The Language Barrier and English


Here’s the view from the coast of Cadiz. (1.5 hours from Sevilla)

Two weeks have passed on this side of the Atlantic, and I’ve done so many things, I can hardly remember them all! In those two weeks, I’ve learned an unbelievable amount of Spanish. Possibly more than I had previously learned in two years of classes, however, I still have a long way to go. Picking up a new language isn’t easy. It’s a process. From vocabulary to grammar to tenses and everything in between, there’s a lot to it. While I know a little Spanish,  I can by no means speak it, and that’s where the language barrier comes from. I get it. Simply going into a grocery store to buy something becomes an ordeal.


I have been incredibly impressed with the classes. Last week, I was sitting in a room with six other people. In the room were represented six nationalities: American, Bermudian, Chinese, Japanese, German and Italian. We all hailed from different parts of the globe, but we did share one thing in common: English. Of everyone there, I believe I was the only one to speak only English, but it wasn’t a problem! It reminds me of a joke I heard long ago. It goes like this: What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. Someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. And one language? … American! I have to say, it certainly rings true. We’re spoiled with English being so prominent around the world.


Dinner with my new German amigas.

In my many encounters stumbling over Spanish at the grocery store and elsewhere, I’ve noticed how global English is. While many folks might not speak it, there are certain words that translate flawlessly. Yes. No. Thank You. Sorry. Please. Bathroom. I feel privileged to have grown up learning it, but I’ve been surprised to learn that many people around the world have done just the same. According to my Chinese and German classmates, English is taught as early as Chinese or German and is fairly universally spoken. It’s simply expected. I ended up going out to dinner with my German classmate and a few of her friends, and once they found out I was American, they all switched to English and had no trouble with it through the night. All five of them. It’s simply something they learn. Like we learn math or history, they learn English. I later took a moment to think of the irony. 70 years ago, what would Roosevelt have thought of a group of German girls having dinner with an American guy in a little restaurant in the heart of Spain! Ah, how the world has changed!



Me at Christopher Columbus’s Tomb in the third largest cathedral in the world… right here in Sevilla!

While I’ve been here, I’ve also learned of the magical invention that is Google Translate. While I wouldn’t recommend it for your Spanish homework, to get across an idea, it’s otherworldly. My host family is generally quite patient communicating with me, but sometimes we just can’t get it. Out comes the cell phone. Paco speaks into it in Spanish, the female Google voice speaks out in English, I speak back in English, she speaks back in Spanish, and voila! My mother was nice enough to buy me a Spanish-English dictionary, but I could never imagine using it! I saved


the offline packages to my phone, and I can speak to just about anyone on the face of the earth! I can’t imagine how anyone got around before cell phones! As an aside, Google Maps is also magic! I’ve gotten my bearings surprisingly quickly and can mostly get around, but every now and again, I don’t know where I’m going. Out comes the phone and there’s turn by turn directions on a bike or on foot. No problemo! Cell phones are awesome!

All in all, I can’t wait to learn Spanish! I’m studying hard, doing my homework and going to class, all while trying to speak Spanish to anyone I can. I predict that after just three months of this, I’ll be speaking it without too much trouble, and within six months, I’ll be speaking and reading it as if I’ve been doing it my whole life! Wish me luck!

Anfiteatro de Itálica Amphitheater. Ancient Roman Amphitheater and site of gladiator battles. Also, a Game of Thrones Season 7 filming location. “The Dragon Pit.”

*Check out my gallery page for more photos!