Everyone told me before I left that Spanish in Spain was different. It’s one thing the mentally understand something. For example, I knew that I would be overwhelmed when the time came to live in a household with no English. I knew that my Spanish was not as strong as I would have liked it to be. I knew all of these things going in – but nothing can prepare you for the emotions of truly understanding nothing that is being said around you.
I met my host brother, Carlos, next to a mall upon arrival in Granada. He had a warm smile, but the words he spoke to me sounded nothing like the semi-comprehensible lexicon that I was familiar with in my country. First of all, the people of Granada don’t pronounce the letter ‘s’. Anyone with even slight knowledge of the Spanish language will know that that is a crucial letter. It gives context. It is the difference between talking about you, or him, or her. It can be the difference between past tense, and present. It can even be the difference between something that you would like to happen. I wasn’t prepared to live a life without ‘s’.
I think it is funny how such a small thing could make you feel so insecure. Not only did it not allow me to understand anything that was being said to me, it also robbed me of my confidence to formulate my own expressions. For about two days, all that I had in my arsenal was desperate semaphore messages that involved all parties using their entire bodies to communicate the most simple concepts. I wish I had a video crew with me to capture the hilarious skits that we had. It had to have looked like a very frustrated game of charades.
My bed became my best friend. I knew it was going to be tough mentally to be immersed in a new language, but it is truly draining. I slept a solid twelve hours the first day…although part of that may have me making a conscious decision to stay in my room due to dread of speaking to my new family.
Despite all of this, I believe there is no better way to learn. There is no other option. I’m happy to say that I am communicating nicely now. I’m far from fluent, but I have had several hour long or more conversations with my hosts and am starting to be able to discuss abstract thoughts in a less childish manner. I think this is the skydiving of learning, and that’s how I like it.