Project Trilingual: Feeling Chuffed About The Little Successes

I usually whine on about how hard this language learning malarkey is, how frustrated I am and that I need to do better.

As everybody who’s been through this process knows, it’s impossible to get a sense of your own progress on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.

So, more often than not, it’s other people commenting on your level of linguistic competence which triggers the realisation that you might actually be getting somewhere, and I’ve had a couple of heartening pronouncements from unbiased strangers recently.

The first one tumbled out of the mouth of a friend of a friend when the three of us were having a drink together. The guy (who I hadn’t met before) asked me how many years I’d been living in Spain. That’s right, he said “YEARS”. I realise I’m willfully  misconstruing his choice of words into compliment on my Spanish, but,  I reckon, if he thought I’d been in Spain for a long time, then my Spanish must be getting quite good, right? On the other hand, he may have such rock-bottom expectations of foreigners acquiring a serviceable level of the language that he was impressed by me ordering a a bottle of tonic water.

A slightly less ambiguous appraisal from another complete stranger came last Tuesday, during a flight form Madrid to Miami. I got chatting to a chirpy Nicaraguan lady in the seat across the aisle from me. Although I’m unlikely to meet her again, I shall nevertheless love that woman for ever and ever, because she asked me if I was Spanish! Oh my, if I’m managing to fool a native Spanish speaker into thinking that, I must be making some serious headway!

As an aside, even though I’m not in Spain at the moment, Project Trilingual is by no means on hold. Key West is a stone’s throw from Cuba, and the island (the whole of Florida, really) is full of Cubans and other Latin Americans. Spanish is spoken everywhere, and I keep listening to people in the street speaking it in their various regional accents, and I don’t miss any opportunities to converse in Spanish with the staff in shops and restaurants. It’s great to be able to understand what’s going on around me. Only a year ago, this would have been impossible, and I find it very satisfying 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Project Trilingual: Feeling Chuffed About The Little Successes

  1. Anonymous

    HI Simone, just been catching up on your blog – been a bit oout of touch with your exploits/comments on life. Very funny and oh so true. Hope you are enjoyng Keywest. Please say hi to Vicky. Xx Sara

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  2. roamingtheworld

    Yes, isn’t this so TRUE!

    After a week of traveling in Turkey with Spanish folks and my ex- Mexican flat mate and despite only speaking in Spanish, I felt like I could barely speak in Spanish. Then I returned to Spain and the words flowed. I came home to a new room mate and he was impressed with my level. I was a little surprised. Really? I naturally assume I’m making tons of mistakes all the time. “I haven’t corrected you much have I?” I felt confident.
    Then this week came and I feel I’m just stumbling over my words.

    The beautiful game of learning languages. (it certainly doesn’t help I teach English, and when I hang out with my english speaking friends we natually speak in English pero bueno, es normal…

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I’ve no idea how this happened. I guess there was a lot of noise from the aircraft engine, and my (Peninsulan) accent may be quite pronounced to a Latin American Spanish speaker. But I can tell you that I’m nowhere near close to native speaker ability. I’ve managed to get there with my English, and I’m often mistaken for a Brit (especially in the US, not so much in the UK), so I do know what I’m talking about here. Still, the incident was amusing and flattering 😉

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  3. thepolyglut

    It truly is a great feeling when you manage to trick a native speaker into thinking that you’re one of them! I had a similar experience talking to a French native over Skype who told me that my accent sounded completely authentic. What a great day that was!

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      1. thepolyglut

        Not at all! I once spoke to a Chinese woman who, after I said “Hello, how are you” was convinced that I was fluent in Mandarin! I am far from it, but I’ll take the compliment nonetheless! Those little bursts of encouragement do wonders for my motivation.

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