It was my first day at Sol Latino, one of Xela’s many Spanish Schools, and I was a little bit overwhelmed.
I could answer all the primary questions, what’s your name, how old are you, do you have any siblings… I could conjugate ser and estar and I knew that ser is used for permanent things whereas estar is used for temporary. I’d travelled through Central America before and felt quite confident with my Latino conversing skills.
Then Ana, my teacher, started a general conversation. And I didn’t understand a thing.
Spanish courses in Guatemala are taught on a one on one, total immersion basis. It’s just you and the teacher for five hours, and it’s completely in Spanish. If you don’t understand a word? You have to try and communicate with synonyms, descriptions, actions, pictures or if all else fails, look it up in the dictionary.
I was confident that when I started learning Spanish, it would all come flooding back to me. And yes, my incredibly useful phrases like ‘can I buy a bus ticket’ and ‘I’ve visited Mexico a lot’ did come back to me. But there’s so much more to the Spanish language than that.
It’s really really difficult and some days I feel like I’m going backwards. Sometimes I can’t get a word out but others I can have a reasonable conversation. It’s stressful and frustrating (hence why I’ve joined a gym) and it’s nowhere near as quick as I thought it was going to be. It’s going to take years, but I will be fluent.
My month in Xela is going to be so valuable to me, but I wish I had longer. I’m only just dipping my feet in the pool of Spanish!
I’ve got two more weeks left at Sol Latino, and I hope each day will get a little bit easier. Then I’ve got two more weeks in Guatemala, where I’ll try to speak as much Spanish as possible, and I’m determined to continue lessons at home. I just can’t wait for the day when someone asks me a complicated question and I can immediately answer. It’ll probably take moving to South America, but it will happen one day.