pre travel

So, have you been practicing your Spanish?

Every time I see or talk to my mom — which is at least once a week, if not more — she asks me if I have been practicing my Spanish.

“No, too busy,” I always mumble back.

Bryce and I will be going to Colombia this Christmas to visit his grandma. It’ll be my first trip to Colombia, and South America in general, so I am very excited. (Bonus that we’ll also be away from rainy and cold Seattle!)

It’s no surprise that my mom keeps asking if I have been brushing up on my Spanish. Bryce’s relatives do not speak any English.

I studied Spanish throughout college — fun fact, I was a Spanish major for one quarter when I was forced to declare a major my fall quarter of junior year and had reached all the prerequisites — so you’d think it’d all be OK. I mean, after all, I started learning Spanish in middle school!

Park Güell, Barcelona
Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain — Spring 2013, the last time I used my Spanish …

But, I don’t use Spanish in my day-to-day life. Also, since I grew up learning both English and Japanese as a kid, sometimes when I’m searching in the depths of my brain for a word in Spanish, the Japanese equivalent will pop up first.

A few years ago when my cousin Marissa, BFF Phyllis and I were on a flight from Seattle to LA — to go to Disneyland, of course! — there was a woman seated in a middle seat that we wanted to trade seats with. We had an alone aisle seat and thought it would be a good trade to kindly ask for. As soon as we started talking to her, she responded in Spanish that she only spoke Spanish.

I started putting together words to politely ask her, this time in Spanish, if she would be willing to trade seats with us.

“What’s the word for “aisle?” I desperately asked Phyllis, who took some Spanish in grade school. She didn’t know either.

Boarding was pretty much done and my broken Spanish did not translate to the woman.

“It’s OK, I’ll just stay in my seat,” Phyllis said to Marissa and I.

More than eight years of formal Spanish education and I couldn’t even use it in a real life scenario to ask a stranger a simple question! To be fair, this occurred about six years after I graduated (and thus stopped using my Spanish).

So, to avoid an embarrassing situation like this again, any suggestions for a crash-review-course? I’ve done Duolingo before but find the beginning sections super easy. Binge watch Spanish-speaking shows on Netflix? I guess the easiest would be to force Bryce and I to speak Spanish to each other … we’ll see.

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