When you live abroad for quite some time, you eventually get a handle on any possible cultural differences and when you embrace the culture and its traditions, there comes a moment when you feel as if the new home starts embracing you. Every day you get a chance to practise your conversation skills in your interactions be it with the bus driver, the shop assistant or just chatting away in the queue waiting for your turn at the post office. But it’s up to Rocío you if you take that chance or not. On my travels I’ve nearly always taken that chance, just because I wanted to fight my shyness and try to get out of my comfort zone. However, coming to live in Spain there were moments when I thought to myself, ‘’have I bitten off more than I can chew?’’
Anywhere I’ve travelled the first thing I usually learned was how to ask for directions and order food. It was no different when I decided to move to Huelva. I came here knowing only two Spanish words, ‘’pan’’and ‘’agua’’, which mean bread and water. I figured that way I won’t be hungry or thirsty. After all, I thought, surely everyone knows English. Little did I know it wasn’t so, and as the world is not going to adapt to me, I had to adapt to it. So my conquest of the Spanish language began.
I’d been to a few Spanish classes which without a doubt gave me the basics in a very secure environment and once I felt I was ready, I’ve found that the next inevitable step was to interact with the local people. So, very brave one Sunday morning, I went for a stroll down to Plaza de las Monjas. I picked a nice sunny spot in a bar and as the waiter came and asked me, ‘’que te pongo hija’’, I asked for ‘’cafe con leche, por favor’’. I don’t even like coffee but it was the only thing I knew how to order.
That was not the only time that I’ve asked for something I didn’t really want due to the language barrier. When I learned that there was a big and relatively new market in the city where one could get the freshest veggies and fruit, I jumped at the chance to combine my love for cooking with practicing my Spanish. I’ve become quite good friends with some of the green grocers as they are always so nice and chatty. The best thing about buying at the market is not only the fresh food, it’s actually the story that comes with it. My greengrocer always shows off his freshly picked fruits and offers his customers a taste as he’s explaining how the redness of a cherry is unique here is Andalusia and how its taste has enchanted many beautiful girls. I may not understand all he is saying, but I certainly enjoy the conversation.
Once you’ve got to a comfortable level of understanding the language, you find that it’s crucial that others understand you too. One morning at the market I went to my favourite storyteller and asked for ‘’dos abogados y tres calcetines’’. To my surprise, his red cheeks swelled under his eyes as he burst out laughing. Meanwhile, I just stood there wondering what could possibly be so funny about wanting to buy avocados and courgettes. His laughter was quite contagious for the other people standing in the queue and I blushed like a tomato but all I could do was laugh along until he had calmed down.
So you see, making mistakes in a foreign language can really serve you well if you know how to learn from them. Since that day at the greengrocer’s I’ve learned that there is not a market in the world where you can buy two lawyers and three socks. Learn to embrace your mistakes and just go for it.