I came here to Madrid with learning Spanish as my number 1 priority. It was why I decided to become an Au Pair first (rather than teach English) as I was told that this would be the best way to immerse myself in the language and culture.

I made a mistake.


Now, it’s not that I’d say I don’t speak Spanish, just that my progress is moving veeeeeery very slowly as a result of my choices. When I first moved to Madrid I had to teach myself for one month before I started my intense Spanish course, and actually I’d say I did a pretty good job at this. Apps like Babbel, Duolingo, and Brainscape flashcards helped a lot, and from day one I made an effort to only speak Spanish.

As I didn’t have many friends and my host family at the time had limited English, the immersion seemed to be working. The problem came when I started my course; because I’d taught myself so much, they mistakenly put me into a higher level class waaaaay out of my reach. I’d study grammar every day, but I was so far behind I actually stopped learning for the month and a half that I was there. My teacher’s lack of empathy for my struggle also knocked my confidence, as she told me I didn’t need to change levels and I just needed to work harder… I was being taught the past tenses when the only verbs I knew confidently in the present tense were Querer (to want) and Tener (to have)!

I eventually gave up and demanded I move to the beginners level, and from then on my learning went full speed ahead. I was doing Intercambios 3 times a week, alongside attending 2 and a half hour classes Monday-Thursday. However, as my new host family require me to only speak in English, even with the parents (as I teach the host dad, as well as the children), I haven’t been learning as fast as I would like to. This may also be the result of my choice to work 37 hours a week, spread over a 7 day work week, teaching English… infact, yeah, it’s definitely because of that. I have friends who live with Spanish family, who don’t attend classes and just teach themselves, and their Spanish is miles ahead of mine even when they’ve lived here for just as long!

I must admit, I have been getting very frustrated with it all. I need the money, and I love my job, so I can’t quit. I’ve started watching spanish movies or cartoons every day, taking notes as I go along to familarise myself with common phrases and structures. I still keep going to my intercambios, and if I’m out and about I’ll refuse to speak in English (no matter how much that bartender or shop assistant want to practice their English, I just keep replying in Spanish). I’ve even given people directions and chatted about a train delay successfully, and I swear I have the best conversations on my way home from a night out with the taxi drivers. My phone, laptop, facebook, and the lot are all in Spanish. Heck, I’ve even had a go at going on dates, something I’ve never done with englishmen nevermind with Spaniards talking in Spanish! But even so, having such a low level doesn’t make all the online advice so easy. How can you make friends (or even get in relationships) with Spanish-only speakers when you can barely conjure up enough conversation to see if you have things in common!? And if I decided to say adios to all my English-speaking friends, I wouldn’t be having a half as much fun as I am now (and that would be lonely as hell)…

Pueees… todo no es mal. I’ve passed my level A1 exams and at this rate I should be difinitely somewhere in the B1 band by July. I watched a cartoon I discovered waaaay back in 2012 in my hostel in Barcelona, and was pretty delighted that I understood the whole thing. The fact I’m even able to express detailed information about where I live, how long I’ve lived here, and what I’m doing with strangers is a big leap from only the 3 sentence conversation I was able to hold back in September. But yeah, my choices have hindered my development, and this has made me seriously reconsider what is best for me next year, as I certainly don’t want to forget everything!!!

5 thoughts on “Life in Madrid ~ “How’s your Spanish?”

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