Tag Archives: learning another language

Trying to Retain Your Second Language

In the last year, I worked my arse off to become proficient in Spanish. Speaking another language was not something that was held in high regard as I was growing up because in rural, very white Australia, it was not something that people ever used or valued. But as I started travelling the world I learned that there was real value in learning a new language because it allowed you to communicate effectively with so many more new people in the world, and these people have so many different things that they can teach you. Not only this, but studies have shown that learning a new language can change your brain and help to ward off dementia and other issues later on in life. So off I went to Spanish school and I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.

After four months of studying in the school and another eight months of travelling around Spanish-speaking countries, I would think in Spanish, eat, breath, and sleep Spanish and it came so naturally to me. I didn’t have to really concentrate too hard on what I was doing anymore because it became a habit. And then I went home……

After family members getting in my grill about not wanting to listen to Spanish music because it sucks and annoying me while I was trying to watch movies or TV in Spanish, I felt like my language skills were waning. My biggest fear of losing something I had worked so hard to gain was rearing its ugly head. It was most evident to me when I made the massive screw up in conversation talking to a friend of mine in Spanish. We were talking about me going out on the weekend and I said to him “No hay problema, voy a compartirme‚Ķ. (There is no problem, I am going to share myself)” Comportirme in Spanish means ‘to share myself’. As opposed to ‘comportarme’ which means ‘to behave myself’. Which is what I meant. This was a monumental fuck up and one that I was aware of and I knew. As we continued to text, I realised just how many mistakes I was making because I wasn’t practicing. It made me sad and frustrated. So I set about a program to try and keep it. Here is what I have been doing:

Watching Television

I started out watching Money Heist on Netflix, also known as La Casa de Papel. It is originally in Spanish so I thought it would be great. However it is in Spanish from Spain so at first I found it super hard to decipher and found they were speaking too fast, so I had the subtitles on as well. There were a whole bunch of new words that I learned, having to stop the show all the time to look it up. For example ‘joder’ which means ‘fuck’, or ‘follar’ which means ‘fuck’ or ‘coger’ which means ‘to take’ but also ‘to fuck’. So I am now well-versed in the art of Spanish vulgarity. For listening purposes without subtitles, I find The Good Place a great one because the voice overs in Spanish are quite slow and easy to understand.

Reading Books

I got a bit ahead of myself before leaving Colombia and decided that I would buy a whole bunch of second-hand Gabriel Garcia Marquez books for about a dollar each. The only problem is that Gabo (as he is so affectionately called in Colombia) is a really difficult read in Spanish to a native reader let alone to somebody who has only been speaking Spanish for a year. I took to the online library and found a whole bunch of kids books and started reading about a kid that ran away from home. Great read….. I also recommend newspapers, online articles and reading books in Spanish that you have already read in English, such as Harry Potter because familiarity with the story helps when you get lost.

Online text conversations

One of the best ways to keep up the language skills is to have online text conversations with friends that you have made that speak the language also. These may be friends from language school, online communities or my personal favourite, boys I have met on Tinder that are just passing through or now live here. Talking online gives you time to be able to process what has been sent to you and then to have time to think about how you are going to structure your response. It also allows you time to look up words that you don’t know.

Meet-Up Groups

This I find is the best way to get involved in keeping your language skills. In this setting you actually have to think fast enough to speak and while having text conversations are great, the speed of thought involved with face-to-face conversations is much faster and it is one of the first things to go when you stop living in a place with native speakers. With the large abundance of people looking to meet one another, Meet-Up has become a great way to find communities online that allow you to go along and engage with people that speak the same languages and want to practice. I have met some great people in these groups and they also teach you different slang from their native language while you teach them the same for your native language. It is a great way to make friends and get involved with people who have the same passion in common.

Learning a language and keeping it is hard. But if you put in the hard yards and keep plugging away at it little by little, you will be able to retain most of what you learned and then continue to progress. Good luck with it all!

 

Stop being lazy and ignorant! Learn the Language!

It is a really sad thing when you come across people who have been travelling in a country for a substantial amount of time or have moved there to study and after three months of being in that country, they have made no effort whatsoever to learn any of the language. For me it is something that just happens. I am interested in it. I want to learn. While I don’t profess to be able to speak any languages fluently, I am quite proficient in Spanish after spending 8 months in Central America and then another 8 months in South America, where I returned to Spanish school to get my head around more of the culture and to be able to connect with more of the people here. I do not, like so many other, just expect that because I am a tourist, that you should have to learn English to speak to me. That to me is ultimate disrespect towards the people you have traveled to meet. Not even trying to meet them halfway in their own country, where I’m concerned, is downright rude.

Of recent times, I have travelled through several Arabic speaking countries and have had the locals teaching me how to say things in Arabic. Despite my limited amounts of things that I could say, most locals were amazed at how ‘excellent’ my Arabic was. And by amazing I mean ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘how much?’, ‘do you have change?’, ‘is it free?’, ‘don’t touch me’ and ‘pigs might fly’ among a few other silly phrases I would use to joke around with the locals. They would literally tell me ‘wow, you Arabic very excellent’. I guess this is quite a rarity for them. But these things enabled me to walk down the street and manage to order myself a kofte on my own and pay for it, and afforded me a form of independence from the group trip that I was on. Most of the others on the group trip looked at me like I was insane for even wanting to try. Too much effort.

Another language that I found super useful was learning some Indonesian. When heading into the wonderful world of Java, or anywhere outside of Bali to be honest, the English becomes limited. I have quite fond memories of really disjointed conversations I have had in Indonesian/English with local people. Especially the three women I met on the bus coming back from the Dieng Plateau who were also teachers and were quite sassy ladies. They told me I was beautiful on a bus full of strangers and they all started hollering and hooting at me. I got quite embarrassed but it was also quite amusing.

At a minimum, when arriving in a new country, you should learn to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’, and ‘how much?’ I know that sometimes in European countries you are changing country and language every week and this makes it difficult to retain or learn very much at all. But if you are going to a country and planning on spending a couple of weeks to a month there, do yourself a favour and start to learn some language skills. You will find that the locals will be more receptive and helpful to you, and that you will learn so much more than you bargained for about the people and the culture because you have bothered to make the effort. It shows you have a respect for and an interest in the people where you are visiting. And that in itself, will act to enrich your travels and your life for the better.

Shit I’ve Said Wrong Learning Another Language

Currently I am studying the grand language of Spanish in Colombia, and on many occasions, I have been known to say funny incorrect things or things that are just downright offensive because the translation in English has a totally other sensation. The other day in class I spilled my tea all over the floor and ruined my notebook and responded with “soy inutil” (I’m useless), which in Australia is not such an abnormal thing to say but I was informed that if you say that to someone here, be prepared to get yourself into a punch on.

And then of course you have the standard mistake of ‘estoy caliente’ which means “I’m hot”, but not hot as in, “geez the temperature is high” but hot as in “baby I’m hot just like an oven, I need some lovin’, Marvin Gaye style lovin'”. Water can be ‘caliente’. Food can be caliente. If I am feeling a bit warm, I am ‘calor’….. and perhaps maybe a bit caliente (horny) as well.

One also needs to be very careful with which version of ‘I am’ they use. Because ‘Soy buena’¬† apparently means “I am a good human being and do nice things for others”, whereas ‘Estoy buena’ means ‘I am a very “good” curvy person and will do ‘nice things’ for others….

Then of course there is chimba and chimbo. Both can be hugely offensive and of course, because of this, they are words I have become attracted to. “Que chimba” is often used to say “how cool”, however if you call someone “a” chimba, then you will be calling them a cunt…… again, not so offensive to a lot of people in Australia, but the rest of the world takes severe offense to such language. And then chimbo can also be a penis, or something of low grade value. What I take from this of course, is that vaginas are well fucking cool and penis’ are low value commodities…….. hmmm….. and of course if you say an arsehole joke it is called ‘chimbiando’. But in the grand scheme of things….. I should probably avoid all of these words, especially in front of police officers, church officials, and respectable people.

I remember a time in Guatemala when the police officer asked me whether ‘those men are “molestando” me….. ‘. Well didn’t I freak out and take off down the street running as fast as I could for fear of being molested, which of course would have looked a sight to the police officer. And didn’t I feel like a moron when later I discovered that the word ‘molestar’ in Spanish, does not mean ‘to molest’ as I thought it did, but it means ‘to bother or annoy’.

I never want to be “embarazada”…. and by that I mean pregnant, not embarrassed. A common misconception and also often is screwed up. Though my friend was encouraging me the other day to have an affair with a Colombian and get knocked up with triplets that I could then go home with and sit on my mothers couch on welfare. I said no because I don’t want to have to carry any extra weight with my bag for the next 7 or 8 months, but I said I would consider it when I arrive in Chile…..

And of course there is ‘travieso’. This word means naughty. And apparently children can be naughty and that is fine. But any ‘naughty’ adult is a sexually naughty adult. There isn’t really any other kind of adult naughty. I have also learned that beverages also cannot be ‘travieso’. The standard Australia ‘cheeky pint’ or ‘cheeky rum’, no existe. A ‘ron travieso’ basically implies that ‘you’ are going to wind up travieso much later on after said ron……

Maybe I should:

  1. Avoid adjectives.
  2. Just avoid saying any words that can be construed as sexual or offensive….. ie a whole lot of them.
  3. Avoid speaking all together…….
  4. Ignore my own advice and continue to laugh at the fact that I have clearly no idea what I am doing.

I think I will choose option 4 and go say some more travieso and inappropriate shit. Que chimba!