through Las Palmas with my bigass camera in automatic mode, not speaking a single word of Spanish.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve already downloaded a language teaching app and done at least two lessons every day since I arrived. (The app is called Duolingo btw and I can highly recommend it. It’s free, fun and extremely well thought-out.) I’ve also written down vocabulary of pretty much everything I encounter in my everyday life (so yes, mainly food) and put it on the wall next to my desk. I’ve memorized the basics to at least be able to greet and thank people. I’ve started to count my reps during workout in Spanish. And I’ve already signed up for classes that will hopefully start soon. So yes, I’m getting there. But all of this is only the beginning of a journey that I know is gonna take some time.
So maybe I should have started to seriously work on my Spanish before coming here. So that I could have asked for the way when I got lost trying to find my apartment for the first time. So that shopping for groceries wouldn’t have been such a struggle. So that I could have checked out the charming little café in my street. So that I would have understood what the instructors were saying during my first surfing lesson.
Not that my lack of Spanish skills kept me from doing any of the named things. But it cost me a lot of effort and was very uncomfortable. I’m not actually a tourist here, but my limited knowledge of the local language forces me to behave like one. And I hate that.
The wonderful thing about all of this is that at the same time I find it highly motivating. Learning Spanish is no longer only a wish, but a necessity. And since it’s the 3rd foreign language I’m learning, I already somehow know how this works. I know that the only way of getting comfortable speaking a language is to simply do it. I know that the fear of sounding weird or saying something wrong doesn’t do any good. So this time I’m not gonna wait all those years until I finally feel like I know enough to have an actual conversation. I just check the few words I might need before I go somewhere and dive in. I don’t need to speak Spanish in order to speak (or stammer) Spanish. And if I can order a soy cappuccino, get a cupcake and ask for the WIFI password in the charming little café in my street after not even a week, I can’t wait to see what I’ll be able to do after 3 months here.