Upon arriving in Ecuador one of the first orders of business was to start learning the language. For my entire life I have wanted to learn another language, but simply let one excuse after another get in the way. Of course, I always told myself that those 3 years of Latin in high school would pave the way for many future languages but as I look 40 in the eyes it is clear that I simply learned how to talk about Romans and the Apian Way.
The real reason for not learning a language is that this is damn hard. Each night my brain is tired of trying to find the proper conjugation to express my desire for more coffee or the goal of expanding beyond the rote answer to the question “coma estas?” and really impress those around me. The simple truth is that I have been lazy for 39 years and not willing to put forth the effort. Now, as we settle into at least a year here in South America it becomes less “We want (queremos)” and is now “We need (necesitamos)” to learn Spanish. If we are to connect with people, make new friends, and share deeper stories than “how do I get to the bathroom” we must learn the language.
We are using several approaches to learn (aprender) Spanish:
- Mango Languages (click here to see our video on who we use this tool)
- Coffee Break Spanish podcasts (adds a little Scottish accent to our Spanish)
- Reading children’s books (and it still takes us 30 minutes with dictionaries in hand to translate a single page)
- Watching Spanish only movies with Spanish subtitles turned on (thanks to Penelope Cruz I am very attentive in my studies)
- Spanish only days between Betsy and me (these are really just “quiet days” for the Married with Luggage team)
- Leveraging the crib notes we received from Spanish speaker and wonderful friend, Margit
- Applying what we learn each day with native Spanish speakers here at Casa Mojanda and around Otavalo (we are so delighted for the kindness of Professor Fernando y Professora Catherine)
We are making slow progress and remain committed to the effort, but the task is slower than we anticipated and our type A personalities remain flustered at being 90% lost in most conversations. However, a month ago we would have been 100% lost so I am embracing the progress.
This effort has taught me a tremendous respect for people that move to a new country and must immediately learn the language. For Betsy and I the implications are minor and we can muddle through our days. However, if I needed to find an apartment, interview for a job, or get a driver’s license the task would seem downright terrifying. I have a greater respect for each person I met in any walk of life who came to the US and did not speak the language. I never appreciated the challenge of living full time in another language until now and I applaud each person who has gone before us. You are now my inspiration and you have my respect given how freaking hard this is!
Are you learning a language? What tips do you have for us and our readers?