Especially when you can speak enough of the language to get around.
I’m half way through my Colombia adventure, a third trip in two years. My first time on these shores was a backpacking trip through Central and South America.
As my savings stockpile began to drip dry, at least I do so on the other side of the world away from the stormy weather currently battering Ireland.
I had the best intentions of learning the language and becoming fluent but those intentions while sown back home never quite found fertile ground here.
Priorities continue to gear toward writing which is my number one passion and something I wanted to spend most of my day doing, with the realisation that when I re-enter the workplace, I’ll never have as much freedom as I enjoy now.
The few friends I have made here continue to encourage and stoke the fire of language learning, keeping it bright and ablaze. Mind you, only just.
My pattern is very settled now. Groundhog Day without a work week – Not that I’m complaining much. The smatterings of Spanish I do use are never really stretched beyond their restaurant, cafe or gym setting. It’s all very comfortable.
I used to play a guitar during my teens and into my twenties. I did a little bit of drunken busking on occasion, coming back from a night out on the piss to grab a guitar and regale latecomers on the streets of Belfast with some Oasis tunes in the hope of landing at an after party.
I never wanted to be the next Eric Clapton. I was content to play the songs I liked on the radio. Happy to share those experiences with others.
Mastery of any skill, whether it be command of a language or an instrument can only be achieved with consistent practice, stretching the comfort zone further each time until what was once impossible, becomes the normal. Something I fell short of in my guitar days, having hit one plateau too many and satisfied with my ability in the end.
How bad do you want it?
I’ve been to a few different language schools in my time. Both in Ireland and Guatemala. They can be a strong starting point, but when the class ends and the books are closed, how determined are you to push through and grow in your desired field?
If I was to find a job in Colombia, I would have a much stronger need to learn the language.
If I was to find a compatible significant other, that would certainly give me the impetus to practice more. That old joke about the best way to learn a language is to sleep with it.
It’s a weak desire for most people in language schools and those muscles, flexed in foreign countries by eager students soon weaken and atrophy when they return to the homeland.
For now, Spanglish will continue to be my hybrid tongue, although who knows who or what could change all that.