Gimme Some Oven

How Learning Spanish Is (Really) Going

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Of all the questions we’ve been asked since moving to Spain, there’s one we’ve come to really appreciate friends checking in on — “So how’s learning Spanish going?”

Our short answer?


Also…hard.  And fun. And humbling. And encouraging. And slow-going. And never-ending. And downright maddening, at times. (<– Hello, having to talk on the phone in Spanish!)

In any given day, we probably ride the Foreign Language Feels roller coaster up and down dozens of times. Because as we’ve learned, you don’t really have “good days” and “bad days” with learning a foreign language. You have good sentences and bad sentences. Good heck-yeah-I-think-I-just-nailed-that-pluscamperfecto-tense conjugations and bad omg-what-is-up-with-my-brain-I-can’t-even-remember-how-to-say-“apples” vocab blanks. Good vibes when a local pays you a genuine compliment on your Spanish, and bad vibes when someone shoots you a look of pure annoyance as you fumble for the right word. Good endings to conversations when you feel like you’ve smoothly sailed through that happy hour, and bad endings to conversations when you have to apologize and literally hang up the phone because you couldn’t understand the customs official. Good nights when you feel like you’re actually able to be yourself with friends, and bad nights when you come home in tears because you couldn’t keep up and felt like a complete wallflower the whole time. Good moments when you know you’re making progress, and bad moments when you wonder if it’s really worth it.

The highs and lows are a constant reality for us here. And they just keep on comin’, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month. (We’ve been here four now.)  But through it all, Barclay and I keep reminding ourselves…

…this is exactly why we’re here. 

Why Spanish.

We specifically chose Spain — and not New Zealand, the U.K., or any number of other English-speaking countries that were on our list — because we really wanted to finish learning Spanish.

It’s actually been a bucket list goal for the two of us ever since we were teenagers. We are both big fans of the rhythms and nuances and beauty of the Spanish language itself. (Which was a crazy coincidence that Barclay and I discovered when we first met.)  We both have a deep heart for people around the world who speak Spanish. And frankly, we’ve both always felt the weight of the fact that most everyone else we’ve met from around the world is at least bilingual, and feel it’s our responsibility as citizens of the world to at least try to study another language. So when we started dreaming about moving abroad, it was a pretty much a given for us that we should take this opportunity to choose a country that spoke Spanish.

To be sure, we definitely moved to Spain with a major head start on the language. I had the privilege of growing up in schools that were majority-Hispanic, and studied the language and spoke it with friends through high school, and also had the chance to participate in a brief immersion program in Costa Rica. Then Barclay studied abroad for a full semester in Ecuador (beginning Spanish there from scratch), and also had the chance to practice the language while working with Spanish-speaking countries with his former non-profit job. So — unlike many expats and immigrants — we arrived in our new country able to comfortably navigate our way around the city, and have decent conversations with people we met right from the start. And since Barclay is easily a full level ahead of me, he can converse in most conversations with relative ease.

Still, we both have a ton more to learn. Which makes us all the more grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime (although we hope it’s not the last!) chance to live in a Spanish-speaking country, and fully be immersed here, and have the opportunity to practice the language every single day.

Three years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be living here (much less, here married to a guy who loves this adventure as much as I do). But somehow, the puzzle pieces all amazingly fell into place this way. And life beyond our front door all now happens in Spanish. And it’s thrilling and exhausting and challenging and awesome. And we’re doing our best to soak it up!

How We’re Studying Spanish

So! A bunch of you have asked how we’re going about learning Spanish. Well, we honestly learned early on — especially since we work from home — that we have to stay on top of our game and really be intentional about practicing Spanish each da. Otherwise, it’s surprisingly easy to accidentally let a week pass without making much progress. So even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes at night, we both try to make sure that we’re at least doing something each day to make some baby steps forward.

Usually that looks like reading our Spanish novels each night before bed (I’m still plodding through my book about a 10-yr-old — almost 11! — whose mom opens a bakery), listening to Spanish podcasts, reading the day’s news in Spanish, or maybe doing a few rounds of DuoLingo. We’re also slowly starting to discover more Spanish artists and playlists that we like, and have them playing in the background while we work. And whenever Spanish subtitles are available on Netflix or Hulu, we figure we might as well click them on, and usually end up picking up a few new words here and there.

We also have our Spanish classes every Tuesday and Thursday nights…which we love. Our teacher, Ana, is our age and easy-going and hilarious, and manages to make even the grittiest grammar nights surprisingly fun and engaging. (And I’m having flashbacks to childhood, reliving how satisfying a good fill-in-the-blank or matching worksheet can be!) :)

Otherwise, the best way that we practice is just by hanging out with friends! As I’ve mentioned before, we completely lucked out with our group of Spanish classmates, and usually grab tapas and drinks with them at least once a week (speaking in Spanish the whole time, even though they all speak flawless English). But now we’re also starting to make other friends here locally, most of whom we speak Spanish with while we’re hanging out, which is hands-down the best practice we get each week. It’s also the best motivation to practice. Because there’s nothing like an awkward conversation to make you want to come home and hit the books and do better next time.

My Goal With Spanish

So what’s our goal in speaking Spanish? Well, when we very first moved here, we both kept telling people that our hope was to “become fluent” by the time we left Spain, which we now realize is a totally vague and unmeasurable, ha, yet a good direction to always aim. We both hope to learn as much as we can while we’re here, and maybe some day measurably complete levels 4 or 5 on the ILR.

But that said, after being here for a few months, I feel like my goal with learning Spanish has shifted to more of a heart-goal — I just really want to reach that point where I feel like I can be “myself” in conversation.

I’m getting there. And honestly, I don’t think it’s a goal that’s too far off. Right now, though, I’m still in that intermediate-but-not-quite-advanced stage where I can passably float by in most conversations, but still struggle to express myself with the nuance in heart-to-heart conversations, still totally miss moments of irony or sarcasm that sail right over my head, still get anxious when have to talk on the phone, still have a hard time following conversations in crowded bars or in cars or out and about when I can’t see people’s lips moving…still miss important stuff. Initially, I was frustrated that my brain just wasn’t computing fast enough. But I’ve come to realize that the root of my frustration is simply that I just don’t feel like I’m fully be myself in those moments. I don’t feel like people are getting to see the real “me”. And I don’t feel like I’m able yet to be the kind of friend that I want to be.

Which — I’ve gotta say — is a weird thing to feel in your thirties! (No one warns you about this ahead of time.)

That said, we have been able to make friends and hang out and have a great time and talk about real stuff more easily (and quickly) here than I expected here, which has been great. I’m just keenly aware of the distance between where I am and where I want to be. And more motivated than ever to get after it while we’re here. Carpe Spanish!

Surprises In Learning Spanish

Anyway, one of the other questions we hear most is what has “surprised” us about life here in Spain. Actually…lots!! Especially when it comes to learning Spanish. We’ve been surprised by how…

  • …much FUN it is to speak Spanish every day!
    • Oh man, neither of us had officially studied Spanish in over 15 years, and I think we forgot how much we totally enjoy it all! It’s just fun to try on a totally different accent (and see if you can trick the server into thinking you’re a local), and successfully spend an entire evening out on the town conversing in a foreign language, and get creative with using synonyms and hand motions to fill in the vocab gaps, and take notice of the little things that are getting easier month by month. I mean, to be sure, we have our hard moments too. But most of the time, it just feels fun and energizing and almost playful. Also, I’ve gotta say that it’s pretty dang cute when everyone here pronounces Henry’s name with a Spanish accent and a rolled “r”. ;)
  • Spain Spanish and Latin-American Spanish are even more different than we realized.
    • Oof, YES. Turns out that the “vosotros” conjugations were just the tip of the iceberg. Spanish — or castellano, as they call it in Spain — is spoken here with a totally different accent (that famous “lisp”), it’s spoken much more quickly (much), and it includes a myriad of vocabulary differences (including plenty of potential landmines/insults) that we never learned in our years studying Latin-American Spanish. The basics are still the same. But there have been more differences than we expected. (Case in point: the first time I mentioned something here about manejando un carro (“driving a car”), our local friends gave me a crazy look and explained that meant “operating a horse-drawn buggy” here in Spain. Apparently here you would be conduciendo un coche instead.) .
  • We speak Spanish socially with nearly all of our friends here.
    • Which is an awesome surprise! I mean, we had really hoped to find lots of friends here with whom we could practice Spanish, but figured we might end up in more expat circles with people who felt more comfortable speaking English. (Sidenote: every local and expat we’ve met here from around the world does speak awesome English. Humbling.)  Thankfully though, we’ve gotten in the habit of speaking Spanish with just about everyone we know here, even our friends from England and Scotland and Ireland and the States, and really enjoy it.
  • Working from home makes learning Spanish a LOT harder.
    • As I mentioned above, if we’re not diligent about practicing Spanish and getting out of the house, we’ve realized that we can easily spend 95% of our day speaking English with just the two of us — which definitely happens some days. (And is a nice break some days.)  But we really want to make the most of our time here. So we’re trying hard to put ourselves out there.
  • People who are kind and understanding and patient with us mean the world.
    • Truly. I think we both underestimated the toll that the daily vulnerability of putting yourself out there speaking a new language — day after day after day after day after day — would add up over time. Some days, it just feels like a lot. And on those days when it’s hard, and someone is rude or critical or doesn’t have time to “deal” with us, it can be extra rough. But on the flip side, when people are kind, and choose to be patient while you try to spit out that sentence, or maybe speak a bit more slowly, or gently help you out with that word you’re trying to remember, or choose their words carefully, or give you a kind compliment, or just generally act friendly and cool and supportive — man — it means the world to us. Lest any of us ever forget, a little gentleness with foreign language learners can really go a long way.
  • On that note, our compassion for English-language learners just keeps growing.
    • Barclay and I have always had a special spot in our hearts for English-language learners that we encountered back in the States. But goodness, our respect and admiration for them — especially for immigrants and refugees who are dealing with so much extra stress and culture shock and trauma and to-do lists on top of learning a new language — is just sky-high. They are absolute heroes, and deserve all of our upmost respect and support.
  • Speaking Spanish literally feels good.
    • Finally, this may sound weird to say, but it’s been fun to be reminded how speaking Spanish literally feels good. Truly. I forgot how you can physically feel different parts of your brain lighting up when you speak a foreign language. It’s the same kind of sense that I get when I’m reading sheet music, or meditating, or playing trivia. It’s like different pathways and muscles up there are being exercised, and feels healthy and energizing and good. Spanish-ercise. I love it.


(?The word that basically means everything here in Spain — okay! yup! alright! cool! no prob! sure! got it! let’s go!)

Vale, amigos. This got way longer than I expected, but as the subject at the forefront of our minds everyday here, ha, I guess I had a lot to say. :)

Thanks for reading, and hope that this gives you a better glimpse into our lives here. And hey, if you too are out there trying to learn another language — whether that’s doing the expat thing, or taking classes, or DuoLingo-ing in line at the grocery store — total props to you. We are the first to vouch that it’s not always easy. But man, it sure is fun. And we’re convinced it totally makes life all the richer.

Saludos, todos!

First image via Postache, whose prints line the walls of our Spanish classroom.

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39 comments on “How Learning Spanish Is (Really) Going”

  1. YES to all of this! We are American expats living in Norway and 100% relate. Learning a new language is a daily grind and can absolutely wear you down, but it can also feel like a total thrill, especially when you have those little “wins”. I’ve been following along with your move and are so proud of you guys! You’ll get there!

  2. I had wondered how you guys were doing with this! Thanks for the update. I really admire your courage to make this move.

  3. My niece was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. She said that she knew she was fluent when she was dreaming in Spanish. I know what you mean by Spain Spanish. My first intro to the language was the Spanish nuns who taught me in grade school. They were all from Spain.

  4. I absolutely loved reading this! I’ve been living in Morocco for four years and learning Arabic has been the most incredible, frustrating, and gratifying experience of all and I see so much of my own process in what you wrote. Languages are so amazing! You describe so perfectly that feeling of not quite being yourself when you first start to speak a new language- that is definitely something that takes more time, but once you get there is is SO rewarding. I admire you so much for this move you have made and for diving in headfirst with your Spanish adventure! (I’ve been following along on instagram!) Can’t wait to see where else it takes you!

  5. I’ll never forget studying abroad in Oviedo (Asturias- go!!) and how overwhelmed I felt at the beginning. Totally agree that Spain Spanish is just a whole different animal : ) One particularly embarrassing incident was when I told my host dad how much I enjoyed my “cuerpo” instead of my “cuarto.” Oof. Love reading about your Barcelona adventures!! <3 <3

  6. That llama print!! ? I relate to so much of this too. We are at the end of our first year working in Tokyo and wow…learning a foreign language later in life is hard work. I feel you!

    Btw, I’ve been a silent follower up until now, but just wanted to chime in that we’ve also really enjoyed your videos about expat life. We watch all of them and find ourselves nodding in agreement constantly. Keep them coming!

  7. I too have had it on my bucket list to learn Spanish, so 3 months ago, I got serious. I’m using DuoLingo now, but also have some fluent speaking friends that work with me too. It’s really a lifelong commitment or *poof*, it’s gone.

  8. Hola:

    Great that you are enjoying España so much, it sure is an adventure.
    I was born in Montevideo Uruguay, came to Toronto at 14 with my parents and sisters in 1973. Even though I always went to English Schools and took English classes after school it was as if in Toronto they were speaking Chinese, or Greek. I could not understand, could not follow a conversation and was very frustrated to say the list. Also, as a teenager you get shy and conscious about how you speak. A few months in, still remember, after all these years.. watching the Flinstones it just clicked, wow I understand I was so happy.. See, learning a language is a classroom is very different than in the street, the accent, the body language, the new vocabulary .. Yes, even how very fast los españoles speak.. even for me, from my Uruguay Spanish is sometime difficult while watching the Grand Hotel or the Chicas del Cable on Netflix.
    Hang in there A&B you are doing a great job.. Mucha suerte con todo. Monica

  9. Nothing like jumping in head first!

  10. This is one of the most honest, uplifting, and “educational” pieces I’ve ever read about learning a second language. Thank you – I am sharing this with a Japanese friend, who is a linguist and also a visiting scholar at Cambridge in the U.K. Her work has always been to get second-language learners to realize that the ultimate goal of language is shared information. This may seem obvious, but most non-native language teaching in the U.S. and other countries is focused on the parts of teaching that are easier measured (and graded). Students may learn vocabulary and grammar and even become adept at reading, but the conversational skills – the “frightening” element – are generally avoided. Putting yourself out there, as you two have done, is what it’s all about. No one likes to be wrong or feel inadequate, so our first inclination is to close up (close our mouths!) and avoid the confrontation of actually speaking with another person. You are inspirational!

  11. We are actually headed to Barcelona in a few weeks. I had been using DuoLingo, but when it signed me out and I forgot my password, I totally gave up. Thanks for giving me a little kick in the seat to try again. A few words in Spanish is better than no words in Spanish, right? Thankfully, we will have our daughter, who majored in Spanish, coming along with us. So excited!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve been thinking about learning Spanish, you’ve given me some great ideas. Thank you again, I appreciate the blog post!

  13. I loved reading your blog and can identify with parts of it. We were stationed in Puerto Rico for three years with the Navy and I loved learning the language (la lingua). A few years later we were stationed in Rota, Spain for three years. I thought I was ahead of the game by learning Puerto Rican Spanish. WRONG! So, I took Spanish classes and now I have a funny accent. Words that I learned in Puerto Rico I have a PR accent and I lisp with the rest of the language in Castilian Spanish. I really enjoy the country of Spain and the people are all so friendly.
    I look forward to more of your adventures in Spain .


  14. I’m loving these lifestyle posts! Thanks for sharing your life with us.

  15. Hello, Ali and Barclay.
    As a first generation American who wishes her immigrant parents had spoken more Swedish and Norwegian in our home, I know well the heartfelt wish to be yourself when speaking another language. The language of the heart is so nuanced, but I always remind myself that the eyes speak volumes and the effort does, too.

    I wanted to thank you both for your adventures abroad, because what means so much to me is to have two beautiful souls representing America at a time when we don’t play so well in the headlines. Your compassion, generosity of spirit, gratitude, cultural respect and just plain goodness shine through your blog. Let that light continue to shine knowing that this American appreciates who you are at a time when we all could use some global perspective.

    • Yes, you are great Ambassadors for America! I’m so proud of your courage, goodness and energy! Love you! Aunt Lynda

  16. I’ve always heard that once you started dreaming in a language, that’s how you know you’ve mastered it. (Never happened to me during my semester abroad in France.) ButI love this –> ” just really want to reach that point where I feel like I can be “myself” in conversation.”

    Also, my question would be more about the difference between Spanish and Catalan and if both are spoken interchangeably or if it’s just another different “version” of Spanish.

  17. Very very nice description of your experience. Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. Loved this! Muchos gracias. My husband lived in Spain for a couples years and I’ve been trying to teach myself so we, together, can teach our kids. On a much smaller level, I can understand the good and bad sentences haha. I’m excited to give my children a leg up on learning 2 languages that i wish I had had.

  19. We have been to Barcelona several times. I was all set to speak Spanish only to find that a lot o the locals in Barcelona only speak Catalan. Although similar to Castillian Spanish it threw me for a loop. How are you doing with speaking and understanding Catalan?? Or, are you concentrating on Castillian Spanish only??

    Love your posts and your recipes… BTW

  20. Hey there,

    I’m Alex, Venezuelan living in the Dominican Republic. Also half British. Being bilingual is harder than it seems!! People will often criticise your accent, how that second language isn’t perfect, but you know? You speak two languages. You’re completely allowed to not speak like a native. The really important thing is that you’re bettering yourself every day you spend there, lesrning something new and facing new challenges every single day.

    I think your approach to being bilingual is perfect. You’re doing great and improving every conversation you have. Don’t ever be discouraged, be proud that you chose to broaden your horizons and patient because this takes a lot of time.

    If you ever need help with non Spanish Spanish I’d love to help you out! A person’s willingness to learn is an incredible quality!

  21. I am beyond amazed watching your journey and loving your recipes as always. I have so much more to say but you don’t even know me! I hope to be like you when I grow up! Many blessings to you both!! ❤️?

  22. I wouldn’t worry about speaking Spanish the Latin American way or the Cadtellano way. In the end, it’s understood. I grew up in Mexico and there are parts of Mexico that would say “manejando” and others say ” conduciendo” . Similar to speaking English in the UK, there are various ways to say one thing but in the end, we get the point. Que bueno que estan aprendiendo Español y disfrutando de sus días en España. El proximo país que debería de visitar es México ?

  23. When I was studying abroad I found it really helpful to read books in Spanish that I was familiar with in English – for example, Harry Potter. I found that to be really really helpful because even when I didn’t know what the word meant in Spanish (e.g. varita for wand) I could figure it out from the context!

  24. What a delight to read this post! Back in the sixties, we lived for 3 years next door to a Cuban family: Celestino, a doctor, his wife Concepción (“Purita”), her mother, also named Concepción (“Pura”), and three children. Their kids and ours were about the same age, my wife and Purita were both nurses, so we had a lot in common. I had been fascinated with Spanish since childhood, studied it in college, but never acquired any speaking skill. Pura Madre–or abuelita, as the children called her–and I became especially good friends after I told her I would love to become conversant in the language. She said, “Good! I teach you Spanish. You teach me Ingles!” She was kidding about the English, though. She said she didn’t really want to learn English, because then her grandchildren wouldn’t speak Spanish to her. Spanish was her gift to those children.

    We would get together for a few minutes almost every evening after dinner to walk and talk. I started listening to La Voz de los Estados Unidos for Los Acontecimientos del dia, and subscribed to Selecciones (Readers Digest). Listening and reading were great helps, but it was the regular conversations that built my vocabulary and the ability to speak. Much of the vocabulary I acquired on those walks sticks with me to this day. Years after we had moved away, I was flying somewhere and my seat-mate was a man from Costa Rica. I ventured my Spanish, and he commented on my accent, asking, “Where did you get the Cuban accent?”

    Celestino taught me how to roll my Rs, using a little couplet that he said all Cuban children learned: “Erre, con erre, cigarro. Erre con erre barríl. Rapido corren los carros del ferro-carríl.”

    Purita once told me, “El que tiene dos lenguas, tiene dos almas.” The more I learned, the more I realized the truth of that dicho. I’m sure you are experiencing that right now!

    Once, one of Celestino’s medical school classmates was visiting. He had moved post-revolution to Mexico to practice. He was a great story teller, and Celestino had told him that I was learning Spanish and was “doing very well. So his friend told this little chiste, which perfectly fit the moment:

    “Un estudiante norte-americano a la Universidad de la Ciudad de Mexico, conoció a un profesor en el camino. “¿Como le va con sus estudios?” “Muy bien, profesor,” el contestó, “muchas gracias.” “Y el Español?”, preguntó el profesor. “Oh, MUY bien, profesor, ya tengo quince mil palabras aquí en las nalgas.” (Apuntando a su cabeza.)

    Well, everybody in the room burst out laughing, except me. I understood every word except the last one. It’s a word and a chiste I’ve never forgotten. (Thought one must be careful telling it in certain company.)

    Thanks for writing about your experience. I’m a little envious. ? Incidentally, my friend Celestino Corral spoke castellano. His father was first generation Cuban, and he had many relatives in Spain.

    Buena suerte, y muchas bendiciónes.

  25. Hola amiga :)
    I just notice you have recently moved to Barcelona recently , and surprisingly i will travel there by next month and iam having a 9m girl so i would like to ask you a favour please , if you could tell me when is there will be bottled food in supermarkets like Gerber ,Hipp for her or not and what’s the name of supermarkerts they have .
    Thanks inadvace and enjoy your stay :)

  26. I loved this post! Every word! Leaning Spanish has also been a life-long goal for me also. I took classes in high school, but then life intervened. Took more classes at college level 30 years later, but life again and I didn’t ever get comfortable with speaking. So four years ago at age 61 I started classes with a teacher and focused on using the language more. I have traveled to Mexico twice since then, and will be going to Spain for the second time in April. Would love to do what you two are doing and so happy for you that you seized the opportunity!

  27. Que lindo. Es como si describieras mis sentimientos cuando hablo inglés. Es tan dificil! Y tengo días mejores que otros, sobretodo en el trabajo. Mucho éxito en este camino de aprendizaje.

  28. Aww what a great post! You guys are troopers! I SO get what you mean about not being able to be fully YOU in conversation; even though I’ve never had that happen in the context of a foreign language, I DEFINITELY know what you’re talking about. I think, with just a little more time, you and Barclay will be total pros, dazzling every Spanish-speaking person from the first Hola :)

  29. Love this update! I studied abroad in Valencia in 1996 – right at the dawn of the internet/email so my parents would call me every Wednesday. I lived with a family that did not speak ONE word of English. My name, Heather was so difficult for them. They knew that when my parents called to just pass the phone over. However it was great — I had to learn it. My roommate’s name was Elizabeth. They got that one right away. We had a blast but talk about total immersion. I was 21, lived over a bar with a family, in a big city speaking another language. I am now married with 2 kids. I cannot wait to take my husband & 2 kids to Spain. I cannot wait to see all of the changes. I wish i had kept up on my Spanish. I am living vicariously through you. My fellow classmates & I would venture up to Barcelona several times during our semester. Enjoy every minute!

  30. Love these updates! Could you share the name of the Spanish book you are reading? I’m learning Spanish myself and would love suggestions!

  31. I relate to every word of this. We’re living in Italy as expats, and learning the language was hard work those first few years. (It definitely inspired us to have our kids begin study languages when they are YOUNG!) I think people underestimate the mental and emotional toll it takes on a daily basis. But a few years later, it was definitely all worth it. You’ll have that language with you the rest of your life. And chances are, it’ll inspire you to start learning the next one soon too. ;)

  32. Hello from Madrid!
    It’s crazy how language makes you a different person. I’m Spanish and I have studied and worked in England. Then I moved to Germany, where I met my (now) husband, who is American. We used to speak German, apart from our dates (you know, people say speaking a different language is easier while tipsy? Not with German). Then he moved to Spain and learnt Spanish. He says I’m a total different person in every language. Now he is proficient in Spanish, I can also see that in him. Isn’t it weird?

  33. Operating a horse-drawn buggy. I’m dying :)

  34. Where did you get the llama print at the top of your post?? Cute.

  35. I love love love reading about all of your adventures abroad!! Kudos (or Vale!) to you for learning Spanish. You both are beyond inspiring!

  36. It gets easier and are you learning Catalan as well. I’m a Michigander living in Barcelona. Glad you like it !!

  37. So nice to hear of the incredible and continued effort(!) in learning a language that you both put in. It could be that you lived in Barcelona (or fill-in-the-blank) and only dealt with people who could accommodate you. Brava! Having taught ESL here in the desert of So CA to those who wanted to get ahead and wanted to learn this English language it was, as you said, humbling. It was also hilarious, friendly, and joined us in the classroom in ways I never would have imagined. YOU should definitely offer to teach English.
    As my husband and I near retirement we are trying to chose ONE other language to learn — the idea of two – say Spanish and French . . . arrrgh! Too daunting. And I agree, my Ten Minutes a Day to Spanish is soooo easy to skip; and then I’m back at the beginning rather than progressing. My high school French has no vocabulary left, but still a great accent that just fit me way back when. I have used it in small churches in Paris to tell tres petite madames that ‘Pardon, Madame, mais je ne parle pas Francais.’ And with this very French accent they look at me and scoff and say, ‘TU parles Francais!’ — as if the accent were all!! And it’s warm and funny, and you just go with it — ever the polite American!
    All this to say that you encourage me that it is not ‘easier’ or ‘faster’ or ‘better’ because you live there — immersed — and I don’t. It will continue to be a struggle, but a happy, rewarding one!
    Oh, for the gift of tongues! There is a small Syrian Catholic church in VA that I have visited where the Irish priest (from Ireland mind you, not Boston) speaks fluent Syrian and Ancient Arabic! And the other Arabic – speaking people in the pew will quietly and effortlessly show where we are in the book, where we are in response, and there we are all speaking and answering in the language of Jesus — how cool is that — phonetically of course, but still our voices join and we respond, and our neighbor shows us quietly where to turn to next. You too seem to have found this niche of shared delight that builds your life thorough your soul.
    My students came to laugh with me and appreciate the nuances of English that they might meet everyday, and when I would try to rock some Spanish on them we would all laugh at that effort and they would say, ‘no, no teacher, don’t forget, you don’t speak Spanish!’ But I might some day and they would be the first I would tell.
    Many blessings,

  38. Er, shouldn’t you be learning to speak Catalan?!


    I’m writing this while waiting for your gazpacho soup to chill.

    You’re right about the differences between Latin American Spanish and Spanish Spainsh. I learnt mine in Costa Rica before living in Venezuela for three years as a British diplomat. In Ven they don’t pronounce the ‘s’ sound, so me and my wife were called senor y senora Coc…