This year is my 6th year of studying Spanish, as I have been taking the Spanish B course from my first year of middle school. Recently, there was an exchange program with an IB school in Spain, and we had the opportunity to communicate with the native Spanish-speakers. We had a session where we had to speak one-on-one or in small groups, and we were only allowed to speak in Spanish. Through this session, I was able to gain a further understanding of the Spanish culture and their Spanish lifestyles, which were quite different from my Japanese culture. For example, I learned that ‘bullfighting’ is commonly held in Spain and that it involves killing bulls with a ‘cuchillo’, a knife. Another thing I found interesting was that some of them spoke Gallego in addition to Spanish. They told me that although they speak Spanish at school, they speak Gallego at home and with their neighbors. I also learned about their gastronomy. One of the students told me that the rice in Spain is generally cooked with salt and other ingredients, different from what I usually eat in Japan. She also told me that people in Spain rarely eat raw seafood, which was also very different from the Japanese culture. I found this interesting because these were things that I had never heard of or something that I was able to relate to my trip to Spain two years ago. For example, the fact that they do not eat raw seafood linked back to my trip, helping me notice the fact that all of the dishes I ate were cooked and that I did not remember seeing any dishes with raw fish.
During the meeting, however, there were a few times when I could not understand what the Spanish students were saying as they spoke very fast. In order to overcome this, I asked them to speak more slowly, asked questions to clarify their points, or told them that I did not really understand. When I did so, they spoke slower or with easier terms so that I could understand, helping me share opinions, relate to their stories, and understand them better. Additionally, whenever I could not come up with terms and expressions, I tried to explain them in a different way using simpler terms, words with similar meanings, or body language. When I did this, the Spanish students understood me or asked me questions to clarify my point, allowing us to understand each other and develop our conversations. They also corrected my errors or gave me suggestions to help me convey my point, helping me learn and notice my grammatical errors.
Overall, I think the session with the Spanish students deepened my knowledge of the Spanish culture and their lifestyles, while also strengthening my oral and listening skills in Spanish. I was able to learn about the difference between our cultures, discuss the differences between our programs at school, and learn about the different languages spoken within Spain, including Gallego. When I had trouble communicating my point or understanding them, I found and applied strategies, including body language, asking questions, and finding alternative ways of explaining my point. I believe that it was also a good opportunity to realize my weaknesses: conjugating verbs quickly and correctly, and understanding native Spanish people who speak very fast. Hence, I would like to focus on my oral skills as well as listening skills by, perhaps, practicing explaining things (possibly an image) in Spanish at home and by listening to music or watching videos in Spanish.