As my departure for Spain approaches, I find myself growing increasingly more excited with each passing day. Interestingly, almost all of my close friends, including my roommate and my girlfriend, are going to Rome while I’ll be in Spain; therefore, the conversation topic of going abroad comes up a lot. They tell me all they’re doing to prepare: packing, getting phone plans, planning excursions, working to save money… I’ve been doing none of those things! I, notorious for having a one-track mind, can only focus on one thing: Spanish.
I stay up late into the night watching episode after episode of Spanish series on Netflix, taking notes of colloquial speech and patterns. I wake up every morning and watch an episode of “Easy Spanish” on YouTube to work on comprehension. I’ve even reconnected with my old conversation partners from Spain and Latin America to work on my speaking skills. And, just like with everything, I find that the more I know, the more I realize what I don’t know. For example, I had no idea that “chucha” in Spain means a female dog. In Colombian Spanish, which I learned from my dad, “chucha” means B.0! You can imagine my surprise when watching the series “La Casa de Papel,” I mentally translate what’s being said as “a body odor barks in the background!”
While all these little language inconsistencies are certainly comical at times, I find them fascinating. I keep thinking back to my time in Colombia and my frustration with the Spanish language. As someone who studied Spanish equally on my own, in school, and with family, my Spanish is all over the place. I understand absolutely everything that’s being said, and can generally hold basic conversations, but when it comes to telling anecdotes or jokes, I falter. I never realized how integral storytelling is to language until I had to do without it. Last January when I was in Colombia, I was trying to tell my uncle this joke I had heard a while back. I brokenly told it and when I got to the punch line, I got a blank stare. I will always remember how ridiculous I felt when the same joke that had my brother in tears just a week before had completely fallen flat. That night, I went back to the hotel room and started doing some research. Turns out, when I had used the word “pedo” to mean drunk as one does in Mexico, I was actually saying “fart” in Colombian Spanish!
As my main purpose for going to Spain is to try to reach fluency, I have been extremely driven and focused on making it my goal. If I can get the upper hand on Spanish vocabulary and colloquialisms, I will be able to hold better conversations, make more friends, and have more opportunities to learn about new people and travel new places. For me, travelling is all about the people. I can’t wait to return from Spain with new friends, and new stories to tell in both Spanish and English.