*learn the language before you travel
We did do one thing wrong, though, and one we want to share it with those of you planning a similar trip.
Learn the language before you go!
Not knowing the language means you miss out on subtle and overt lessons about your destination, and the really sad part of it is that you won’t even know what you missed.
Warren spent quite a bit of time working on Spanish before we left, but because he did not have anyone to practice with, it was hard to retain it. I thought by nature of growing up in New Mexico and having an ear for accents in my previous work that I would pick it up pretty easily. (ha!)
Neither of us landed here with any real Spanish knowledge apart from hello, goodbye, please and thank you. And even though we’ve had some dedicated time to learn, we realize now how much we’ve missed by simply not knowing the language until now.
If we had it to do all over again, we’d take lessons online and through independent study for a few months on our own, and then we’d jump into an intensive class for a few weeks or a month before departing.
This past week I spent 2 hours at a local salon getting a much-needed pedicure for my abused feet. The salon owner and the manicurist were both Ecuadorian and spoke only Spanish. By the time my toes were dry, we had talked about kids, men, dating, divorce, exercise, clothes, and the differences between Ecuador and the US. In fact, we exchanged email addresses and I promised to introduce one of them to my single brother back in the US (you aren’t dating anyone seriously, are you, Jeff?).
I would not have been able to do this before now, and we are just a few days away from leaving Ecuador. This interaction showed me just how much I had been missing before, and it gave me reason to not hate conjugating verbs quite so much.
We’ve decided to head into Colombia next week and backtrack to Ecuador in the new year to visit our friends and see more of the country. Because of the “beauty shop lesson” we are studying hard so we can take in more of the experience as we travel further into South America.
We’ve listed our favorite ways to study Spanish before, but since that post we’ve discovered a great site called Quizlet that has flashcards on a variety of subjects, including Spanish. It helps us to break things up and study in a variety of different ways, and if this is true for you, you might like Quizlet.
Have you ever learned a language specifically for a trip? What was your experience like?
PS – If you want to learn a little Spanish every day, check out our Facebook page for daily words that coincide with what we’re doing/learning. It is an fun way to pick up a little Spanish.