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Some Quick Lessons Learned from My First 48 Hours in Spain

First: The problem isn’t “speaking Spanish” (or not), it’s speaking their Spanish, and fast enough.  I found that I could pick up a Spanish paper (I prefer Heraldo because it’s local) and easily and quickly read through any article and understand 98% of it immediately, no problem.  However, when talking to someone it was maybe 2/3rds intelligible and 1/3rd gibberish – the last 1/3rd isn’t things I don’t know, I know them, I just don’t catch them because they’re too quickly spoken.  I know all (or almost all) the words, grammar, and syntax that they’re using when speaking – if I can get them to slow down and be patient I can understand them – but the thing is that I’m not used to speaking Spanish (all day long, to everyone, every day), I’m used to speaking English.  Consequently, my brain just can’t keep up right now (I suspect I’ll adapt within a couple of weeks), they’re two sentences ahead by the time I’ve figured out what they just said…which means I’ve missed those two sentences because I was too busy figuring out the one before them.

Second: Their Spanish.  What I mean is that there are all these little local terms for various things that you simply would never have reason or occasion to learn unless you were living here.  I discuss this in a video I’m going to put up later but the summary is this: fabric softener, sponges, and toilet paper are not entertaining or interesting subject matter so they’re rarely or never discussed in popular media like TV shows, movies, and music videos (I doubt Shakira’s going to be singing about fabric softener anytime soon unless Downy cuts her a really big check), which means if you’re using those to learn a language (as I recommend, and absolutely yes I still contend they’re an excellent, though not perfect, means of doing so) then you’re probably not going to learn those terms.

Not only is there the issue of mundane daily locution but also the fact that it’s frequently dialectal, that is the specific terminology is specific to that region, e.g. the term for dishwashing detergent might very well be different from Spain to Mexico to Argentina.  When you go to the grocery store and you’re looking for a particular item or trying to determine what exactly a particular item is by what’s written on the label, if you don’t know the necessary terminology you’re going to be in at least a little bit of trouble (though probably not much, granted).  I went to the grocery store here and had no damned clue what half the labels and signs said.

fairy dishwashing detergent spain

Dishwashing detergent?

I was pretty sure this was what I wanted – dishwashing detergent, like Dawn – given its location in the store and appearance (looks like Dawn) but I wasn’t absolutely certain since it didn’t really say on the label.  It very much appears (and functions) to be precisely that, so I think I guessed right here, but I just wanted to give you an example of what I’m talking about and this is a particularly good one since even knowing the term for “dishwashing detergent” wouldn’t have helped you here since it doesn’t actually say that on the label.  You would actually have to know this specific local brand and what it was, kind of like a bottle of Dawn dishwashing detergent in the U.S. simply being labeled “Dawn” with no other descriptor of what the bottle contained: you’d have to be familiar with that specific brand and understand what it meant in that specific context.

Third: If there’s municipal WiFi available, sign up for it.  It’s by far the cheapest way to have high-speed wireless access on your phone and other devices throughout most of the city (in Zaragoza, for example, coverage isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good, certainly good enough to warrant the 15 euros that got me 1 month’s worth of access).

Fourth: Jetlag sucks, it sucks and it’s worth taking care of and getting out of the way as soon as possible, meaning that you may very well end up having to stay up for 18 or 20 hours straight to get yourself back on schedule because you woke up at 12 or 2 or 3 AM in the morning after having gotten in at 4 PM the previous day and crashed at around 5 PM because you were dead tired and now you need to keep yourself up until 9 or 10 or 12 PM or whatever hour you want to regularly go to sleep at.

Also, an announcement…

I’ve created an Instagram account (andrewhasacamera) to which I’ve already added several photos and videos from Spain and which I’ll be posting new things to regularly, I’ve opened up my Facebook account to the public so you should (let me know of any problems) be able to see everything I post without even needing an account, and I’ll be crossposting most of this stuff to my Twitter account.

I’ve never been big on social media (kinda hated Facebook for privacy reasons) but now I’m really seeing its value when you’re doing things like what I am right now and know that a lot of you will really appreciate having small, regular (daily) bits of information and goodies like pics/videos as opposed to waiting for however long it takes me to write a blog post.  I hope you enjoy it and please let me know if you have any suggestions (e.g. other social media sites you think I should be on).

That’s all I can think of for now, many more posts are inbound (I just have to write them, hah).

Cheers,

Andrew

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