2018-02-01

Spanish From Scratch

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As most people, I really wish I could just place a foreign language dictionary under my pillow before the night and wake up with a head full of new language skills... 

I wake up barely functioning instead. It takes time, effort and patience, but mostly your willingness to learn and the courage to make mistakes. As a bilingual person I know what it's like to make a mistake and then overthink it again and again. But that’s a lesson I'm taking on board in order to reach my goal of learning AT LEAST 2 more languages in my lifetime.

The lesson of letting go of whatever fear you have about speaking a fresh new language and even being able to make a fool out of yourself, which will later turn into a great joke! I mean, how easy it is to forget to change a word ending according to gender or mistake padres (parents) for piedras (rocks) ; what a metaphor, though!

For me, volunteering in Buenos Aires was not only a way to experience yet another culture, but also a way to get me out of my comfort zone that is English language, which I've become so comfortable with, residing in the UK for 7 years. It was time to rid this safety blanket and get accustomed to a new language.

Prior coming to South America I had never had a long-term exposure to Spanish language, I’ve met native speakers before, but we would always opt for the ‘global language’, and I hadn’t taken a single Spanish lesson in my life. So a few months before my departure I started to research the language – get a dictionary, listen to Spanish music, podcasts, download Duolingo etc. Although upon my arrival everything sort of skipped my brain and I was left with an Hola. But, as I’ve learned —a positive mindset is a great communications tool—. Also, befriending locals is an awesome way to learn and exchange languages, that´s why Mundo Lingo is so great! Now, 2 months later, I can order my own empanadas, top up my subte card and briefly talk about my family. I feel like I’ve got the right foundation now to continue my Spanish development in other South American countries for the next two months, were English is not going to be as widely used as in Buenos Aires.

In terms of lacking Spanish when visiting projects as a communication team member – I’ve been really lucky to have my other team members and coordinators so very supportive. I'd never be sent to visit a project by myself, and when it comes to interviewing Project coordinators I was a keen listener/camera woman while others did the job of asking questions. And then I could be more proactive when it came to interviewing fellow volunteers in English, editing the videos, writing articles and adding to the Instagram & Facebook image bank.

At the end of the day I do wish I had come here to volunteer with more knowledge of Spanish, but it shouldn’t be a discouragement for those wanting to come here without the language skills, as long as you´re open minded and willing to learn there will be plenty for you to get your hands on - empathy is the strongest communicator and a universal language understood in any culture!

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Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.
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