Sunday, 22 October 2017

My First Four Weeks Of Language Learning

When I started learning Spanish at degree level (from beginner level, I need to point out here) four weeks ago, they warned us that we had to get used to feeing uncomfortable; and four weeks down the line? No truer word has ever been spoken. My life now is a flurry of vocal words, anxiety at the idea I might be picked in my grammar class and wondering how the fuck I am ever going to be able to pass this exam come January. There's nothing more rewarding than learning a language and there's also nothing I've ever faced that's quite this soul-destroyingly hard.

(not actually learning through the open university but ANY degree level book is helping right now)

You know in University there are those lectures that you come out of and, no matter how good you are at your subject or how hard you've worked and prepared, you feel as though you probably know less than you did going in? That's exactly what all of my seminars have felt like so far. At this point in my life, I'm starting to feel as though I don't actually know anything about speaking, listening or reading comprehension in English, never mind Spanish. The girl next to me is on her way to speaking 5 languages fluently and I still struggle to tell the difference between ser and está (that's a joke for all you Spanish students out there; you need all the laughs that you can get). I'm struggling to conjugate some words in English, I'm just adding letters and hoping for the best in my second language.

But the weird thing is? I love it. I love being challenged every week, I love it when I get picked on in that aforementioned grammar class and I get the answer right (nearly always by fluke, rather than method), I love it when I know the work for something, when my Spanish pen pal can understand my crude sentences, when I don't have to google translate the words for any of my sentence. I love feeling as though I can measure how far I've come, I love watching Gilmore Girls with completely different voices to the same people, I love listening to Bomba Estereo and singing along (probably incorrectly).

The fact is - gone are the days of doing now work, turning up to seminars unprepared and guessing what happened in the plot of books; this time around I have to have learned my grammar rules in advance, I need to constantly keep on top of my vocabulary, I need to be able to ask general, every day questions fluently, and answer the in return. I have to work 24 hours a day at this, or at least I feel like it, until I'm not uncomfortable with it anymore, until Spanish speaking isn't just a wall of noise with the occasional recognisable words, until my messages to Spanish friends on tandem aren't 99% corrections by the time they've finished with them.

Right now it's a love hate relationship with language learning - but if you've learned a language at degree level I've love to hear your experience. If not, I'll keep you updated.

Sammy xo.


  1. Hey congratulations on starting Spanish! I graduated in French and Spanish last year, and although I'd been learning Spanish since year 7 in school, I still felt so out of my comfort zone in first year. The leap from A levels was ridiculous! I would say that the feeling of knowing everything never actually arrives, I'm stil learning things and seeing new words all the time, it just happens less often now.

    I didn't feel truly good at Spanish until I went on my year abroad, when you're constantly using it in a real-life context. You need phrases and verbs you'll never think you needed before! I'm really struggling to regularly use my Spanish now and I'm panicking, because I'm in a job that I'm not using it every day. I have loads of blog posts that chronicled my progress in language learning, so definitely check it out if you want some comfort in how hard languages are!

    Good luck with your journey and let me know if you need any tips or advice along the way! Pásalo bien! :)

  2. Sammy, I am so proud of how hard you are working and you will do so well. Learning languages is the best and most fulfilling thing I have ever done and I have no doubt that you will flourish! Keep working hard and the rest will come so naturally,