The Love-Hate Relationship

The "unhelpful, once a month" Spanish book pre-arrival

My relationship in Colombia makes me crazy.  One day I love it, one day I hate it.  At times I’m so in love I’m beaming and the next hour I am in tears of anger.  Don’t get too excited.  This article is not about a handsome Latin lover.  My most important relationship at the moment is with Spanish.  Learning Spanish is one of the biggest reasons I am here.  I have wanted to learn Spanish for the past year, but my motivation was low.  Now, my dedication is high, the setting is right, and the love-hate relationship is in full force.

I chose French in high school instead of Spanish.  As entertaining as my French classes were, my French has yet to come in handy.  I think I faintly recall how to order a crepe and I thoroughly enjoyed the French 8 course dinner my class attended.  I wholeheartedly wished I had chosen Spanish as my language of choice in high school, but didn’t because of a very significant reason: I could not roll my R’s and thought people would mock me.  I guess I hated Spanish because I am a big baby when it comes to people laughing at me.

I still can’t roll my R’s, but I decided to power through the laughter. My desire to learn Spanish grew when I visited my friend in Oaxaca, Mexico a summer ago.  She moved to Mexico to learn Spanish and in a few months her Spanish was pretty dang good.  I hated that she needed to help me order my michelada and translate menus for me.  After my visit, I invested in a very unhelpful Spanish book (see photo) that I looked at about once a month.  I knew I would not learn the language until I dropped myself into a Spanish-speaking country.  I will write more about why I chose Colombia as my Spanish-speaking country of choice at another time, but here I am… loving most of it, but hating a lot about learning a language as well.

The “unhelpful, once a month” Spanish book pre-arrival

The love part: Writing an application in Spanish.  Making a new friend who can’t speak English.  Speaking for a full taxi ride without the taxi driver asking “where are you from?” Ordering my coffee properly.  Watching a full movie sans subtitles.  I guess successfully accomplishing ANYTHING (scanning a document, recharging my phone, getting a manicure) in Spanish is a small victory for me.

The hate part: I hate going to a party where I need to give 120% of my attention to one person speaking in a room of 20 people… and still not understand the conversation.  I dislike when people assume I’m Colombian and ask me a silly question (“is the store closed?) and I simply respond “No sé” and give a look of confusion.  To me, it’s easier to look stupid than explain you don’t know what the heck they’re asking you.  But, I have to say the time I hated Spanish most was when I asked a supermarket worker “where the ears” are located.  Yes, I meant onions.  Yes, he laughed for five minutes straight.

I am trying very hard not to let the “hate” overtake the “love” and learn as much as humanly possible for my (undetermined) amount of time here.  Colombian Spanish is beautiful, clear, and I want it.  Badly.

A self-proclaimed people-watcher, Nicole has been searching the world for the best spots to do just that. Her love of observing people (ideally with a cup of coffee and book in hand) has brought her to Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, and a couple of other places. After finishing her undergraduate degree in June from DePaul University, she decided to uproot her life and try out the people-watching (and coffee) in Colombia. She’s currently trying to make a home in Medellín studying/struggling with Spanish, practicing yoga, job-hunting, and having a daily battle with getting lost.

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    1. Oh man, have I been there!! I know exactly what you’re talking about when you mention being at a party and having to focus everything you have on one person. I think the true measurement of my knowledge of Portuguese will always be how easily I can keep up when there are x number of people in the conversation.

      Don’t forget to laugh at yourself! Don’t take language learning too seriously. If you don’t let yourself make mistakes and laugh at them you won’t be able to relax into it. Words from those who have been through it before 🙂

    2. Hey Nicole, I can totally relate! When I was in Peru I found that 9 years of Spanish classes stateside doesn’t necessarily amount to much when I’m trying to take a class/tell a story/express my personality in a foreign language. It’s exhausting and incredibly difficult, but fortunately, it gets better. The more you practice and make mistakes and practice again, the better you’ll speak, and the more fun you’ll be for Colombians to hang around 😉

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