So much of the challenge of learning Spanish is switching the way we think about language.
We often overlook how strange our own expressions are until we start learning the ways other languages say things. For example, think about these common expressions. How would you describe their meaning to someone who didn't speak English and would likely take them literally?
"We'll catch up later" (Does that involve a ball?)
"We broke up" (What did you break exactly? Why up?)
"Where are you headed?" (Your head is going where?)
"Let's hang out" (Hang on the monkey bars? Or hang laundry?)
The same types of expressions exist in Spanish. They say things like: "I have cold" instead of "I'm cold" and "She falls well with me" instead of "I like her" or "I gave myself an account" instead of "I realized"
When you improve your figurative thinking, you will improve your Spanish communication. Language is both logical/literal/left brained- in the sense that there are clear patterns and rules. AND creative/organic/right brained- in the sense that a random expression that has nothing to do with the present meaning can create meaning through metaphor and abstraction. That's why learning Spanish is an incredible way to become more creative, think more whole-brained, and furthermore challenge everything we know about how to communicate. Keep trying, keep practicing! ¡Vamos!
I know you’re thinking about travel, who isn’t? It’s about time to leave our quarantine bubbles and get back out there. You may not be ready or feel the world isn’t ready for your trip, but it’s never too early to start planning! When planning a big adventure, there are so many things to think about. Having gone on two huge continental exploring trips, I have a lot of experience in this arena.
It’s good to read about your travel destination in terms of safety. What’s been happening there lately? Is it generally a safe place? One thing you can do is register your trip and length of stay with the U.S. Embassy in the country you are visiting. They also have wonderful updates to tell you if there are natural disaster alerts, brewing political unrest, and other potentially dangerous news you need to be aware of.
That being said, most people don’t travel on huge backpacking across the world kind of trips. So your family and peers may try to influence you with their fear. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless it prevents you from taking your trip. Some situations are cause for re-evaluation, however even post-pandemic, it is extremely safe to travel to most places in the world!
After you’ve done your preliminary studying, begin a budget. I generally recommend looking at your minimum monthly expenses and multiplying that number by how many months you’ll be there(or dividing it for weeks) to give you an idea of what to save for. If you are staying in hostels, your stay will be cheaper than average monthly rent. However if you are taking many flights that might make up for that savings. If you’re on a tight budget, consider sleeper car trains or overnight buses, where you can get a night’s stay and travel in one! This is how I got to travel to seven different countries on a very limited budget!
Once budget is locked in, decide on the most important tourist destinations you don’t want to miss. Then keep time and space available to experience local non tourist culture so you can enjoy what’s real about the place you are heading to, not just the well worn path.
Also, if you are traveling somewhere where the local language is foreign, consider doing a crash course in the language. Even if you are strapped for time, know the basics so that you can make sure you are safe and taken care of anywhere you go! Please reach out if you need help planning your trip. I love giving advice and have helped many others in planning their epic adventures!
World Traveler & Spanish Conversation Coach
If you haven’t yet experienced being a minority within a culture, allow me to explain the beautiful perspectives it can bring you. There are so many great reasons for it; it humbles you, makes you stronger, more independent, and most importantly grows your empathy for others. If you have always been a part of a majority through race, religion, or language spoken; etc. That culture and in-group is so natural to you, that you don’t yet understand the challenges minorities face, nor how you could grow from being in one. When you are the one who is different, you have to hold your own, and this can be a superpower!
It helps you learn how to ask for help more often when you are on your own in a foreign culture. I especially felt this when I was in Argentina constantly challenged by the language and the speed with which they spoke. It was such a steep learning curve being there, yet pushing through made me a stronger, more resilient person. In Spain as well, I remember being the only Brittany, the only American, and the only one that was challenged by speaking Spanish. It helps you be more patient with others broken English, when you too have had to fight for every word!
Consider trips that put you out of your comfort zone and out of the majority in one way or another, to fully feel the difference in being a minority. You will grow humility, patience, empathy, and tolerance for others and resiliency, strength, and confidence for yourself, qualities we could all use a little more of!
Brittany is a bilingual Spanish teacher who has lived in Spain and Argentina. Through this blog, she hopes to relate her travels, insights, and Spanish speaking journey!