Remote Year

Losing at Translations


I’m three months into living in Spanish-speaking countries, and I really thought that by now I’d be speaking more Español than I have been. The challenge of living, traveling and working alongside 50+ native/fluent English speakers is that it’s really hard to break out of my language comfort zone. When circumstances do call for speaking Spanish, there’s almost always someone with me who has a better command of the language, so I usually sit back and let them do the talking/translating.

I just downloaded Duolingo, so that teal pie piece is about to shrink.
I just downloaded Duolingo, so that teal pie piece is about to shrink.

A funny thing happens in my brain when I’m confronted with the need to wade into the Spanish-speaking waters: I default to speaking in French. That was the language I studied from middle school through first semester of college, so the “foreign language” pathways in my brain are paved en Français. I often find myself speaking a weird Frañolish mashup, resulting in phrases like:

“I would like una sandwich avec jamon y fromage, por favor. Merci!”

I’ve found that venturing out on my own, away from the crutch of my English-speaking compadres, helps nudge me closer to being more confident in using my poquito Español. With four (plus???) more months of living in South America, it’s time to make improving my Spanish skills a priority. I’ll report back in July with an updated piechart. Hopefully that yellow section will have grown más grande.

*Aqui y Ahora photo by Michael Muniz, taken at last weekend’s Estereo Picnic music festival.