The Secret to Speaking Spanish

And so we have entered 2016!

Did you don your yellow knickers? Regardless, I am sure if you try to keep smiling then 2016 will be … full of smiles!!

Have you made any resolutions? Here is mine: speak Spanish! I think I speak ok but [the embarassing truth is that] I have a degree in Spanish  and I’m nowhere near fluent!

Gahh but speaking another language is not like how I’d imagined. I never picked it up on my first day here like I thought I would, and I don’t wake up every morning with the words flying off my tongue like a freckled Salma Hayek. In fact, most days its the exact opposite! Sometimes my suegra speaks to me and it feels like my head is underwater – are they words she’s using? It’s nothing to do with the fact we’re in Chile – land of the terrible Spanish (or  so everyone likes to point out) – but more to do with the fact that I’m just not that linguistically gifted. In other words – I ain’t got no skills.

The fault is no-one’s but my own. I will not go blaming Chile for having a dialect of Castellano that is so rapidly spoken and poetic that half of us just don’t get it. Most of the time a good “si pero porque piensas eso?” works well in most situations or, failing that, a quick subject change, but darn it there are times when you just need to understand the conversation. Like when someone is actually asking you to pass the salt and your asking why starts an even bigger conversation! Scratch that – you are highly unlikely to ever confuse the word sal because it’s such a staple item in the Chilean diet!

So my New Years Resolution is to speak only Spanish.  It’s really difficult to change the language of your relationship once it’s set, but now that I’m no longer working in Spanish I am pretty much living in Chile but speaking English every day! It’s just really hard telling the Mr. to do his blimmin dishes every half an hour in Spanish – I’m already frustrated let alone including grammatical conjugations in there!

Like I said, the problem is me. I just don’t like hearing myself speak Spanish. I don’t like the confusion when I misunderstand, or the constant corrections. I hate the completely blank look or the “no entendi” (with compulsory giggle) that accompanies each drawn out paragraph I utter – I deflate like a forgotten balloon at a birthday party each time. I have a very good accent it’s true, but only when I sing. I just can’t sing my way through Registro Civil, unfortunately.

I tell my English students that there is no secret to speaking another language except … speaking it. You must speak it to learn it. You can write perfect grammar to your heart’s content but if someone asks you something and you freeze up then you’re not really speaking it, are you? So my New Year’s Resolution is exactly that: to open my mouth and SPEAK SPANISH!!

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Me before I came to Chile: “speaking Spanish is a walk in the park!”

P.S.  Nearly forgot – Happy new year and Feliz Anio Nuevo!