Learning Spanish in Valencia

I have always wanted to learn Spanish as my third foreign language. It seemed to be quite easy and its sound is so tuneful that it made me get in a good mood every time I heard someone speaking it. That’s why for several years already I have been trying to begin learning Spanish by doing language exchanges with Spanish native speakers, reading websites for Spanish learners and the like. I once started with Spanish on Duolingo – an app for smartphones with interactive lessons designed for dozens of languages. Although I liked it very much and felt like I was making progress with the language, I was not that conscientious about it and didn’t continue because of lack of time.

I had taken the decision of doing an exchange semester in Spain at the beginning of my time at university, so I had nothing to worry about in terms of Spanish. I was sure that while staying in Spain I would have time to catch up with the language. I enrolled for a language course, organized especially for Erasmus students of the University of Valencia who have a discounted price for this course. Before starting their classes, everyone had to write a test of acquaintance with Spanish. Thanks to my previous knowledge from Duolingo and to paying attention to every word that I came across during the first month, I could attend a course with a group of people who also already had a basic knowledge of the language, instead of starting from “0”.  I assumed it would be better for me and give me more motivation to study than if I had to repeat some things I had already known.

In fact, the level of our classes is quite high and in the beginning I had many difficulties to understand what the teacher was saying, particularly about homework… To my astonishment it turned out that everybody had studied Spanish before at school or at some extracurricular activity.  With the time it got better and I found out that it is a great method for teaching a language when the teacher speaks only Spanish. Now, over one month of language classes has passed and I can understand almost everything said or written in Spanish. Of course you also have to distinguish between Spanish and the dialect spoken here that is an variant of Catalan. For me it is impossible to understand anything in the local Catalan dialect, because the words are completely different and sometime very similar in spelling and pronunciation to French. Inscriptions at the university and in public institutions usually are in both versions, for example above the exit door it says “Salida, Eixida”.  The first word is Spanish, whereas the second word is Valencian Catalan. Another example would be a word “with”- “con” in Spanish and “amb” in Valencian. Therefore it is sort of subconscious way to get familiar with Catalan words.

As my Spanish is getting more and more advanced I find it really motivating and encouraging to practice my language skills with locals in restaurants or shops or even fellow Spanish students, who are always willing to give me a helping hand when I am trying to lead a conversation in their language.  What is more, reading newspapers and watching Spanish TV are great methods of recording new words and remembering the use of complicated expressions. I am aware of the fact that my exchange semester will come to an end one day and I will not have that possibility of immersing myself in the language anymore. This thought gives me additional energy for studying Spanish outside the class. That experience helps me to stay focused and not to give up on my goals, even though it may sometimes be hard to motivate myself for working. The key is to remember the reason why I decided to start learning Spanish and which perspectives I associate with that valuable skill.

Alicja Marszalek

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