I have been taking Spanish for 6 years now, and from the second to the eleventh of February 2018, I went to Spain for a trip with the Spanish department of YIS. The trip was designed so that students may experience the Spanish culture and apply their language skills, therefore one of the goals was to only speak Spanish throughout the whole trip. Once I arrived in Pontevedra, Spain, I went straight to my host family, and I lived with my friend Adela. Spain had a very different culture than what I was used to living with. the food was very different, so I ended up trying a lot of new things that I initially wasn’t sure about, but ended up liking.
People in Spain also had a completely different lifestyle than I was used to. Everything was later than it usually would be for me, school started about an hour after what it usually does for me, lunchtime was later than I was used to. People also eat dinner at about nine to ten pm rather than around six to seven pm. Because everything is ‘delayed’, so is going to bed, I was struggling at first with staying up until two am in order to spend time with my host family. Because the days get so long in Spain due to staying up so late, I had to become accustomed to taking siestas, which is taking a nap after you get home from school, as this first seemed strange to me. However, after getting used to siestas, I wish I could still take them.
The after-school life, the weekend, and nightlife of teenagers are also very different from what I have grown up with. After school in Spain, teenagers usually go out onto the town with their friends and hang out, rather than going straight home to study. During the time when I was in Spain, there was a holiday known as ‘Carnival’, this is when there’s a carnival through the city, and people dress up in costumes and go out during the afternoon and evening to be with friends. Adela and I, together with a few of our other friends, went to the Carnival together, and later that night had a little get together and hung out. This is when I found out that during the weekends, teenagers usually hang out in the town until about three to four am, which is very different from where I am from, my parents would never have allowed that.
Because I was surrounded by native Spanish speakers, they speak a lot faster and with more advanced vocabulary than I was used to from speaking in class. This was because in Spanish class at school, everyone is still learning the language, and because of this speaks a lot slower, with breaks so that we can think about the grammar we are going to be using with conjugation so that it is correct. However, because I was around native speakers, I had to focus really hard on being able to understand exactly what they were saying, initially I also did not understand all the Spanish slang the teenagers were using as that was not something we learned at school. In order to get past these obstacles, I asked my host family and my new friends a lot of questions regarding slang, and I also asked them for certain tips and tricks on the grammar and vocabulary. In the past, I have also found that it is a lot easier to overcome language challenges by engaging yourself in the language. Since I had previous experience with this when learning German, whenever someone would speak to me in English I would speak Spanish with them and asked them to do the same so I would get practice. From previous experiences, I found that just by listening to other people speak, you can adopt a better accent with allows for better fluency, and through listening to the context of a conversation and asking questions to native Spanish speakers, I was able to greatly expand my vocabulary and use of grammar. Since I was able to use these strategies, after just a week in Spain speaking only Spanish, my language and communication skills had greatly improved, and I was able to speak a lot faster with better fluency and not needing to think as much about vocabulary, conjugation and grammar as it felt more automatic after using it so often in an environment where I had natives around me, who also corrected me if there was a more efficant way of saying something, or even if I just said or conjugated something wrong. This was useful as they gave me tips on how to remember the grammar better, and it helped me be able to recall conjugation a lot faster.
After spending all that time in Spain with a Spanish speaking family. I am really glad I got the opportunity to further my Spanish skills so much. I really enjoyed the experience, and it is so useful that I was able to grow my knowledge about Spain and the Spanish language. In order to properly communicate, I really had to expand my vocabulary and grammatic knowledge, and this has helped me a lot since then.