Though things have been quiet around Foldedspace, they haven’t been quiet in Real Life. As always, I spend most of my time writing about money. I’m also exercising 2-1/2 hours a day, five days a week. I’m absorbing enormous (digital) piles of information about money and writing and travel. I’m meeting friends and colleagues for lunch and dinner. I’m doing my best to not let the yard turn completely feral. Kris and I are hanging out with friends. And, yes, I’m learning Spanish.
For years now, I’ve said that I want to learn Spanish “some day”. But that day never seemed to come. I’ve always found reasons to put it off.
Part of the problem is that learning a new language is slow going. Plus, it’s scary. I feel embarrassed stumbling my way through verb conjugations and incorrect nouns. I hate when the words don’t spring immediately to mind. Besides, there’s a huge time commitment if you ever really want to become proficient.
Earlier this month, I met Benny Lewis, the Irish polyglot who writes about language learning at Fluent in 3 Months. I told Benny I wanted to learn Spanish and asked if he had any suggestions.
“The best thing you can do — if you can afford it — is to hire a private tutor,” he told me. “Meet with the tutor as often as you can.” (Later, Benny spent an hour with me on Skype. We talked about his current trip to Turkey, and he gave me travel tips, especially for Latin America. Benny rocks!)
Well, I can afford to hire a private language tutor, and so that’s what I’ve done. For the past two weeks, I’ve been meeting with a Peruvian woman named Aly. We spend 4-1/2 hours a week together, and she assigns stacks of Spanish homework. It’s almost overwhelming at times — but I love it.
I feel like I’m catching on fairly quickly (and Aly seems to think so too), but I’m also frustrated because I wish I lived in a world populated by s-l-o-w-talking Spanish speakers. I could learn Spanish more easily if everyone around me would just speak it!
This is actually one of Benny’s top tips. In addition to hiring a tutor, he recommends immersing yourself in the language you want to learn. He wants to learn Turkish right now, so he’s in Turkey. If I want to learn Spanish, he thinks I need to go somewhere that Spanish is the primary language. I need to be forced to learn it.
Meanwhile, Stephanie (the Travel Chica), Courtney Baker, and Shannon O’Donnell have all suggested I try to find a language school in Antigua, Guatemala or Quito, Ecuador. From my initial research, it looks like I could sign up for a week at a time (for about $25/day) and get one-on-one personalized training. Benny says a language school isn’t necessary, that I’ll simply absorb the language through daily experience. He says I should head to Medillin, Colombia. “Colombia has the easiest Spanish in the world to understand,” Benny told me.
Benny may be right, but I know how my mind works. One-on-one lessons are going to be a better bet. Besides, if I decide I don’t like the language school, I can always shift my focus to learning from daily interactions.
In any event, I’m excited to have a focus for my first solo trip. Next week, I hope to pick my August destination. (Ecuador holds some charm because it’s a jumping-off point for the Galapagos Islands.) In the meantime, I’ll continue working with Aly three days a week.
I feel like the days ahead hum and glow with promise.