My brain now functions in ‘Spanglish’

7 months and 22 days in South America and I finally feel I am getting somewhere with my Spanish!!! Amazing how my perspective on my own abilities has changed in the last week or so. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a VERY long way to go in being comfortable in the language, but I realised this week that I am actually doing OK and I need to be patient with myself and happy when things are improving. I think I have always just been used to things coming pretty easy to me and it being easy to learn things….but language is different. Fun and challenging and stressful in a totally different way.

So why have I suddenly felt more comfortable – I think I have had alot of good opportunities to practice recently which I don’t always get in my day to day life – teaching english alot is not exactly conducive to speaking any other language. So weekends away like to Alto Biobio and social occassions in Santiago with only Chilean people are a great help. Also, my work with EY is definitely throwing me in the deep end of a whole different level of Spanish – this is still very scary, but I know I will get there in that aspect too.

But then last night I had a 20 minute conversation on the phone with a friend and 90% of it was in Spanish. Now this may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but I have to preserve the occassion in a blog because for me it was a huge step. Any of you who have tried speaking on the telephone in a language you are still a beginner in will know the feeling…sheer panic, words disappear from your brain, your ears stop functioning and for all you know the person on the other end could be speaking alien and it would be the same. I don’t know why we hate telephone conversations so much, but we do. Any way, so last night was a huge achievement for me to be able to talk and understand and have a proper conversation with someone not in the same room as me. But I do have to thank my friend for talking very slowly and clearly as without this the conversation would have lasted long enough to make plans for today and that would be it (and I probably would have got the plans wrong in the end anyway) …I have had other conversations recently with work colleagues and I hardly understood a word – normal chilean warp speed conversation is difficult enough in person, so it is near impossible telephonically…But practice makes perfect…and last night was the first step…

One rather interesting side effect of learning a new language and working/living in two totally different languages is that they are starting to mix in my brain and I find myself thinking in this wierd spanglish. I am mixing grammar structures from both languages, forgetting simple english concepts (not exactly good for an english teacher) and mostly confusing the spelling of very similar words between the two languages. I re-read an email in english only to find spanish spelling and visa versa. My brain seems to be forgetting the ability to differentiate the two…so apologies if you get an email in which I suddenly seem to have lost the ability to construct a sentence properly in english. No apology for my spanish emails as in these bad structure is still par for the course!

But yes, I am getting there slowly but surely and this post is mostly a reaffirmation (and a pat on the back) for myself – “Ingrid you are not as totally inept at languages as you thought you were…”

P.S. Give yourself an affirmation today…what can you pat yourself on the back for? Too often we get bogged down in what we are not able to do which makes us lose focus on what we can do! So go on, appreciate yourself and your abilities for just one moment…

P.P.S. This post may sound like the ramblings of a crazy woman, but you can rest assured, I am no more crazy than when I left South Africa 7 months and 22 days ago…the only difference is that now I chose to record my craziness for you all to share in 🙂

Besos a todos de Chile!

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3 Responses to My brain now functions in ‘Spanglish’

  1. Loren Townshend says:

    Ingrid , well done! You have persevered with the ‘sheer panic’ and with being totally out of your comfort zone when laerning a language.

    You had a conversation in Spanish! That sudden switch from feeling like a total idiot to suddenly speaking…and taking a step back to realise that you actually CAN speak in Spanish ( even if you still feel you are a beginner) is a huge accompishement!

    It can be very confusing when you are learning a language and you get mixed up with the your mother tongue. It is normal. You just need to concentrate really hard…people underestimate what your brain is going through when you aquire a second language!

    You are doing so well! Keep it up….just don’t lose your English language now!

    I have been really busy so I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch! One more exam and it is translation….so I know what is feels like to get everything muddled up!

    Chat to you soon


    • ingridckoch says:

      Hey Loren

      Thanks for the encouragement. It has been a long road to this point, but yes, it is amazing to realise that I am actually able to communicate in another language. At least socially any way, because yesterday I had to discuss some technical work with a colleague and we had to revert to english as I just got so lost. But the more technical stuff will come too, I know…

      Good luck with the last exam. Just think, you will be free after that!!!! Have a huge party, relax, sleep and enjoy some time off because you definitely deserve it.

      Hugs from Chile

  2. linda says:

    Hi My darling, well done. I knew you could do it!! you are always so HARD on yourself. So glad that all is falling into place for you. I find listening to my Turkish and Brazilian students that you have to be really careful how you respond as before you know it you are speaking English in a really crazy way…. “talk me” “speak for me” etc.
    Weird. Love you lots, will e you after the Turkish wedding!!! love you lots. Mum.

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