Spanish: you know it exists, and you’ve most likely heard it at least once in your life. You might even be able to rattle off some words. Hola, taco, and ¡gooooolllll! may be part of your vocabulary. But knowing how to read it, write it, speak it, or even understand it is a whole different story. When I first came to UD, I had taken high school Spanish, but I really didn’t understand much about the language. However, I am slowly building up my confidence and increasing my comprehension of the structure of the language as well as improving my fluency. This transformation was initially catalyzed by the quality of the Foreign Languages Department, but kicked into high gear by my participation in the Spanish Language Partners program. Run by UD’s English Language Institute, the program paired me up with a Colombian girl to help her better understand the English language and American culture.
Initially, I thought I could handle the language barrier. However, once the conversation between her and I began, I quickly became overwhelmed. “Should I use the subjunctive form, or the present perfect form?”, “How do I conjugate that verb again?”, and “Oh no, how do you say that word in Spanish?” were just some of the thoughts that were racing through my head. Within a short while, the communication between us broke down, and we were at a stalemate. I couldn’t understand her, and she couldn’t understand me. I was about to call it quits when an idea popped into my head: ¿Por qué no los dos? (Why not both?). She knew broken English, and I knew broken Spanish. If we combined them, perhaps we could communicate.
Cautiously, I started by using only the most basic vocabulary from both languages and she responded in a similar manner. Soon enough, we had broken through the initial stalemate, and were conversing quite efficiently. This encounter taught me a valuable life skill: if you’re in a pinch and need to communicate a basic phrase, blending the two languages is a completely doable option.
Don’t think that it is impossible for you to learn a new language, or even part of one. You can utilize certain vernacular dialects and “unofficial” methods of communicating such as Spanglish or you can take some foreign language courses provided by UD. The Foreign Languages Department professors are quite knowledgeable and have a gift for conveying the potentially difficult grammar rules and subtle idiosyncrasies of a foreign language to students in a presentable and easy-to-understand manner.
I initially planned on only taking enough foreign language courses to satisfy the university breadth requirements. Now, I’m a declared Spanish minor, and I am about to pack my bags and fly to sunny, Spanish-speaking Costa Rica for my first experience with studying abroad this winter. I love the Spanish language, and I cannot wait to see what amazing opportunities it will hold for me in the future.
Ashley Dayne Bostwick
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