Sé que aún me queda una oportunidad, sé que aún no es tarde para recapacitar, sé que nuestro amor es verdadero. Con los años que me quedan por vivir demostraré cuanto te quiero./ I know I still have an opportunity, I know it’s not too late to reconsider. I know our love is true. With the years I have left, I’ll show you how much I love you.” (an approximate translation by the author) – Con Los Años Que Me Quedan/With The Years I Have Left, Gloria Estefan
Part of the reason I chose to participate in the Granada Language Exchange Homestay is that I already speak Spanish, or at least have some familiarity with the language. Of course, there are different dialects, even within a single country, like Spain for example: Castellano, Catalán, and Basque are a few examples. Still, even within those dialects, or regional variations of the Spanish language, there are even more variations. Upon arriving at the airport, I was told that I would have to get used to hearing “Andalú,” where Andalusian speakers leave off certain letters of certain words. I was okay with that, having grown up surrounded by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans that did the same thing. I thought, “Ok, not a big deal; it’s not like I’m in Barcelona or in the Basque Region.” Besides, I was simply looking forward to practicing my Spanish and, hopefully, improving it a little.
Turns out, I cannot hold a conversation with an elderly Andalusian. I have next to no idea what he or she may be saying, as evidenced by the fact that when I purchased a bus ticket to the coast, it was at the wrong time and one – way. I wanted a round – trip ticket at a different time. At least he got the destination correct. By the time I noticed, it was too late. No big deal. I got to watch the characters in the bus station for another hour – great people watching. I noticed a while back that when I really get into the Spanish telenovelas, I get use to hearing and understanding how that particular cast speaks: the idioms and other expressions used; the fluidity of speech; and, of course, vocabulary.
After a while, I’d feel like I was doing pretty well, as far as oral comprehension, and I thought the same thing was happening here with the family hosting me. I’ve gotten used to their voices and phrases, and feel like I understand them pretty well. So well, that one day I mentioned it to them, remarking that I understand them better than the people on TV. Mom and Dad basically said, “Well, we actually speak slower for you.” Bubble officially busted.
As much as I was looking forward to speaking more Spanish, I was surprisingly relieved to hear and be able to speak English with a group of teachers I met a few days ago. I am all about the immersion aspect of this experience, so I wanted to continue speaking in Spanish while we chatted over lunch, but I couldn’t help myself. In fact, when I was introduced to another American, while everyone else was saying, “Encantada,” I said to him, “Hey, how are you?” It just rolled off my tongue like water down a duck’s back.
So, there I was, sitting and chatting with a nice lady from Liverpool, talking about the Doctor Who series and the upcoming Christmas special. I wasn’t even going to try to talk about Doctor Who in Spanish; that would have been like me trying to give medical advice in Spanish – gibberish. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time with the group, speaking English and Spanish, and once we parted ways, my language immersion began again as I walked the streets of Granada, darting in and out of stores, and noshing on tapas and sipping cervezas with the locals.