The 9 Phases Of Learning A New Language
Languages do not come easily to me. You would think, being a writer, a reader, and a lover of language, that I would be a quick study. However, after two years studying in University, three months studying in Costa Rica, one year living in Spain, and two years living in Mexico, I still struggle with the Spanish language. My best friend was fluent in six months. What an asshole. But she’s French, and like any European, she grew up learning French, English, Spanish and German. So I don’t feel that bad about myself.
During all of my studies and time spend abroad, I never felt the necessity to be fluent. In Costa Rica and Spain, I was always with my English-speaking friends, either from Canada, the US, or France. We always spoke English outside of class. I would try to make Spanish-speaking friends, but it wasn’t as easy, considering the obvious language barrier. I even lived with my Catalan boyfriend in Barcelona, but after three months, I ended things. I considered staying with him because my Spanish was improving for the first time, but it just wasn’t a good enough reason.
Now, here, in Mexico City, is the first time in my life I feel I have to be fluent out of necessity. My boyfriend is from Argentina and doesn’t speak English very well. We live together. All of his friends, who we see on a regular basis, are all Spanish-speaking, and none of them speak English either. Furthermore, they are from different Spanish-speaking countries, with completely different slang and accents. Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Mexico.
It’s exhausting trying to listen, understand, form a response, and try to communicate that response in time before someone says something else, where I have to repeat the process. I normally tap out after two hours (it used to be one hour).
So, it’s either you become fluent, or you become a mute.
After this challenging and rewarding period of deep Spanish language immersion, I am proud to say that I feel almost completely fluent. I will give myself a 90%. During this time, I have noticed there are nine phases I’ve passed through to get to where I am now. It went something like this:
1. Move to new country
2. Cling to native language speakers
3. Meet a boy that only speaks foreign language
4. Study study study
5. Yay I’m finally fluent!
6. Completely fail when introduced to different accents and slang on a trip to Acapulco. I’m giving up and moving back to Canada.
7. No, I’m not giving up. I can do this! Study study study.
8. F it, honey will you PLEASE study English?
9. Have a dinner where you understand everyone the entire night, and even fire off quick responses. HOLY HELL AM I FINALLY FLUENT.