Unexpected week of how language learning benefited me.
Hola a todos,
This week I decided to go on a volunteer work trip/vacation because a place I am acquainted with let me have a place to stay in for free if I helped them out (so obviously I did, because I wanted to help them out and see a whole new part of the country)
The first day I arrived there, I was under the impression that I would be working out in a warehouse where the rest of the volunteers were working at, but evidently word got out that I am able to speak decent Spanish so, instead of the warehouse I was sent to work in the Spanish department. I was unsure if I would do well, because my level of fluency in Spanish is only slightly higher than B1. So obviously I told the main lady that I am not fluent and she told me that I was the only one in the building that spoke even a little bit of Spanish (the lady who originally ran the Spanish department died and none of the staff speak Spanish so they were solely relying on Google translate!) My job for the week consisted of checking papers, translating letters, and replying to the letters in Spanish! (Keep In mind I wasn’t even aware I would be doing this it was a complete surprise for me.) Surprisingly, every thing went smooth and I was able to do what was needed to be done with ease.
I was really happy that I was able to do the job well, but what made me more happier was going to a Mexican restaurant (I always order my food in Spanish at Mexican restaurants but I have never really been able to strike conversation up with the staff until this week.) So, the waiter comes around to ask us what we want (he honestly didn’t look like the most friendly person and I was hesitant to use Spanish, but I am glad I did) I explained to him in Spanish that I was learning Spanish and asked if I could use the language I am learning Then, to my surprise he said yes, and lit up and seemed like a whole new person! I was able to have a 15 - 20 minute conversation with the waiter, and he understood everything I said, and I understood everything he said. Instead of just “doing his duty” he took time and started asking me about myself and I did the same in return. He also would come by the table and try to trick and quiz me in Spanish (not in a rude way) and he wasn’t able to stump me. It was probably the best speaking practice I have ever had with a native!
This week has been a great confidence booster in what I do know in Spanish, and it has also made me want to continue and gain more knowledge. I am looking forward to having even better experiences in the future than the wonderful one I had this week!
Have you ever had an experience similar like this with the language you are learning? If so I would love to hear about it!
Moral of the story: Keep learning every day, you never know what the future holds for you!
P.S Sorry if my text is a bit cluttered, I have been in the car for 10 hours today and I am exhausted.
I recently had a similar experience in Vietnam. Living there with locals for 6 months and having months of preparation here and having conversations in my US community, I figured I'd become fluent in that time.
Part of my motivation in living there was to repay a kind of karma debt and I brought sufficient funds to donate to Buddhist temples that are the safety net for unwanted children and the elderly without a family. I met few beggars but many of the really poor and handicapped people on the streets sold lottery tickets. I'd strike up a conversation and at the end would ask if they would share my lucky money. I'd see the same people on my walk abouts and take time to say hello but not always give them money. During Tet holiday it is a custom to give money to your children and relatives so I gave them more than a little during that time.
During one visit to a Buddhist Temple near the seaside, there was like a reunion of many people who traveled from Quang Ngai area of Central Vietnam. I had spent a couple of months living in a small village near that city and got to know a lot of people during that time. I stuck out like a sore thumb as the village was not a destination for tourists.
Anyhow, there I was sitting in the dining area getting reacquainted with people I had met, and the Buddhist nun who built and runs the whole complex (unusual as Buddhist monks usually do that) asked me to speak to the group in Vietnamese. She did not speak English. I was thankful she asked me suddenly so I did not have much time to get scared about what I was going to say. Basically, I said I enjoyed the tranquil setting of the temple but most of all enjoyed meeting old friends again and making new friends. All the tools in my language toolbox prepared me for that moment.
So, I have made a lot of progress speaking Vietnamese but I feel I am still far from being fluent. I still struggle with conversations, more so with a group and so much talking going on. Fluency? Early on in my trip, I put that out of my head and I was getting so frustrated that I was not as far along as I wanted. So I readjusted my expectations to a more reasonable level and just enjoyed each moment of the day and had fun. That is the key: have fun and relax.
Songve, I always enjoy reading your stories about Vietnam! Thank you for sharing that.
Brilliant! I can feel the warm glow of satisfaction from here. You enjoyed it AND did some useful stuff - it doesn't get much better than that. Well done you. :)
Amazing story! I am glad you are using your skills for helping people. Mis respetos para usted :)
Its lovely to see that someone who is honest can get a chance, in a world of exaggerated CVs.
But honesty is now rewarding you, because everyone is happy with your performance, including you.
That sounds like a great experience and definitely a great use of your new language. Helping others is always worth it.
How exciting for you! Not only could you converse with people, you could HELP them! What a great feeling! I have an experience I'll share that left me totally embarassed.
Years ago, when I graduated high school, I was given the amazing gift of living with a family in Mexico City for a month as an exchange student. The family had several children - including a girl very close to my age, who I shared a room with. As she was combing her hair one afternoon, I tried to remember a shorter way to say "hair." We had been taught the word "peinado" for hair - but it really means hairstyle. I remember my teacher saying you could call it by a shorter name - but I wasn't sure I remembered it correctly. "Stella, que es la palabra? Peno? ....(she looks questioningly) .....Pedo?"..... She burst out laughing and quickly pulled out a Spanish /English dictionary. I was trying to remember the word "Pelo," but had come up with Pedo instead. The dictionary said, "Pedo, wind from the bowels." Here I was, trying to be "oh so cool" with my language skills. Instead - out of my lips came Pedo. Fart! That was a long time ago - and it was a VERY unacceptable thing to say. I don't think I'll ever forget how embarrassed I was! In spite of the blooper, we got a laugh from my meager Spanish skills and enjoyed a wonderful month that I will never forget.
Judy, I’m sure it was embarrassing but you probably will not ever forget that “pelo - means hair”, and pedo has a “bit-different-meaning” :-)
When stuff like that happens it makes it so much easier for me to remember the word!
That is awesome!!!! I'm so nervous to try to actually speak any Spanish, because I don't know much at all and it is hard to understand it sometimes :(
Ps what is the B1 level thing? How do I find out what mine is?
It's a Common European Framework For Reference of languages (CEFR) level. A1 for early beginner all the way up to C2 for mastery of a language. Duolingo might teach up to A2 (late beginner), but it won't be sufficient for higher levels.
There are tests you can take. Official ones will get you a certificate, which is really only needed for certain professional uses.
There are some free assessments which might not hold the same weight, but could give you an idea:
They'll be lacking in various areas of a formal exam, though.
Here's a post from the Making Duolingo blog that discusses their plans to coordinate Duolingo to CEFR.
I visited a Spanish restaurant in town the other day and found that they had a chef who was really from Spain. I was encouraged to go over and talk to him because I speak Spanish. He was really happy to have a chat!
I have noticed that people will open up to others if they know people care enough about their culture and their language.
I cant wait to have an experience like yours someday! Im only a beginner but I too have noticed people really open up, perk up, and light up when they discover you are trying to learn "their" language. Especially where Im from, there is an unspoken racial tension sometimes between people who look and speak "differently". (which i cant stand, by the way)
Now that's a thing you really want to hear when in doubt about language learning. It must have been a great experience - one I almost envy you for :-)
Thanks for sharing
Thank you for sharing a wonderful and inspiring story. A great way to start a day.
That's great! I am happy for you! Today I really need this kind of motivating story. You have lifted my spirit :)
Wow, that is cool! It feels like my mind shuts down when someone tries to talk to me in Spanish, and I can't even remember anything basic!
I remember when I first started learning it, a lady at church said to me "¿Cómo estás?" and I completely froze. She finally said, "Say 'bien,'" so I did. (I knew that, but couldn't remember on the spot.)
Every week after that she'd ask me again, and wait patiently until I managed to remember the answer.
. . . Now I'm fluent. Keep hanging in there! Keep practicing. It'll get better!
What a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing. At my job, we have a LOT of international customers, and when I can say even a few things to them in their native language, they appreciate it so much.
This is a cool story! Thank you! I wish I was brave enough to do what you did...I basically don't even tell people I know Spanish because I'm afraid they'll launch in and talk to fast for me to keep up. But I'll have to dare it some day! :-)
What an inspiring post, thank you for sharing your experience. And also for making a difference. :)
Hace un mes, yo hice unos pocos pruebas simuladas, y cada vez mi nota era B1
Seems like a really amazing opportunity to advance your language-learning skills! Best of luck.
I hope to have these types of experiences when my Chinese gets better, it's lovely to see people embracing those who are practicing their language, many Chinese speakers I've met have put their all into learning English so I'd like to do the same.
Wow, this is so cool! I am really proud of you! Hope that many of will share similar experiences! By the way I had similar conversations in German, in Austria once, when I just started learning the language. No one could speak German, so I had to make an effort:D I was clearly not fluent, and often times I could only use nouns or verbs without proper gramatical order, etc, but after the experience I was so proud of mysel:D
That is amazing Lucas! You made an effort to learn, and then you get to experience of the reward of your labor.
Immersion is the best way to learn a language and its culture, and the fact that you made the best use of it shows your rapid progress in Spanish. Making those many translations in a real life situation is a feat I heartily appreciate. And the conversations with the natives is just the best practice one can get! (I have have had such experiences on streets, old age homes, etc. They have been fantastic!)
Keep up the great work! Hope to see many more posts from you regarding your Spanish learning journey.
You mentioned that you're slightly above B1. Did you reach this level solely by yourself,through practicing from different sources at home or did you take classes(and help from tutors)?
That means you achieved so much with only a computer and persistent drive to learn... :) I am trying to learn french in the same way. Wish me luck.
Pues, mira que hiciste un buen trabajo ;)
Solo me gustaría decir que en Español normalmente usamos "Hola a todos", ya que "Hola todos" es de cierta forma incorrecto.
Muchas gracias, pero he oído nativos en YouTube dicen “Hola todos” en vez de “Hola a todos” Voy a investigar esta frase. Muchas gracias :-)
As a native spanish speaker myself, he is right. Mexican or spanish Youtubers tend to talk very fast and instead of saying 'Hola a todos' they just extend the word 'hola' adding another a, saying instead 'Holaa todos'. Btw, great post and amazing story. I hope you can use spanish actively, and create other great experiences like those ones, or even better.
I know that one of my favorite phrases here near the souther border is, "I don't speak English." Not a problem as we then converse in Spanish. Speaking even some Spanish has led me into many fun exchanges and experiences.
10 hours in the car!!!! That sounds painful!!!! Oh my that's a looooonnnnnnggggg time........ it's okay if the text is clustered! I know how you feel....
Go Andres, go! My favorite part is imagining you and the waiter joking around playing stump the language learner...From your experience it sounds like speaking another language really does open doors to unexpected friends (or at least a lovely connection).
Andres!! I am a little late to the party, but wanted to add my hearty congratulations about your amazing week, and my heartfelt thanks for such an uplifting post. It's wonderful to see a deserving friend at the top of the Popular thread! Keep up the dedication!
Thank you Sunny.Kay, It’s always nice to see your positive comments on the forums. :-)
Was this all just from learning from Doulingo or did you use other sources regularly?
Razanayaz, asked a similar question I put the list of what I do under his comment. Happy Learning. :-)
I hardly see threads getting so many up-votes like you have now (including me) :-)
In another thread the tip about "Spanish with Paul" was posted to learn Spanish.
As I checked it out today I came across the web (when you add the /join URL) and where he lives in Mexico.
I have to confess that I had absolutely no clue that you can do Kitesurfing in Yucatan / Riviera Maya!!
So far I only knew that "Mexico" is in the south below the United States :-)
I knew someone who visited Florida in February to go surfing there...I am sure there are also opportunities to get in contact with Spanish speakers there...
I came across several Mexico spots on this map: https://bstoked.net/locations/mexico/
Interesting, the best windy time is the European winter around November-December and January-April....wow!
When I learned my first 1000 Spanish words with my Lingvist challenge end of 2017 (greetings to Carlos if you read this) I really wished that I would have found a way in 2018 or 2019 to leave our icy, rainy and not so sunny German winter behind me.
I do not think that I would have been any "ready" to go to Brazil in 2018 only after this language (my 1st Romance language) a few months.
Maybe when Mondly adds back the "conversation lessons" (with new audio) to their Restaurant 1-4 topics (on the web), I will take the courage one day to visit a Brazilian restaurant (or European Portugal) here in Germany and near distance around my city.
Are there any in Nuremberg +-50km or Ingolstadt/Regensburg?
I heard that several Brazilians people actually live in Munich...but it is a bit far from here (180km+) just to visit a restaurant.
I checked the newest Mondly Android app on KOPlayer (Android emulator software) and I found a new icon on the tree in the top right corner for additional topics/lessons, but not the old "conversation lessons" (two person dialogs) in the original normal tree topics.
Two-person dialogs are IMHO a bit more challenging than those shorter Duolingo single sentence translations :-)
There's tons of Spanish speakers in the Miami/Miami beach area. That, in fact, is why I'm here. I went there for the first time this past winter and fell in love with the place. Perfect escape from the snow and cold. I'm going back next winter, SIN DUDA!
If you learned Spanish by yourself how did you make sure you were saying the correct pronunciation of certain words when learning?
Before I started learning any words I made sure I got the pronunciation correct (that took about 2 weeks.) SpanishPod101 puts out a great pronunciation course.
Me gustó mucho tu anécdota. Que bueno que te interese expresarte mejor en español. ¡Felicidades! Soy hispanohablante de nacimiento. Si quieres conversar conmigo, pues adelante.
Nice post! In fact, I enjoy the fact that everyone that replied had something nice to say. My kind of forum! Hooray!
I took french in college but I'm learning Greek with Duolingo because I want to speak it fairly well when I visit the Aegean in the future. I also have a friend who is a native speaker of Greek. Though he doesn't talk much Greek to me, it helps a ton when I'm in doubt about a phrase I've seen on Duolingo. I'm also a science teacher, so there's a good number of words that already feel familiar to me. :-)
Side note: This is my first post because I've been using the iPad app until now. The website version totally rocks!
Ευχαριστώ και αντίο! (Thanks and goodbye!)
Thank you Redsed, It’s nice to see you again tell the rest of the club members I said hi :)
Hey Andres. Good to see you too. I have passed on your “hello” and told them about your experience. Thank you for sharing with us. Stay in touch!!
I applaud you for explaining to him that you are learning Spanish. I am learning German because I live in Germany now. It has been intimidating for me to be in situations where I don't understand everything that is said. People speak quickly and not all that clearly. However, they sincerely appreciate it when Ausländer make a sincere effort to communicate in German. People in general will gladly slow down and be quite helpful. Keep learning and enjoy!
Germany is a beautiful country! Good luck with your studies as well! :-)
Thoroughly enjoyed your story, Andres! Thanks for sharing. I hope I might have a similar experience one day! Though I don't have anything as fantastic as your story to share, I have noticed that learning a language on Duo has been handy in the odd movie and also, unexpectedly, a couple of times in a trivia quizz.