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My first conversation with a native Spanish speaker.. quite the funny memory!

Mr.Smilie
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Hola a todos

I have been learning with Duolingo for around 13 or 14 months now, I finished the tree a few months ago just before going on a family vacation and a couple of weeks later I became a little lax on my refreshing… but I have also been practicing my comprehension by watching shows and reading books and listening to Coffee break Spanish (ok, so the books have been going slowly too.. But I am starting to understand more and more that I read) I also found a nice sight that has open streaming on many of the cartoons that I grew up with as a kid and it’s been great to see them again and use them to practice my Spanish. However, in the year + that I have been learning I am sorry to say that I haven’t had the opportunity to converse with a native speaker.. Well! Last week I found out about a local gathering for a “Tuesday night language exchange” at the local biblioteca and I became pretty excited to get the chance to actually talk with someone that speaks Spanish! I even spent a lot of time forming sentences in my head that I could use hoping that my nerves wouldn’t get the best of me.. So yesterday came around and my sisters, mom, and I went to check it out and see how many people where there and whatnot. When we first went in we found a group of about 7 or 8 people and as I found a seat I was told that we were saying “nosotros nombres y colores fabritos, in the strange setting it took me a moment (that felt even longer) to translate what felt like I should know (and was suppose to know) in an instant, and while I did managed to work out a “soy Meshach, mi colore.. ¿Fabrito? Es.. Amarillo.” I was very nervous about saying the wrong things and not knowing what was being asked with the speed things were being said around me, but shortly after that we split into groups and I met this one nice elder Señor there that seemed to know about as much as I about what we where suppose to be doing, although we had a sheet of paper with questions like “what is your favorite holiday” and “what is your favorite holiday memory from your childhood” but he didn’t know my level of Spanish except that I had said a moment before that “yo hablo muy poco” which is fairly true but I (Think that I) do understand fairly well so we struggled for a few minutes about how to start and after the first two questions we both realized that they weren’t getting us too far (although I spoke a little Spanish to him and he spoke a little Spanish and some English to me) because neither of us had much interest in the topic of the upcoming holidays for conversation so he quizzed me on a couple words and I spoke the English answers right back at him for most of them (gorra is hat, not sombrero.. Well in the case of a baseball cap anyway, and I suppose it may also be important to note Guatemalan Spanish as I know that there are many things that vary regionally) after that we started talking about our families which gave me the most memorable part of my first real conversation in Spanish.

we got interrupted about a question of translation because he was the most fluent in English and Spanish there having spent 40 years in Guatemala and than 20 here in the states.. Anyway, when we went back to our conversation, in hindsight I guess he must have said something to me like “tú dijiste tienes tres hermanos, que llamen?” or maybe he said “tú dijiste tienes cuantos hermanos, ¿que llamen?” and between the nerves, the speed and not recognizing a word (I believe he said Dijeste..) and then hearing “cuantos”with tienes, my brain went half blank and somehow swapped it around and translated it as him asking how old I was so before I knew what I was doing I blurted out (in Spanish at least..) my age, then as soon as I had said it my brain processed “llamen” as “call them” and he said something in Spanish (I think he repeated the question in a surprised (joking manner) that I call my siblings by my age..) and I started excusing myself and corrected myself while we both got a good laugh out of the whole thing, then I answered the question with the proper answer. It was undoubtedly a great ice breaker! hehe

We talked a while longer, I mostly listened to him speaking English but when I would ask him a question I would do so in Spanish and he would respond mostly in Spanish. After a while we joined into another conversation before running out of time at the meeting.

All in all I’d say it was awesome. At first it was hard to get into the swing, not knowing what to say anyway (not really good at starting face to face conversation with strangers) and then not wanting to make mistakes and look stupid, but also wanting to try to converse while at the same time trying to understand what was being said by those around me and taking so long to form sentences when I did speak up it feels like backpedaling, interrupting or slowing people down. But honestly I feel that a lot of my problem was nerves, and I think that given a little time to get to know the people, so I don’t feel like I’m an outsider that’s going to make a fool out of myself with total strangers, I’ll feel like another member of the group just learning with friends, then I’ll become more confidant about what I do know and I’ll start speaking up a little more, which, with what little I did say, may surprise the other people there with how much I do know..

Unfortunately no Spanish meetings for a bit, because next week is salsa dance week and then no more gatherings until after the holidays (and then the gentleman I was talking to is leaving in Jan or Feb) but I have every intent of going back to the meetings to practice talking with people more en Español When I get a chance.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my first "real" Spanish conversation and I hope you will take whatever chance you are given to chat with other speakers of languages you are learning! Good luck on your studies!

Meshach

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