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https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta

My trip to Spain

Samsta
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I've been on Duolingo for about one year and half, and I just recently got back from my three week stay in Spain, speaking no English the entire time. How did it go?...

First, the country. It's an incredible country; I was amazed by it's beauty. I stayed in Madrid most the time, but I also went to San Sebastián (first picture) and Campoamor. I really enjoyed the different way of life, and the different schedule (breakfast at 11:00, "lunch" at 3:00, dinner at 10-12 at night(!)).

(one of the many bulls found across Spain. Learn more here.)

The food was also great. I loved almost everything. The paellas are as good as they sound. :) This is a bocadillo de calamares that I got in the Plaza Mayor (EDIT: My picture didn't work, so I found another one):

Now the language. I was staying with a family, so I got to practice a lot of Spanish. We didn't speak in English at all, even though most of them speak pretty well. After a while you definitely get faster as you get used to it. I actually was helping someone practice his English, and it was pretty strange speaking English after so long (click here)! I started to think in Spanish pretty quickly, and a few times I dreamed in Spanish. People were very nice and said that my Spanish was very good. I never used "Usted" once, nor did I hear it (maybe a few times). My listening abilities also improved, but they're not perfect yet. I sometimes had to ask that a sentence be repeated, but I almost always get it the second time. Definitely work on the slang if you're going to Spain, and probably the curses too. Curse words seem much more common and less taboo.

Overall, it was probably the best trip of my life, and I would definitely recommend it, even to those of you who know very little or no Spanish at all! Thanks for reading.

EDIT: Looks like the pictures aren't working. I'll see what I can do.

3 years ago

44 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/AlexisLinguist
AlexisLinguist
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Wow, that view is amazing. Beautiful...

That looks great....

Thanks for sharing about your experience. Immersion is by far the best way to practice, and definitely three weeks. Your Spanish is good, glad to hear native speakers are in complete agreement! Sounds like you are a pro now, will you ever prefer Spanish over English?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/foalan2

A lingot for your effort of learning more languages than I ever could.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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Sorry, they're not working! If anyone knows how to get a picture from Facebook to show up, please tell! Thank you so much Alexis! At your pace you'll have mastered a lot more than just Spanish at the point I'm at! I don't know about preferring either of them above the other. I like to speak Spanish because it's fun to use a second language, but it does take a bit more effort. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AlexisLinguist
AlexisLinguist
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:)

I just upload my pictures to Photobucket and grab the direct link. Imgur works as well. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anebz
anebz
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I live in San Sebastian!! It's quite a little city and it's incredible that you chose it with Madrid for your trip to Spain! Thanks for visiting us! How was your stay? Hope you liked it and the weather was right... You just made my day, I didn't expect to see my city in Duolingo ever :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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I was only there one day (I didn't stay the night) and I loved it. It was the first week of the Semana Grande. The fireworks show was great!

EDIT: I forgot to say that it wasn't me who chose it, it was the family I was staying with in Madrid. I'm so glad they took me there!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anebz
anebz
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Glad you liked it! Yeah, we like to brag about that... I've seen fireworks of other cities and they're nothing compared to ours :) you should come again and try the pintxos! (the original word of tapas, which were copied from pintxos).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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I did try them actually! ¡Están buenísimos! Hablas vasco, ¿no? Yo no entiendo nada (pero mis amigos madrileños tampoco!).

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anebz
anebz
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oh great! Si, es normal, no tiene nada que ver con el castellano pero algunas palabras se suelen saber, como kaixo o agur

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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¿En qué ocasiones se habla el español allí? ¿Y el vasco? Supongo que casi todos hablan castellano también.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/anebz
anebz
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(I couldn't reply to your comment so I replied to mine). Los vascos hablamos el vasco, y algunos hispano-hablantes lo aprenden. Pero lo normal es que si no lo has aprendido de pequeño, no lo aprendas porque no hace falta. La gran mayoría de los vascos hablan castellano fluido

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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I am super interested in the "hows" of the trip, if you have any pointers or suggestions you could share. If it's personal and you don't care to, then that's completely understandable and I apologize in advance if I put you on the spot.

I'm interested in hearing how you decided what part of Spain to go to, if you stayed with a family you already knew and if not, how you got paired up with them, did you have any formal classes while you were there, was it an organized group trip or something you did on your own... things like that.

I would LOVE to spend a couple of weeks abroad (don't think I can get away from my job for more than that) but I can't decide on escorted tours vs. a formal course of study vs. traditional sight-seeing, rent a car vs. public transit, hotel vs. hostel vs. couch surfing... so many variables to consider, so much money involved, and such limited time.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Cheryl1
Cheryl1
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It depends on what you want to get out of the trip and how adventurous you are. My daughter and I just hopped on a flight to Madrid to go to the Madrid Open tennis tournament. We booked a hotel, via email (in Spanish) in the center of old Madrid. Hotel rooms in Europe are much smaller than in the States and can be expensive. But heck you just need a clean place to sleep because you'll find you spend almost no time in your hotel room. I’m not saying to stay in a dump but there are many reasonable small hotels that can be really quite lovely to stay in. The hotel consigners can be your best friend as they usually speak English.
You don't need a car. The metro is cheap and convenient. I wouldn't recommend driving in pretty much any major city in Europe unless you’re somewhat suicidal :). There are many day trips available for reasonable prices. Madrid has many wonderful world class museums, large parks, small shops and restaurants serving authentic cuisine from all over the world. Many are free or have low admission prices. We are independent travelers and feel comfortable just wandering the city, with common sense, of course. A half day bus tour of the city will give you the lay of the land and you can see what interests you and what you want to be sure to see!

A couple of practical things to know before you go: you need 220 amp electrical adapters for anything you need to plug in; carry your passport with you at all times (keep several copies in your luggage should you loose your passport or you’ll spend an entire day at the embassy); Personal violent crime is pretty low but pick pockets abound (and they’re good, really good); use credit cards and ATMs for all you money needs (they are everywhere!); Carry only the cash you’ll need for the day (should you get picked); Don’t carry large bags with expensive cameras, etc.

Try to blend into the local culture so you can better experience the local culture. Dress like the locals….no tennis shoes, sweats, etc. Above all, don’t complain that things are different than they are in America. That’s why you’re there after all, to experience a different culture. BTW, order an omelet. It’s nothing like an omelet in the States. Pork is hugely popular and unlike any type of pork I've seen in the States.

Spain is not as English speaker friendly as most other European cities we have been to. It’s just beginning to be taught as a required language in Spanish schools. Just asking where the bathroom was, in perfect Spanish, didn’t get me directions to the public bathroom but did get me a nasty look. It turns out that baño is what they use for home bathrooms. The correct question is: Dónde están los servicios? Thankfully a French lady came to my rescue. No matter how poor your Spanish is, giving it a try will go a long way towards increasing your interaction with native Madrileños. Many are thrilled that you will help them with their English. Not sure this is the type of info you're looking for but hope it helps somewhat.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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I already knew a family through a friend. I got really lucky! They live in Madrid, so that's where I went. They go to the other places I mentioned every year in August, so that's how I got there. There was no group. I got to go at a low cost because the mother works for an airline (I flew by myself). The great thing about being with a family is that you're guaranteed some Spanish practice.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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That helps me not. at. all. in planning my own Spanish Escape :p

It sounds like everything just fell together for you and you happily were able to take advantage of the opportunity.

I was fortunate enough to do a study abroad in Mexico City one summer. I got to attend 2 classes a day for a few weeks at a university down there. On weekends we went on cultural trips to nearby locations. We lived with families. I agree, staying with a family is definitely the way to go if you can. Participating in the dinner conversation, adjusting to their schedule, eating normal local meals, even seeing how chores are done and what the stove is like and how they wash clothes and dishes... it's something you just don't get from a hotel.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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Sorry! Yes, you're right, it really was a blessing. I think there are programs for staying with families but I'm not sure on that.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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There is always http://couchsurfing.org

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/andygravity

Sounds like a good trip! Thanks for sharing. The trip reports definitely give me motivation to keep learning.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Resonance2001

I have seen a green circle around people's icon with a shield. What does that mean? P.s. I love skiing too!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AlexisLinguist
AlexisLinguist
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That means those people are moderators (Samsta is a moderator for Eng->Spa, and I am one for Spa-Eng, as well as the Duolingo (Eng) forum). :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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Actually, I'm a moderator in all forums. They started doing forum specific moderators not too long ago.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AlexisLinguist
AlexisLinguist
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Ah, that makes sense now!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
Lrtward
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That must be why your picture doesn't show up with the green circle and shield in this forum, then. I have seen that before... folks I knew were moderators sometimes show up without a circle/shield. It's because they're not a moderator in that specific forum, I suppose.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AlexisLinguist
AlexisLinguist
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Mhm, I'm a mod for the Spa.->Eng. forum, the Duolingo (Eng.) and Duolingo (Spa.) forums, as well as both Troubleshooting areas. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Mooo_Spanish

that's perfect , thanks for telling us about your experience :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JackedTortoise

This is one of the reasons why learning another language is so fun, it opens you to so many awesome places on Earth! That is an awesome experience!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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Exactly! Once you're there, it becomes less about the language and more about experiencing the culture and the way of life as a whole.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PopTartTastic

¡TAPAS! Mi amiga quiere visitar Barcelona, y aunque ellos hablan catalán, muchos de la gente hablan español/castellano/whatever. Mi padre es un piloto para Delta, y él viene a Barcelona, Valencia, Málaga, y Madrid atualmente. España es muy bonita, y quiero visitar. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/borastronaut

the story is awesome and welcome back! I'm also planning a backpack-trip to Spain next year if I can finish my skill tree and save some money. wanna land on Madrid, spend a day there and take the train to Malaga, since I really wanna see the whole Andalucia region and party like a maniac for at least a week.

don't you have some more pics from España? a flickr photostrem would be cool.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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Yes, I took about 300 photos, if I remember correctly. I don't really know how to do it, and it takes time, but it would be cool.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/meggycortes

Wow this is amazing! Glad that you enjoyed your time in Spain and your spanish improved. :D Yo quiero estudiar arte en Espana. So im improving my spanish, hopefully i can visit next year and immerse myself. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/procrastinitis

You're so lucky! I loved the comic :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SarahBecraft

That's cool! Especially that you got the Castellano accent. I met a Spanish person in Peru and to be honest I could hardly understand what they were saying without it being repeated multiple times.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/n0body007

You are very lucky!! :D i always wanted to got to Spain :(

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/princess100415

well done its really ice to know that you are good at spanish

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GrandstandSteve

Good for you. I visited Spain a few years back and like you stayed three weeks. I highly recommend it, I will go somewhere when I finish my tree. Last visit I quickly realized the Spanish I thought I knew was insufficient...After 2 week on duolingo, my confidence is really starting to rise.I also like your pic, thank you...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JaneeMcNei

Thanks for sharing! Amazing that you were thinking and dreaming in Spanish that's great

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elowinn

that's right here I like learning new things is like a game but I love a teacher

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/_Mulan

Wow that sounds like an amazing experience! It has always been my dream to travel to Spain, so I appreciate reading about your journey and using Duolingo to help prepare me. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/creativeri

Thank you for sharing this amazing experience! Love to hear things like this. Do they really curse so much..?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Samsta
Samsta
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I'd say they curse a quite a bit. It depends what words you classify as curse words though.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/creativeri

Yes that's right.. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/taniyahwilliams_

One word,.... awsome. I wish i could go. LOL that food look good tho lol .

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BarnesBrett

It sounds like you had a lot of Fun! I am planning on going to Costa Rica this summer and I cannot wait!

3 years ago