Learning French was the single most productive thing I did while I was recovering from my neck injury. It’s been a year and a half since I started learning French and I can say that becoming fluent in a new language has been one of the most enriching things I’ve done in my life. It has led me to meet great people, have stimulating conversations, watch intriguing TV shows and movies, and read fascinating books (okay, only seven novels so far, but still)!
Don’t get me wrong – was it ever hard to learn French! Although I became fluent within a year, a serious amount of effort went into it and I’m still learning and improving.
Three months ago, I decided to take the plunge and learn Spanish to prepare for my trip to Mexico, my first out-of-country vacation in two years since my car accident in California. My good friends Adhelly and Rohit invited me and my husband to their wedding in Puerto Vallarta and we weren’t missing it for the world.
Guess who caught my bouquet when we got married?
Spanish fluency has always been a goal of mine and this was a good opportunity to act on it. Spanish is conceivably easier to learn for me as my native language, Tagalog from the Philippines, contains thousands of Spanish words (linguists estimate 25-30% of the language is Spanish in origin) and numerous Spanish influences inherited from 300 years of colonial history. However, picking up Spanish words here and there isn’t enough to express myself, as I unfortunately learned when I visited Chile six years ago on a school trip.
This time, I decided to apply myself to this endeavor, with the same discipline I had in learning French, preparing myself to go back to work, and swimming when I was healing from my neck injury. Besides, no way was I going to Mexico knowing only “una cerveza, por favor.”
Moreover, I wanted to learn Spanish because I love being exposed to and accessing different cultures – the people, food, cinema, literature, and more. I would also like to live and work as a geologist in Latin America one day.
Finally, can you imagine the bragging rights of having four languages under your belt?
¿Cómo hice esto?
To be perfectly honest, my initial plan was to start learning Spanish in Mexico. I wanted to take classes during my trip, in a school similar to my French immersion school in Québec City. My husband quickly rejected the idea and said that I should learn the basics of Spanish here in Québec City, before the trip, then just practice in Mexico. Though I furiously protested against his suggestion (“BUT I WANT TO TAKE CLASSES THERE!!!!!!!!”), I later accepted it and began my lessons with seven weeks to go before Mexico.
I’m extremely happy to have followed my husband’s advice, as our vacation was a hundred times more enriching because I already knew some Spanish! We had only ten days in Mexico and I’m glad I didn’t spend it trying to learn the most basic verbs cooped up in a classroom. Instead, I was out and about every day making the most out of my trip speaking Spanish.
Based on my own achievements and struggles with learning two new languages in the last year and a half, I think that anyone who wants to learn a language needs only three things:
In my next blog posts, you’ll see how I went from zero to intermediate Spanish in less than two months, including how that helped me in Mexico. Hopefully, my experiences will inspire you to learn Spanish or another language!
- Weeks 1 to 3: Effective self-study using Assimil (learning the basics until I could form simple sentences)
- Weeks 4 to 7: Incredible progress with BaseLang (regular one-on-one practice with native Spanish-speakers online)