I have always wanted to learn Spanish. I’m a true believer that you need to go beyond a classroom to learn a language. You need to experience the culture of the language and the people it represents. Being a Canadian, I am fluent in the most universally spoken language- English. This makes travel much easier; however I have often thought how difficult it would be to not have this advantage. I believe that English speaking people should try harder to learn the language and culture of so many other parts of the world. I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and see things from a new perspective. This is what I set out to do when I started my career break. I started my journey in Buenos Aires taking Spanish lessons at Expanish language school. I opted to live with a local family who provided me with food and a place to sleep for 2 weeks. But the biggest advantage was that I was immersed in a Spanish speaking environment.
Each morning I would have breakfast with my host mother Barbara and she would speak to me in Spanish only. I would then take the subway to class. After 4 hours of class, some friends from class would go out for lunch. In the afternoons, we would wander the city and use our newly learned vocabulary out on the locals. Sometimes they understood and sometimes well not so much. But it did give me an appreciation for how difficult it must be for non-English speaking people. By the end of the day I was exhausted. The amount of concentration it would take to do simple tasks like taking a cab, asking for directions, ordering food, taking money out of a bank machine etc.
I would then go back to my home stay where dinner was prepared for me. A few times, my host mom had guests over for dinner and yes of course the entire conversation was in Spanish. In Buenos Aires, people eat late and they go out late. On a typical night, I would eat dinner at 10pm and then head to the Tango Hall at midnight. My entire day was immersed in the Spanish language and culture. While I am certainly not fluent, I did pick up more Spanish and understanding of the culture than sitting in a classroom at home in Canada. It also gave me greater confidence as I left Buenos Aires and continued on my travels in South America.