Achievement kinda, sort of unlocked: Conversing with a native speaker
After taking several Spanish classes in college I found myself intrigued by the language. I think it was the combination of learning something new with the histories and cultures of Spanish-speaking regions that really hooked me. (Particularly Spain — I will visit there someday!) That is, it hooked me enough to love it, but not enough to become fluent. Over the years I still found things to read or listen to in Spanish, but never really studied it again until Duolingo came along.
I have enjoyed learing through Duolingo and how it has prompted me to study in other ways too. However, the one way that I have never practiced is by actually conversing with native speakers. It just makes me too nervous. Since I first started studying Spanish about 10 years ago I have never once tried to speak Spanish with a native speaker. The last few months I have realized that this needed to change. One of the main reasons I’m learning a new language is to meet and converse with new, interesting people.
Yesterday I finally decided to give it a shot. I really enjoy one of the local taco buses (amazing Mexican food that comes out of a bus ... so good) and occasionally they have a nice lady working the register who does not speak much English. As I walked up to order a torta with pork, I chickened out — there were other people around and I was nervous. But then I saw that they offered “milanesa” as a meat for their tortas. I didn’t know what it was, so I looked it up. Apparently it can be made from different types of meat and I wondered what theirs was made of.
When my order was done she called me over. I said, “Gracias. Y tengo una pregunta, por favor. ¿Qué tipo de carne es en su milanesa?” I was exstatic to have actually spoken Spanish to someone in the real world. But that was shortlived. :) She quirked her head to the side and gave me some response that I did not understand. It was something about my torta, and how they had done ... something to it. ¯_(シ)_/¯ In any case it was not an answer to any question I thought I’d asked! She saw my confused look and said it again in different words, while pointing at the bag, but too fast for me to pick up. So I nodded my head in agreement like I understood, thanked her again, and went on my way.
While this was nothing like the first experience I’d hoped for, at least the first one is out of the way. Now I need to make myself find more conversations!
Es un post súper padre de leer. Me da gusto cuando se animan a hablar. Donde vivo mucha gente de Estados Unidos viene y hablan español y se arma la fiesta. Son muy amigables. Me da mucho gusto que te hayas animado. Nosotros no juzgamos créeme, al contrario, nos da gusto que alguien aprenda nuestro idioma.
Congratulations on this achievement!! :D
You deserve a lingot for your bravery! Remember this: If it scares you, DO IT!! Like you said, part of the reason for learning a language is to be able to converse with other people. The world is so big and by understanding another persons language and culture you can connect with them on a much deeper level. I applaud you my friend!
Being in a university environment, if we are out partying and I hear someone speak Spanish, I ALWAYS try to talk to them. Usually they are very patient and the sentence "más despacio por favor" goes a long way. Oh, and alcohol helps.
I'm so sorry to jump in like this, but I'm really curious about the thing you just said. Do you think we speak fast? It's just that I have a lot of contact when american people, and sometimes to be completly honest I do not realize that and I don't like being rude and they never say a thing... still I woud like to hear you opinion if that's ok.
Dave, when I talk to immigrants, I switch to my English-learner style of English.
- I talk slower.
- Shorter sentences. Simplified grammar. I might say to a native English speaker, "Hey, whadda' you-guys gonna be doin' this weekend?" But to an English learner I'll say, "What do you plan to do this weekend?"
- Simpler vocabulary. No slang.
- I say each word distinctly instead of letting them run together.
If they have trouble with that, I simplify it even more. A lot of gestures. Three word sentences, mostly just content words: nouns, verbs, and adjectives. That means I'm not using proper grammar, but I'm using the key words they need.
As we converse, I pay attention to how much I think they can understand. From that point, I try to adjust my English to a level where they can comfortably understand it.
Right now I tutor two 4th graders. D is much better in English than E. With D, I can talk in simple five-word sentences. But with E, first I have to establish the subject of the sentence (I might have to say it in Spanish if nothing else works), and then a simple sentence with gestures to help.
It is also important to pause a little after every sentence because the listener may need a moment to figure it out. Imagine if you were in an advanced math class and the teacher was teaching as he solved a complicated problem on the board. If it was a new lesson for you, wouldn't you need him to stop after every step, so you could take time to understand what he just did? Well, when a Spanish speaker talks to me, I need that moment to figure it out too.
My friend's husband Francisco was marvelous at this. Our group of friends would go out for coffee. At some point in the evening he would turn to me and start explaining something to me. One time it was about the 1910 revolution. Another time it was the difference between tequila and maguay. Once he told me about Tres Leches cake. Each time, he would tell me one sentence that was just a little hard for me to understand, and he'd speak pretty slowly. If I looked confused, he would go back and say the same thing in different words. And he would wait for my reaction. Sometimes I just had a question about a single word, but I could ask because he paused after the sentence. Sometimes in that pause, I would tell him what I thought he meant. And then he would correct my Spanish. Once I understood, he would go to the next sentence.
Thank you for reminding me of that. Francisco was a wonderful teacher. Maybe I should find out if he wants me to hire him for more lessons.
Thank you so much for this. Specially because I take a class with americans and they struggler with it and our teacher talks REALLY REALLY FAST. I'll talk to her on wednesday because she probably does not notice either.
I think most languages seem fast if you are still learning them. I know that when I have a casual conversation I speak at a speed that may be difficult to pick up for a non-native English speaker. I slur words together too. "What do you think?" becomes "Whaddaya think?" Stuff like that. I try to keep that in mind when I'm talking to someone who has trouble with English.
I often hear other American English speakers complain about the speed of Spanish, but I think it's just that they aren't used to it. As their ability grows, they will become more comfortable with the speed. Until then, they will be saying: "Más despacio, por favor."
I will keep this in mind because I didn't realize this. At the next fiesta, I'll be more aware of this and will be more considerate. Thanks !!!
I'm quite new to Spanish (6 months) and I have found one of the speed issues is that I am still translating everything into English, that's what is slowing me down. For short phrases and words I am more familiar with ("nos vamos", "me gusta", "dónde está?" etc) I don't need to translate and can understand almost as quickly as in English.
I'm not convinced by the argument that Spanish is any quicker than any other language. :-)
Well... actually Spanish is considered one of the fastest languages in the world!
I think that Spanish speakers speak very fast... Compared to other languages
But in Spain it's even faster XD
With the exception of little old ladies, who don't know any better, every Latin American I've ever known has slowed down when they've talked to me, to make accommodation for my limited Spanish. The one Spaniard I knew cara-a-cara simply refused to slow down, even when I asked him repeatedly. If I couldn't keep up, that was my problem, not his.
Obviously one anecdote does not define a whole nation, but...
Haha obviously I would slow down if I see that the other speaker is learning
But some people won't, lol, that happened me 2 or 3 times in a supermarket in the US
Touché. Point taken. Yes, unfortunately many of my paisanos have the same attitude I saw in the Spaniard.
Please, jump in. I believe it depends on the people I am speaking with. Like the previous posters have mentioned, some understand that they might speak quickly by my facial expression so they slow down. Others I have to ask them nicely, and they always slow down. Overall, I do think Spanish is a quick language. Reading is relatively easy whereas listening and producing is significantly harder, as it should be. I think the only right thing to do now is to go to Spain for 2-3 months and truly immerse myself with the Spanish language.
My teacher says that any language we are learning sounds quicker in it's native language because we don't know it automatically or by heart. Hope that helps a little :)
I've always wanted to converse with a native speaker, but other than my teachers I am too timid to do so. I've heard enough friends gripe about feeling racially profiled when someone comes up to them out of the blue to speak what they perceive to be their language. But that's very different from the situation you describe here, where you've already confirmed that she speaks Spanish and your interaction requires that you speak.
I've only exchanged snippets of conversation, like "si, tengo numero cuatro" and "¿cuánto [cuesta la paleta]?" I look forward to seeking out more conversations as well. Where do you plan to look?
I am not entirely sure. The church that most of my family attends also has a Spanish-speaking congregation that meets at a different time. I have thought about showing up there just as a lurker. It would give me the chance to do a lot of listening and have some (terrifying to me) conversations as I come and go about what is my name and nice to meet you, etc.
My only other thought is to spend more time and money eating at more local Mexican restaurants and buses, and also to try something like en-us.wespeke.com or conversationexchange.com. If you or anyone else has advice on where to get more face-to-face conversation, I would love to hear it!
A coworker who was a missionary in Mexico suggested church and service groups: they would have soup kitchens, food banks, and classes where it would be nice to have a volunteer who spoke some degree of Spanish. Maybe your church has other ideas along those lines?
There is an organization for migrant workers in my area that has a writing workshop, computer classes, and an ESL class specifically targeted at Spanish speakers. They're looking for volunteers with some Spanish proficiency (fluency not required) but nothing that works with my schedule.
As for less formal settings, I don't know! I look forward to others' ideas as well.
Hola! Okay so I'm pretty fluent in italian. But even after speaking it most of my life after not having anyone to speak with for years (using my italian only on twice a year calls to family friends and writing them letters. Yes actual hand written letters.) even I am nervous now when I have to speak it. So don't feel bad about that. My mother who is Thai and has spoken Thai all her life found that after 20 years of not living in Thailand when she moved back she was stunned to find her Thai had diminished! So SPEAKING regularly is important.
I also speak broken Spanish. I plan to do the Spanish course after I finish refreshing my italian. I'm trying not to "test out" of each section on the tree because that kind of defeats the purpose of me praticing and refreshing. I"m finding it too easy and the temptation to test out of everything is very strong. ANYWAY....!
I don't know if you have any good spanish grocery stores in your area. But I have one. And I like to cook so I go there and I FORCE myself to use the little bit of spanish that I know. Unfortunately everyone always thinks I look spanish or hawaiian so in spanish businesses they always just speak to me in spanish. Even at a spanish restaurant.
For you I think they would know it's not your first language and what I find helpful is I ask them to slow down. in spanish. Most people when they see you are trying to speak to them in their native tongue will accomodate you if you ask them to. By asking them to say something slower so you can try to understand better I think that most of them would me more than happy to do that for you. THey do that for me.
The important thing is just to SPEAK. however nervous you are just do it. The more you do it the easier it will be. The more confidence you will get when you speak. Remember also that depending on where the person you are speaking to comes from teh spanish may vary.
For instance my best friend is puerto rican and we have a mutual mexican friend. Ahora and ahorita means the opposite to them. To my PR friend ahorita means NOW and ahora means later. (this is according to where her family is from) to anyone else ahorita means later/in a bit and ahora means NOW.
When learning a language we often forget there are different dialects and slang that we have to look our for when speaking to a native speaker. My mother can go two town over in her country and not understand those people in that town that close to her.
I speak northern italian. Southern italian is VERY Hard for me to understand even after 15 years in Italy. 14 sorry. 14 years. Southerners speak sometimes so slowly that I simply can't understand them....lol
Anyway. ALLLL this writing just to tell you to try the carnicerias! IF you have any around you. Maybe there are English classes for spanish speakers in your area too. There are lots around here.Maybe you could ask to sit in? OR volunteer to help? OR converse with those students in exchange of them conversing with you in Spanish????
I'm yet to make the first conversation. I don't think I have the basic nailed down yet or can construct sentences quickly enough. But I'm sure the first one must be the hardest, go you!
Two threads that are relevant to this topic:
Volunteer at community classes, etc.
Use Duolingo Spanish forums. Note, Loboblancodav who is in this conversation participates in the English forums all the time. So do JR Nogal and a few others. They help us, and they practice their English in an "immersion" environment.
First of all, congratulations for summoning up the courage to speak to a native. Here is a Lingot! I love Duolingo and use it all the time (I'm learning Italian and German) and I also use it in my classroom (I teach Spanish in high school). But I also understand that Duolingo is one of many tools that must be used to learn a language. What I mean is if all you do is study with Duolingo you will never reach the kind of proficiency you desire (as good as Duolingo is). You need to also spend time hearing the target language (for hours and hours) and speaking it. One way to hear it is to watch television in Spanish (news and telenovelas can be good - cartoons and kid shows are not as good because the characters are intentionally speaking in weird voices and often saying silly, unexpected things. The more you listen, the more you will be able to pick out things being said. I remember going to Mexico for the first time. I had taken a very intensive Spanish course but was still not prepared for what I heard when I stepped off the plane. I thought I had taken the wrong flight and was in France because what I heard was nothing like what I had studied. But about six weeks later (i'm a pretty slow learner) I was standing in line at a bank and suddenly realized that I understood everything that two guys behind me in line had said. The speaking part is also crucial. The good news is that you have taken the first step and it appears that the lady at the taco truck understood what you were saying. You must keep it up! I've found that most people really like it when you are trying to learn their language. Look at what loboblancodav said below "nos da gusto que alguien aprenda nuestro idioma." They will go out of the way to try and help you. Finally, understand that it is well worth the effort. Knowing Spanish has been very valuable to me, not only financially, but it has expanded my horizons culturally and in many other ways. In fact, I just celebrated my 34th anniversary of being married to my amazing wife who is from México. As one politician in México once said "Arriba y adelante."
Trial and error - just like Duolingo teaches us - really is the best way to do it, so congrats!
Since I live next to and work and study in a big city full of tourists, I sometimes get randomly asked for directions - usually in English, but I've talked with native speakers of Spanish - and it's clearly always a pleasure when someone reaches out to you and you feel like a connection was made because of that shared language, so I'm sure that lady was very happy to hear you try and just wanted to give the best answer she possibly could (if someone rambles with you, it means they trust you'll understand them, and having that trust is always great).
Keep up with that spirit and good luck on your next shots at conversation :)
I never have really had a conversation with someone in Spanish. I'm afraid that I'll say something rude or not what I meant to say.
Why not start today? Go on DuoLingo's Spanish board, https://www.duolingo.com/topic/216 . Write a post in English, saying that you want to talk to somebody in Spanish, either on your stream or on the board. A whole bunch of people on the Spanish board are desperately eager for an English speaker to talk to, and they won't mind your mistakes because they are learning too. If you write you post in English, people who answer will know enough English that they can cover what you don't know. See this example for how one pair is doing this. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/8619913 .
I know it's not the same as SPOKEN conversation, but if you're afraid to try spoken, start small - start with typing conversation.
Holaaaaaaa!!!!!!! Yo quiero aprender y mejorar mi ingles, cuando quieras chateamos o hablamos por skype y nos ayudamos!!! Saludos y abrazos!!!!!
You're getting exposed to the native way of speaking. Very interesting. if you want, I do not mind a conversation with you through skype, if you want?
That's awesome that you got up the nerve to talk, even briefly, with a native speaker!
I actually lived in El Salvador recently (for 6 months) so I constantly spoke / listened to Spanish with native speakers all the time while I was there. But, now that I'm back in the States I'm much more shy about speaking it. I've made short remarks to waiters at the local Mexican restaurant or the girl working at a Mexican bakery but that's about it. As someone else said, I also hate to assume that Hispanic people in my city speak Spanish, which keeps me from reaching out more. I'm thinking of going to a Spanish church service just to feel immersed in it again, but am scared I'll stand out as the weird gringa in the room.
Anyway congrats again on your courage and good luck finding more conversation opportunities!
I've gone to Spanish church services alone, and the members have been extremely welcoming. The pastor even came up to me and offered to have someone translate the sermon for me, as he spoke! Everyone was very friendly. I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
There was a very clear gender separation though. Since I'm female, only females introduced themselves to me. I'm sure that if my husband had been along, the men would've spoken to him. If you respond positively, many people will want to talk to you to make you feel welcome. It will probably be less so in a Catholic church, just because, in general, there is less chatter after Catholic mass than after Protestant services, regardless of language. This is not a universal rule, of course, but a general observation. One advantage of a Catholic church, is that if you already know the Mass in English, you can easily follow it in Spanish.
The one great thing about going to a Spanish church is that you'll be able to look up the sermon's scripture in your English Bible, and that will give you a general idea of what the sermon is going to be about. Also review your "vosotros" conjugations. Since the Spanish Bible uses vosotros, the sermon will too.
woot :) i'm learning german and i have a hard time speaking it with my swiss BOYFRIEND, and he's well, my boyfriend.
if you want to practice your spanish, i'm no native speaker, but i've lived in argentina for a long time (i'm brazilian), so while my spanish does fail sometimes, i'd be glad to chat and help out. i have skype :) (will only really be able to connect after this next friday, but anyway).
I also need some formal verbal and written foreign language instruction in addition to practice with people who speak Spanish fluently. Last week I was able to speak with people my mother knew in Spanish just a little. They did understand me. However, beyond the basics, I didn't understand them. They did say this comes with years of practice and total immersion in a Spanish culture. Our plans changed. But it was evident that I had been studying as I had acquired new vocabulary. They did mention that there are differences between the formal instruction and the street vernacular.
Excelente anécdota, bnspldng. De verdad te felicito por tu valentía y por tu actitud positiva. Me alegra cuando conozco gente como tú tan interesada y motivada a aprender mi idioma y mi cultura. ¡Felicitaciones!
Excellent story, bnspldng. I congratulate you for your courage and your positive attitude. I feel glad when I meet people like you, so interested and motivated to learn my language and my culture. Congratulations!
Just a "personal question" for you, here, so that I might be able to give you a "lead", in your goal to have a dialog partner. Are you single or married? (Don't worry about this). There is a social website, in the U.S., called "Oasis.com". People fill out personal profiles and it is a quick way of adding friends to your "contact list". It is important for your profile to be absolutely clear about your objective, at that website: for example, "I am a man looking for friendship: for friends to chat with." (In that profile, you will make it clear that you want a Spanish-speaking friend.) In no time at all, you will have women who are interested in you, to be your friend and to chat with you, in Spanish. The "chats" are in the form of instant messages (namely, written messages). This is actually a good way of learning to have conversations, because there is no way that they can "talk too fast", this way.
NOTE: This same website is called "Amor en Línea", in countries that speak Spanish. (But, it is "Oasis", in English-speaking countries).
Give it a try. You have nothing to lose. Be careful, though: there are scammers who create profiles at that web page, and they are ultimately looking to play on your sympathies and get your money.
Good for you! It's a big step to take leave your comfort zone. Here's a lingot for your courage!
That's great - you just have to go for it at some point. Practice is the only way to improve. I am far from ready to try having a conversation. I took Spanish in HS, but where I grew up no one spoke anything other than English so I didn't really care at the time (just took it bc I had to). Now I live in Texas. I can (and have) gotten along just fine with English, but I would really love to learn Spanish. Some of what I did in HS is coming back to me now that I'm on this site. But it is completely different to listen to the slow computer voice on here vs in the real world. I'm trying to listen to some Latino radio channels (not too much, just a bit every day) to get used to hearing real life Spanish (vs "learning" Spanish).
On your interaction - I have found that plenty of people who speak fluent English don't understand it. I know that I have asked a question at a fast food place before and get an answer that is not at all related to the question!
I love what you shared here. It makes me feel free to try it. I have been studying Spanish for 10 months and I know that I will only become fluent if I SPEAK it. It's just so intimidating to approach people. I too had a foodie experience like yours. A man in the restaurant never seemed to like me that much until he saw me in there one day trying to read a Spanish New Testament. The next time I came in there a waitress came out and she spoke to me in Spanish. I felt like there was some sort conspiracy going on! ha. I had never spoken Spanish with her before. She'd only served me once or twice before. But I just could reply in Spanish. I answered in English every time. I felt like a jack ass. I wanted to so badly but I knew I would make mistakes. It never comes out like you have in your head.
I have a burning question...do you really wear a fake Bluetooth? That cracks me up! But I admire you for it. Yeah, I do sometimes have imaginary conversations. It helps I guess. But how do you know if you get it wrong.
No, but my pastor does. He likes to run, and he prays while he's running, so he wears a bluetooth that's turned off, so people don't think he's nuts.
If you get it wrong? Don't worry about that. First worry about getting your mouth working. Practice speaking. You'll be able to fix any errors as you learn more Spanish. But speaking more will enable you to learn more overall.
Thanks for your post! You have achieved an important step in your learning process, I'm so glad for that because I'm learning a language too (in my case, English is my second language and spanish is my native tongue) and I need to speak with native english speaker... that day is coming, i can feel that!!! I wish you a successful learning and all the best for you :)
Your story brings back memories of some of my beginning conversations. Your attitude of wanting to find more conversations is a good one to have. Keep working on your listening comprehension skills as well as your speaking skills, and have as many conversations as you can. You'll pick up more and more as time goes on.
When I first started out I had similar experiences where I knew the right thing to say and then understood maybe 2% of the response. After awhile I understood more and had trouble putting together follow up comments and such. Fast forward to today: I recently returned from a trip to Guadalajara where hardly a word of English was spoken to the locals. I took a tour of a tequila distillery in Spanish and chatted with the folks in the tour group on the way there and on the way back. Later on I hung out with a new friend and spent the evening chatting with her and her friends at a local bar. Many of her friends did not speak a word of English.
Keep at it. Your brain will adapt.
Que bueno que te animes!!!!!! felicitaciones!!! y yo necesito tambien hablar mi ingles con nativos, si en algun momento puedes, podriamos hacer skype e intentar hablar, un poco en español y otro poco en ingles asi nos ayudamos!!!! Saludos y felicitaciones nuevamente!!!
Many, many years ago i visited England for the first time. That time I understood few words only. To improve my conversation skills, i went to cafeteria for old and disabled people next the church and talked over coffee with some old polite ladies. The conversation was very simple. Who I am, where I am from, what I am doing in England. They were very pleased and polite to talk with some foreigner and they needn't hurry as well. Next time i tried to talk to one old, nice man with a little dog in the park. This conversation was little bit more advanced. I asked him about history of his town, about interesting places. Actually, i did not understand too much, but we had quite nice time together. The old man was pleased to talk with a young girl and was very patient explaining me everything. And i was very proud I could understand at least every tenth word. My favorite English sentence that time was: "Could you repeat it once more, please, I didn't catch what you said". (I am learning English and Spanish here on Duolingo now.)