I have been “going to study Spanish somewhere” since the mid-90s. The desire took root during my first trip to South America, on a local bus headed from Baños to Riobamba, Ecuador. At the time, I had already visited Spain and Mexico but don’t remember being particularly inspired to immerse myself in the language. The last time I had studied Spanish formally, I was 11. And then in high school and college, French and Latin consumed my limited language ability and knocked the Spanish right out of me. Or so I thought.
I traveled to Ecuador primarily to visit the Galápagos but had a week to kill on the mainland before sailing around the islands. After being in Quito for two days, I got a little antsy, hopped on a bus out of town to Baños and, on my way to Riobamba, met Alberto, the kind man who rekindled my junior high school interest in Spanish. He lived near Baños, worked at a hotel near the springs, had a wife, four children and a grandchild on the way. He was 54. I told him where I lived, how old I was and what my job was, where I was traveling in Ecuador and what I was studying in school. And we said it all in Spanish. Ecuadorians speak Spanish so gently, I found it generally really easy to understand. Same with Guatemalans. With countless “más despacio por favor”s, caveman grammar and increasing comprehension, I surprisingly began communicating beyond getting directives for the train station/bathroom/hotel/food/beer. It felt good.
So here I am, 15 years later and finally doing what I wanted to do right after returning from Ecuador. Sure, I’ve taken Spanish classes here, traveled frequently in Spain and Latin America, went through every ¡SpanishDict! free lesson and watched every Gael García Bernal movie I could get my hands on. I read subway ads out loud, order food in Spanish whenever possible, practice on anyone who’ll let me and I may even speak Spanish with a Scottish lilt from months of “Coffee Break Spanish” podcasts, but I know there’s nothing like living and breathing a language. So, why not spend 6 weeks in a country I love, in a gorgeous region saturated with Mayan culture, and take an intensive language course and work on an interesting volunteer project? ¡Finalmente!
Okay, I still have to find a school…and finalize which projects, but that’s what the first couple of days are for. And I’ll be blogging about the experience, mostly in Spanish to reinforce what I learn and build casual writing skills, but lots in English too. Would love input from other Spanish speakers, travelers and friends. Thanks for following.