There are two types of ex-pats. Those that learn the language of their adopted country, interact with the locals, appreciate the customs and culture and generally make the most of their time abroad, and those that don’t – or ‘scum’ as I prefer to call them. The latter are invariably British, Irish or American expats who have somehow got undeservedly rich by some exploitative capitalist pursuit and spend their whole time complaining about how you can’t get a decent fried breakfast, pint of ale, or spicy curry ‘in this fucking country’ as they rake in the euros, most of which they then spend on sex workers – the only time they interact with the locals.
Suffice to say, I’d rather be part of group A. Which is why I consider learning Spanish a very important part of my new life in Barcelona and signed up for some lessons last November. After passing one module (pre-intermediate), I have got back into the swing of things after Chrimbo. I must confess, I love the idea of speaking foreign languages much more than the process of learning them… in fact, despite 7 years of learning French at school, 1 learning German, 10 years learning Latin, 3 Ancient Greek and 3.5 years of on/off learning Polish (mainly off) I have yet to master a foreign tongue! Am I incredibly thick, I hear you ask? Well naturally that doesn’t help, but – sad to say – I am also guilty of those most terrible English-speakers’ trait… knowing that I can (almost) always get away with English. No matter how hard I try to force myself to speak Spanish the minute I can’t express myself (normally about 5 secs after ‘hola’) a flick in my brain says ‘this is fucking ridiculous, just switch to English will you and spare us all!!!’ Which is what I do!
Anyhow, despite my poor efforts I have made a bit of progress… and maybe being tortured by Gran Hermano (Big Brother) and other ‘telebasura’ every night isn’t all bad as I seem to be able to understand a little bit these days. Sadly Spanish isn’t quite as easy as everyone tells you…. ok, it’s no Ancient Greek or Polish, but there’s a confusing number of past tenses to grapple with, plus a subjunctive mood (so unnecessary!) that irrrrrritating rolled ‘r’ which you seem to need in every language I pick up and I am physically incapable of reproducing, and lots of words/letters that – to the linguistically challenged – just sound the same. There are some good points I suppose. A large number of Latin-based nouns are virtually the same in Spanish as in English… posicion/position etc etc and there’s little trouble learning new vocabulary in general… which I suppose is 80% of learning a language!
And despite my grumblings, the actual process of learning is rewarding in as much as it gets me out of the house and into my language school. When you spend 90% in front of your computer at home you can’t overestimate the importance of getting out and doing something which involves talking to other people… even if it is in a language you speak like a retarded hobgoblin.
I picked the language school that was nearest to my flat in Barcelona, but if you fancy doing a bit more research then click here for a list of Spanish language schools in Barcelona.
For some handy phrases check out this blogger’s guide to twenty essential Spanish expressions.