Destinations Magazine

Learning Foreign Languages Update 1 - Spanish

By Livingthedreamrtw @livingdreamrtw
Toledo, Spain It has been about two months since we began our one year foreign language challenge where we are tackling up to six foreign languages to become what we call "tourist ready" when we travel.  Prior to starting this challenge, we had a bit of an advantage in already knowing a bit of some of the languages we are planning to tackle in the course of the year.  I had a pretty good grasp on the basics in French and Arabic while Angie was slightly past tourist ready in Spanish, but we wanted to learn more of the languages we already knew and other languages to add to our knowledge base.
To prepare for our honeymoon in Spain, several months before we issued this challenge we began brushing up on Spanish as we heard stories of conversing in Spain being incredibly difficult at times for English speakers.   Even with a head start and about four months of studying Spanish in our free time and via audio guides while at work, there were several challenges we faced when traveling around the popular regions of Spain.
Four Months of One Guide
With about four months of practice with one guide only, two of them seriously cramming, we can easily say that we listened to the audio portion over 50 times.   The printed language book got a little less attention than we would have liked, but planning for a wedding ate into our language learning time quite a bit.  In that period of time, I became quite comfortable with the basic words for directions, accommodations, greetings, numbers, and many food items that I thought we would be eating.   Angie had already known most of these and used the time to refresh her skills putting the words together into sentences and actual dialog.  By the time we arrived in Spain, I was at the point where I could make out short fragments, but missing several key words, and Angie could have short conversations with Spanish speakers.
Failure and Success in the Field
Segovia, Spain The biggest hurdle that a new Spanish speaker will have in the country is one that is experienced time and time again throughout the world: the speed.  Spanish speakers talk very fast and often have varying accents that make it harder to pick up on the exact words that are being said, even if you have heard them many times before.   After two weeks it was a little easier to pick up on these subtle nuances, but the speed had caught us several times even for basic things like how much something was at a convenience store.  Out of all the experiences we had while fumbling with the language, not knowing "1 Euro 20 cents" was quite possibly the most embarrassing.
It is not all that bad, as Angie and I could both convey her nut allergy to every single waiter without the help of the nut allergy iPod app.  We noticed that even though most waiters (65%) spoke decent English, barely any knew the words for "allergy" or "nuts" such that knowing the phrase in Spanish helped us out quite a bit.  Only one plate came out with pesto sauce on, which we quickly noticed before eating and asked our English speaking waiter to remake the dish (he already knew of the allergy and apologized profusely).  Where not knowing money was our biggest failure, we consider this to be our biggest success.
The Must Know Words
But ignoring all of the formal language books and software packages we have used to learn Spanish, there are just some words a food loving traveler with limited knowledge of the language needs to know.  The following are the top phrases we recommend learning for all those looking to travel to Spain and have an experience that will dazzle the taste buds:
Spanish        English
Por Favor   Please
Gracias   Thank You
Mas Despacio            More Slowly
No Entiendo               I Don't Understand
Servicios/Aseos         Toilets
Cerveza   Beer
Vino Tinto   Red Wine
Vino Blanco   White Wine
Jamon                        Ham (often thin cut.  "Ha mon")
Salchichon                  Sausage (often thin cut. "Sal Chee Chon")
Lomo                          Pork Loin (often thin or thick cut)
Chorizo   Spicy Ham
Xuixo   Croissant filled with pastry cream (Barcelona specialty. "Chu Cho")
Tapa   Small Plate (2-3 per person)
Media (1/2) Racion    Small Entree (1 person)
Racion   Large Entree (1-2 people)
Algo mas?   Anything else?
Nada mas    Nothing else
La Quinta   The Bill
Soy Alergico a los Fruitos Secos   I'm allergic to nuts
To compare our knowledge of Spanish that was learned in this language challenge versus the list above, we knew many of these words before heading to Spain and got quite lucky especially when ordering food.  Many of these words are highlighted for the non-Spanish speaker not because they are difficult, but because you will use most of these many times over the course of your travels in Spain. 
Our quest to learn Spanish is not over with our honeymoon ending.  While I will be brushing up on my Arabic and learning Italian in the next few months and Angie will be doing the same with another language on our list, our ultimate goal is to be conversational in Spanish by the end of this challenge.  Since the language is such a versatile one used in many countries throughout the world, we'd be silly not to keep expanding our knowledge base for the future.  But for this particular language and our lofty goal, full immersion may be the only way to progress.
Check back soon for more updates into our Learning Foreign Languages series as we will be periodically posting updates into our status on gaining tourist ready proficiencies in up to six (6) foreign languages in a one year period!  A quick link to the series can be found in the Language Challenge category on our sidebar.
Today's post was brought to you in part by our friends at Kauai Beach Resort, the newly renovated hotel located right on the beautiful shores of Kauai in Hawaii. 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog