Even though my vacation to Ecuador is only about half over I have come to a huge realization in regards to my own language learning and my own second language knowledge. I will first start my saying a few things I already knew. First, I know and will continue to believe that language learning (first, second, third, etc.) is a life-long process and one can never know everything there is to know about any language and you can always learn something new. Second, I know I am my own hardest critic and I will always be. I have a perfectionist tendency which makes it harder for me to accept anything but native level fluency.
With these two principles in mind, here is what I have come to realize: I will never achieve the level of fluency that I what – which is basically near native fluency. My Spanish is pretty good. I can read really well and depending on the accent understand pretty well what is being said. However, when it comes to the spoken version that is where I struggle. That is where everyone struggles when it comes to foreign languages so I am not alone it that. However, what has been hard for me to come to an understanding about is that I can continue to do these short language immersion experiences, practice on my own as much as possible, and do others things but I will never be able to achieve the level of spoken fluency I want for myself.
The only way that can happen is if I were to move to a Latin American country and have to use Spanish in my every day life (aka work) and that were done over a period of years. I have always wanted to do that but right now that hasn’t been possible. While in Ecuador I met someone who has achieved the level of oral fluency that I would love to have. She sometimes doesn’t have all the words (but who does in any language) but she speaks without pausing to seek out the word in another language and doesn’t have to think about the tense, etc. However, she has lived in Ecuador for almost 9 years and married an Ecuadorian. I can say that will not be happening for me in the next two weeks!
For me it has been hard to realize that I am going to have to be okay with being good at Spanish (meaning I can carry on a conversation – even if it has pauses) and I may never achieve the level of great. I know some of you are saying that the other option is to get a job in Latin America. However, there are a number of factors involved in that and it is not that easy. Not only are their work related issues (visas, job openings, etc.) but there are personal issues to be considered.
I will conclude by saying this realization will not prevent or stop me from continuing to work on my Spanish as I can fit it in. I enjoy being able to speak another language. I also feel that if I am asking students to expand their horizons I need to be a great role model and ambassador of this and demonstrate that it doesn’t end with just your first study abroad experience. It is a life-long learning process.
Have you had an experience abroad that has changed your outlook on something? What did you do after you came to this realization?
This blog contains my travel adventures, tips, advice and more. Enjoy the ride!