“Language doesn’t need to be something that separates us, language can bring us together”. The experience of an english teacher Vinnie Walsh
Before moving to Spain two years ago I had never needed to speak a second language.
The countries which I had lived and travelled were all English speaking. My music, films and books were in English. Using a second language had never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until later, whilst living in Spain, that I realized how many worlds that I used on a daily basis in English had originated from other languages.
When I first moved to Spain I was living in a shared flat with other English speakers and I was working as an English teacher, so knowing Spanish wasn’t priority. I learned basic phrases which would allow me to order coffee and ask for the bill at the end of meals, but nothing conversational. A month or so later a student came into my classroom to begin his lesson. He was a new student who had never studied English before which meant he needed a lot of support in Spanish.
Undoubtedly these were some of my most rewarding classes, not only was the student learning the basics of English but by referencing and explaining the differences in comparison to Spanish, I had began to teach myself. I just had to be one step ahead of the student. The school which I worked for in addition to English also offered courses in French, German and Italian. One day a new French teacher started at the school and I thought it would be nice to say hello. I was greeted by “Hola” to which I replied the same, she then continued to speak in Spanish and it wasn’t long before I had to explain that I didn’t know what she was saying. In a mix of broken languages we introduced ourselves and went back to work. I saw her everyday and each day the most we would exchange was hello. A week passed before I took it upon myself to start studying the basics of Spanish conversation. Small chunks at a time, based around a question so I could move the coversation forward or at least know enough to have a five minute conversation with her before I ran out of things to say. This continued for weeks and each time the conversation grew in length and complexity, we actually started to get to know each other through Spanish. Once I had conversational Spanish my world began to change quickly. I spent less time with my English speaking friends and I found myself around; Italians, French, Spanish even Russians and Polish.
These people became my closest friends and I think it was because when someone is talking in a language that isn’t your own, you are forced to pay closer attention to what is being said, meaning you listen to each and every word. As a group we encouraged and supported each other, even offering corrections when needed. It was an enriching experience to be surrounded by such a mix of different nationalities, backgrounds and cultures and It didn’t take long until Spanish became the official language of my social life and soon after, my love life.
Little by little the Spanish language took over my day to day life and I even found myself thinking in Spanish more and more frequently. Although I still get paid to teach English, everything around me was made possible by learning a second language.
Language doesn’t need to be something that separates us, language can bring us together, after all, I’ve now been dating the previously mentioned French teacher for over one year now and we still talk to each other in Spanish, although we have now began to learn the others language.