Learning to know what is important when learning Spanish (or any language)
We live in a world where we can find Spanish speakers around the globe as it is a language spoken in several countries, not to mention that it’s the second most spoken language on the planet after Chinese and before English. Inside each Spanish speaking country we can find a variety of accents, linguistic and cultural diversity which divergence is even bigger when crossing borders. This invaluable source of linguistic richness brings many headaches to Spanish learners as some people may think that these differences are inscrutable unless you learn a particular spoken Spanish from a specific region
It's not surprising then that many learners worry about which "Spanish" they should learn. The answer to this question is sometimes too plain: "learn the language of the country you are traveling to or the Spanish that your friends speak". For me, this is a wrong approach as it dogmatises the way of learning a language, which increases the difficulties of learning and takes away from the learner the possibility of having a global vision and understanding of that language. For this reason, I will explain my point of view regarding this with my own experience as sometimes I find personal experiences more enlightening than handbooks.
When I was a student myself I was lucky enough to be granted a scholarship to learn English abroad. Back then everybody around my circle of friends and family thought that the obvious destination was England, to be precise London, but if you could afford it (scholarships do not cover everything!) New York was a clear choice as we are used to American movies and shows, which is something reasonable aside from the fact that everybody wants to visit New York, let’s be honest, it’s tempting, it was indeed tempting. However, I’ve always been a bit of a rebel.
Once the preliminary research and some necessary arrangements were done I started saying to everybody that I had chosen Ireland as my destination to learn English, which was a surprising choice for some people back then, but before I knew it, I was flying from Barcelona to Dublin with a Spanish friend that studied English in Texas.
After a few days enjoying the city and spending some money, my friend returned to Barcelona. He went to Dublin just for a few days in order to help me settle as at the time his English was better than mine but once he left I was in my own and so a different party started.
I began my classes and studied hard, however, I ran out of money and started working and kept working even after my course ended so that I could keep learning English by just living it. I learnt many Irish expressions, a different way of pronouncing certain sounds and ultimately I learned the type of English spoken in Ireland.
But then months passed by and after that years until eventually I decided to come back to Barcelona to finish what I started and get my Bachelor degree. so I arrived back and brought my Irish husband. After that, many more years passed by again and with them my English changed. I started the wonderful path of learning a new language and became fluent in that language.
Does that mean that I speak English like an Irish person now? No, not at all. Does it mean that I use some particular sayings just spoken in Ireland? Yes, they are all funny for me! Does that mean that I know some words and ways of saying things in English from Ireland? Yes, that’s nice. Does that mean that I cannot use those words outside Ireland? Yes I can and by doing so I probably learned the equivalent word used everywhere else. Does that mean that I have lost my Spanish accent? No, I still have an accent as I learned English as an adult but I have improved my pronunciation dramatically because pronunciation is something that you can train and improve dramatically.
And now? What can I do now with all this knowledge? Can I speak English inside and outside of Ireland and be understood? Absolutely! Can I speak English with people from around the globe? Of course I can! So… can I effectively communicate in English no matter where I learned it? Yes! in oral and written form!
So, don’t limit your sources when learning Spanish, it’s the same language everywhere, there does exist different dialects, tons of vocabulary that changes from region to region, even some differences in the usage of the verbs and a wide range of different customs and habits but at the end of the day we all understand each other because we use the same grammar and this can be thought anywhere.
On top of that, Spanish profesional teachers, courses and schools are everyday more and more self-aware of the fact that there exists differences within the Spanish language so these differences are thought in their classes and courses for students not only to understand the language but also to acquire the linguistic and cultural knowledge that come with it.
Embrace the variety!
I'm a Spanish and English philologist specialised in Spanish linguistics and in teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language (ELE) as I love sharing my language, my culture and a particular vision of the world with people from around the globe, getting to know more about the world itself through them and languages.