I speak Spanish fluently
As the Spanish say, “los idiomas se aprenden en la cuna o en la cama”—languages are learned in the crib or in the bed.
But for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have been raised bilingual from infancy or to have a significant other who speaks fluent Spanish, there’s still hope.
I’ll admit it: I got lucky. I had my own personal, 6’4″ Spanish tutor my first year in Spain. But I also had a whole lot of personal motivation to learn, regardless of that relationship. If you’re already hitched, becoming close friends with a Spanish native can be (almost) just as helpful as finding yourself a dashing gentleman.
Before arriving in Madrid to teach English with the North American Language Assistant Program, I wasn’t completely clueless about Spanish. I had studied Spanish throughout school and used helpful online resources in my free time. Just as important, I had a lot of motivation to learn. If you’re reading this right now I can bet that you also have the kind of personal motivation it takes to reach fluency.
However, living in a Spanish-speaking country for an extended period of time is still a must in my opinion. The benefit of both hearing and speaking Spanish every day is invaluable to language learning. If you’re planning a trip to practice all the knowledge you have gained from FluentU, I’d definitely say Spain is a great destination.
I’ll admit I’m a little biased. I arrived in Madrid from the U.S. thinking I would stay for nine months. Two years and one Spanish hubby later, I have no intention of returning anytime soon! However, if you have not yet gone abroad, don’t worry—you’re on the right track with FluentU. In the meantime, continue to immerse yourself in the Spanish language while at home like I did before making the jump.
¡Pero ojo! (But watch out!) If you plan on going abroad, you also need to plan on making the effort to meet native speakers rather than flocking to American groups. I could have easily avoided speaking Spanish for the entire year in Madrid, a big city with lots of international students and eager English learners. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) also spoke English at an advanced level so I had to force myself to speak Spanish with him.
My commitment paid off. At the end of that first year, I found myself thinking in Spanish and making jokes with his Spanish friends. Just like with any other valuable skill, however, I still had to make mistakes first. A lot of them. If you aren’t making any mistakes then you probably aren’t speaking in Spanish enough. If you make a fool of yourself—are red-faced and mortified and want to jump on the next flight home—at least you’ll never make that mistake again!
In fact, I came to relish those moments because I knew that whatever word I just completely butchered would never be butchered again. Plus, you can usually get a laugh and a story out of these embarrassing moments which is great for small talk with your new Spanish-speaking friends.
Not all mistakes are mortifying though. Some mistakes are small but, like a bad habit, you just can’t seem to shake them no matter how hard you try. Sometimes the same little mistakes will slip out over and over in conversation even though you know the correct way to say them in your head.
Take a deep breath. This is normal.
A couple of months before the end of my first year in Spain (when I had almost achieved fluency) there was still some knowledge I had about Spanish that refused to perform for me when I needed it in conversation.