Yesterday a friend suggested that I should keep a journal to keep a track on how my Spanish is improving and the day before I asked a previous volunteer how she had felt about hers after 2 months. It is difficult to know whether you’re doing badly, ok or actually quite well. Within 10 minutes the other day I had one person telling me I’m doing well and I’ve come a long way and then someone else get frustrated because I didn’t know what they were saying to me and telling me I needed to learn a lot more! So I thought it might be helpful to tell you all how it is going with learning Spanish, then I can look back at how much I’ve learnt (hopefully) in a years time and also if future volunteers look at this blog it might help them to know what to expect.
Before I came to honduras I did a few google searches on how easy Spanish is to learn as I was getting more than a bit nervous about not knowing anything… pretty much all the responses were that it is the easiest language to learn. I took this as it would be quite easy – that was a mistake. Obviously I haven’t learnt any other languages, but if they are harder than this then I might just stick to Spanish!!
I would advise as much possible to future volunteers to learn as much as they can before they arrive – I’ve been there, waiting to go and wanting to learn a few phrases etc. but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I think it was most likely avoidance of facing what a challenge I had coming up! But I wish I had at least learnt a few basics just to open my brain to something it hasn’t done in a long time. We had 10 days of Spanish lessons when we first arrived but there is so much new information and a lot of it doesn’t make any sense at that point. It wasn’t until I began my project (where 1 out of about 30 people) speak English that I was forced into learning it but it helped a lot. I would also say it is much better to live with a family who speak little or no English, one of the volunteers who is living in a much smaller place than Tegus where no one speaks English, has learnt very quickly. Although it must be massively daunting at first… but it will definitely help in the long run.
So what’s so hard about Spanish?? Well a lot… the masculine/feminine rule is ok, that just takes some getting used to and is quite easy once you get it. What I, and the other volunteers, are stuggling with is the lack of rules. It seems like you have a word in Spanish for each word in English but as soon as you say a whole sentence new words come out of nowhere! For example, the sentence ‘I called her but she didn’t answer’ is translated into ´Le llame pero no contesto’. I’m sure this makes loads of sense to Spanish speakers but to me I want to know where the ‘yo’ (I) and ella (her) went??
Also, they take one way of saying something and turn it into so many different ways of saying different things. Like you would think saying ‘it is’ whichever way you say it would be the same… no. ‘It is 8 o’clock’… ‘Son las ocho’; ‘It is Wednesday’… ‘Hoy es Miercoles’; ‘It is sunny’… ‘Hace sol’. So instead of having to remember how to say ‘it is’ one way, you have to instead memorise how to say each one of these different phrases. Ahhh! And don’t get me started on verbs and the different tenses…
However I know that I have improved a lot over the last two months. I had lunch for an hour with a girl from work on Monday (and she knows no English) but we still managed to talk the whole time about the most random stuff. And yesterday I could go into a shop and tell the sales assistant what I needed and talk to the taxi driver about where I’m from, what I’m doing here etc. I can’t use a lot of the words I would usually use in English but I just find a way of saying what I need with the words I do know. Like yesterday, I somehow managed to say that I put money in my bra to keep it safe but that morning I changed my bra after I’d put money in and it had fallen out. I have no idea how I said that in Spanish but I found a way.
So to my Mum who asked me after about 5 days of being here if I was fluent in Spanish yet, no not quite yet… but I’m hoping I can be by the time I come home. I would love to visit schools after my volunteering and try to encourage students to recognise the advantage of learning a language while they can. I definitely wish I had paid more attention to Spanish at school.
In other news, I think I am going on a motorbike and climbing up a mountain today. But I’m not 100% sure… I can’t tell what they’re saying!! Haha wish me luck…