It’s Day 15*** in Madrid, or better known as the point to start keeping track in weeks. Things are going good. I’ve gotten a metro card. I can successfully navigate the city. I’m even starting to understand the weird way they indicate sales at grocery stores.
But talking to Spanish people in Spanish? Not great. The reality that I don’t have aptitude for learning new languages is actually hitting me squarely in the face and past excuses are looking more and more flimsy. Maybe when I barely got a B- in Spanish 1 in high school it wasn’t because I didn’t care or didn’t do homework. Maybe when I abruptly stopped listening to Spanish tapes this summer on my commute to work it wasn’t just because I needed to listen to The Life of Pablo more often. The truth is that learning a new language for me is both frustrating and difficult and in the past I’ve been easy to not put a lot of effort in.
For at least the first two weeks in Madrid it’s been surprisingly easy for me to not put a lot of effort in here either. Traveling with a group that includes a fluent Spanish speaker most of the heavy linguistic lifting has fallen to him. There are also enough natives in Madrid that speak English as a second language that I haven’t been pushed to use Spanish conversationally. Realizing this, I’ve begun to make a concerted effort to try to get better and more conversational.
Earlier today while walking around Madrid with my friend Sarah there was a building with a random escalator. Being the explorers we are we made the trek up and saw a cool rooftop terrace with a little café. During our lunch there the wind really picked up. So much so that the server has to fold up all the umbrellas and stand up plants that were being knocked out. It was then I realized I had no idea what wind was in Spanish. A quick look at google translate on my phone and I stored away the word “viento” in my mind.
As I was up at the register paying for me meal (….yo pago) the cashier took my card and paused to look at a napkin dispenser being blown off a table. An annoyed expression crept along his face, and as someone who also doesn’t enjoy extra work I truly felt his pain. Armed with my new expanded vocabulary I was able to look at him, shrug a bit and acknowledged the wind in a sympathetic tone. He shook his head and acknowledged that yes, there was in fact a lot of wind.
This interaction barely qualifies as a conversation but it’s a small step in the right direction. What I’m starting to realize is that no matter how tough and uncomfortable the process of learning and speaking a new language is you can’t really feel at home in a city until you do.
***It was day 15 in Madrid when I wrote this…..been a little behind on the posting