My high school only had two language options: Spanish and German. I have always been interested in the hispanic culture, not to mention I was an avid “Dora the Explorer” watcher as a child, so naturally I chose to take Spanish (however, now I learn both languages).
I took Spanish for four years in high school and even thought that I wanted to major in it, but later discovered what the business world has to offer so decided to combine the two. I continued Spanish at Pitt with three more classes, completing the requirement for my major this past fall.
I have succeeded in taking seven Spanish classes in my life and been really exposed to the language for about six years. One of the reasons I love learning Spanish and languages in general is because I feel that learning them comes quite naturally to me. However, actually speaking and carrying on a conversation with native speakers offers a whole new challenge, especially here in Spain.
When I traveled to Bolivia this past spring break, that was my first time being in a Spanish-speaking country. I was able to understand the majority of the people and express myself using the language some, but for the most part I thought that it was a challenge trying to utilize my skills.
Now that I’m in Spain, I feel like I definitely should’ve been able to understand the language in Bolivia. Spain in general has many different languages due to various regions of the country, but here in Madrid they are famous for their accent and fast-pace of speaking. Most of the time when my host mom or co-workers are talking to me I always have to say, ¨más despacio, por favor,” which means “slower, please.” Due to this, the first couple of weeks I have definitely done a lot more listening than talking, but I feel as though my abilities keep improving each day.
The dialect and pace of speech aren’t the only differences in the Spanish language here, though. My co-workers taught me that here in Spain they don’t call Spanish “español,” instead it’s called “castellano.” I’m not exactly sure why, but possibly because they use different vocabulary, expressions, and the biggest difference is the use of “vosotros,” which is the plural “you” form of verb conjugations. Spain is the only country that uses this form, and all of my professors in the past were from South America, so it has taken some getting used to hearing that. I always like bringing up the concept of “vosotros” in conversation with my co-workers and host family because I tell them that we also have a word for that in Pittsburgh: “yinz!”
Some other difficulties with translating my English thoughts into Spanish is that even though it may make sense, it could be something that sounds weird to Spainiards or is just something they wouldn’t say. For example, in America we say “excuse me,” “sorry,” and “thank you” so many times per day, but here the manners are a bit different. They don’t usually bother to say these things not because they are rude, but just because that’s how their culture is.
The speech and conversation is also a bit more direct. For example, in a restaurant instead of saying, “Could I please have a sandwich,” they would just say, “One sandwich.” When someone gets your attention by saying your name, instead of saying “yes?” or “what?” they always say, “Dime” (tell me), the imperative or command forms.
I have always thought that the Spanish language sounds quite beautiful, but now that I am able to understand what they are saying and trying to communicate myself I appreciate it even more. The thing that makes language so interesting to me is that it’s not just learning grammar and vocabulary, you also have to learn the language customs and expressions as well.
P.S. Update from last week about the soccer tournament: I lost my first game, but yesterday played the CEO of the company and won!