Intermediate series 1
Well, today's podcast is about Rob and we're going to try to pry, gossip about Rob's background, which is English. And... Well, I've always asked him, why this great love of Spanish? Why are you so obsessed? Where did this come from? Like... This strength of liking a language so much? I like English, but not that much.
Yeah, I don't know anymore, you know? It's such a central part of my life now, such an important part of my life. I think I still have that passion for Spanish even after.... I don't know, 12, 13 years learning and I'm still, I'm still learning. So, I guess there are several parts. It's like a learning journey, isn't it? You never stop learning and that's why for anything it's great to keep learning and, well, what better than a language. And that's the... The other part that... Knowing Spanish opens doors. Not necessarily at work, being an English speaker. But in terms of... To travel, of course, but to see the world from other perspectives. And... It's true what they say that speaking another language changes you, I think, I feel that I have two personalities and perhaps I like my Spanish personality a little more.
Yes, it's always an effort. I think I have good fluency in Spanish. I'm not... I'm not a native speaker; I make mistakes still, but I don't have a hard time saying it. Basically, anything I want to say but, obviously, it's not like English, for me. What I mean is that when I speak English, that's like the internal voice that I have is English. So I don't have that, I don't have a filter, maybe.
What surprises me the most about a person who is obsessed with a particular language is that... There are usually people who are passionate about languages. So I've met a lot of people, especially here, in... In London uh... Who come here uh... They already speak English and then they are learning French and they speak three or four languages because they have that facility, they like it.
But that's what happens, I think that... That speaking more than one language. The truth is that it's like... That's typical all over the world. In Europe... Well, not the majority, but a lot of people speak English and obviously, their... Their mother tongue. Think of a country like... Switzerland, where you can find German, French, Italian and a good part of English as well. So, from there it is very common that the... That many people speak several languages. In India even more, today, there are I don't know how many languages in India, in India and a lot of people, almost the whole population, is bilingual or... Or more.
Yes, but uh... Specifically talking about people who are passionate about languages. Because it's one thing to... Well, to live in a country where you grew up with your parents of one language, of one language. And the society of another and you learned it, right? Through development. But a person like you, as an adult, you decided to learn language. You focused, you anchored yourself in Spanish, only, on the other hand. There are many people who have a passion and who like to learn languages and they kind of expand to one or two languages. Let's say, you already have an advanced level of Spanish, you're still in Spanish, why don't you.... Well, now I'm going to learn French. Now I'm going to learn another one.
I've tried; ah... Before Spanish I learned Russian at, let's say, pre-intermediate level. I thought it was more advanced, but not anymore. I don't think so. And... I guess I still have a little bit left of... Russian, but it's a good question. I think I wanted to go very deeply into a language and no, nothing has... Nothing has interested me as much as the cultures that are found in the Spanish-speaking world, not only Spain, which was my first... My first approach, but now Colombia, but everything. I find Latin America fascinating and I love the cultures. And also Spanish, after English, is the most spoken language in the world. So I tried, do you remember? I tried to learn French, again.
We did an exchange, well, we did exchanges and I... I couldn't say anything. She was a bit better than me in English. And in the end we did three or four sessions.
Totally. Yes, interesting. So, tell us, now, a bit more about the process. How and when did you start learning Spanish?
Well, I started at university. I wasn't a child then. I made the decision to go to Spain to teach English. My idea before that was to go to Russia, to do the same. But I had a change of... Of mood, thank goodness, because in Russia it's very cold. So it's very cold in Russia.
And we wouldn't be here. I'd be with... Who knows? Then I remember well that. One night I couldn't sleep and I made the decision that night that... I was going to go to Spain and... Specifically, to Valencia. So, once I made that decision. It was obvious that I had to learn Spanish, maybe not so obvious, because in Spain you can survive very well without speaking Spanish, just speaking English. Many people, many English people, do that. But I didn't... I didn't want to do that. So, after that decision, I was still in... At the university, at the U and... I started a night course. How do you say that?
To start, yes to... Like to take motivation to. We have an expression, in English, like start to... To roli... To roll the... The ball?
With zero point one percent in Spanish, very little, but with all the passion. Ah... And I think, that motivation at the beginning was key, because I was determined to understand, to... To speak, to get into the country, into the culture. So little knowledge, but a lot of motivation. I started a course, I did a 4-week intensive course. The course was good, more or less. Now I'm very demanding... As I like to be taught and... Well, I didn't agree with their methodologies. But well, it was like speaking Spanish, being with... With Spanish-speaking people. I moved into a flat with Spaniards, I started to... Immersing myself?
And are there any anecdotes? That you remember about dealing with you, about communicating and not being able to. And how did the Spaniards react to you or did they speak to you in English?
hmmm... Nothing very funny, but.... There were several occasions in bars and restaurants that... ah yes. There was one that I... After, I don't know, 6 weeks of being there, my parents visited me. And I wanted to joke around with my Spanish. Say
Defender here. We went to a restaurant and I wanted to order a water. So I said something like "una agua". Y... The waiter looked at me like "what?" He didn't understand. I said it like that many times and very frustrating because he didn't understand me. He didn't understand me.
In the end, the waiter... He asked me in English; his terrible English. And well, it was because of the pronunciation. That's what I understood, that it's not water. You don't pronounce the "G". It's water,
Oh, yes. That feeling is very horrible. You know the word. You're sure it's that one. But the intonation doesn't come out and they don't understand you!
And what's... It's the most annoying thing about the restaurants there is that, when the waiters, always at the beginning, they... They answered me in English, so I made the effort to ask in Spanish and they answered me in English and I know I didn't have very good Spanish, I didn't have very good Spanish, at that moment, but, even so, if someone makes the effort, you have to answer in the same language. Bbut I don't blame them because they also have a thousand tourists who don't know anything.
And well, after two years in Valencia, two very happy, sunny years, with very good food... ha... I miss them! I went to South America for 6 months, to Ecuador, Colombia and there I fell in love with the Colombian culture, with the country. I found it the most interesting.
We didn't know each other then. Well, in the end there, after six months, I ran out of money, the money. I had to go back. I'm telling my whole biography, hahaha.
I started in Ecuador with a project there, and well.... As it's a neighbouring country, at first I had the idea. Or I had the idea of making a run of the whole of Latin America. After that I did it very slowly and I don't regret it. But not at the... After six months, three months in Ecuador, then six months or, maybe, in Colombia.
No, to Colombia. No, I didn't know anything. But in Ecuador I met a lot of people who had.... They had come down from Colombia and they told me that it was very, very cool, that I had to visit that country, that it was the best.
The...yeah. But if you listen to maybe some of the other podcasts, My accent changes and you notice the Spanish accent. That was ten years ago. But yeah, I had a... More or less, a pretty good level of Spanish, but only as a spoken one, I hadn't taken exams or... Nor after that four-week course. I didn't do another course.
In the language, not so much, but in the culture, yes, and that is also reflected in the language. For example, in Ecuador it was like the first time I had visited a country in the process of development, let's say, or less developed, and compared to Spain, which has... Which is very modern, which... Life is easy. Let's say, I went to a fairly isolated village in Ecuador, next to the jungle, so imagine that. And the people have a different attitude, a different... The culture, well they have the language, the same language, but nothing else in common, almost nothing else. So I remember I arrived, I wanted to have lunch, I ordered lunch and I was expecting a Spanish lunch, that is to say, like.... I don't know, a paella afterwards.
Yes... yes, all that. Then a coffee, but no, it was like, a plate of rice with eggs and avocado, which was good, but like... I don't know, I was expecting something different and... They made me a soup with chicken and... Without realising it, I ate the face of... Of a chicken that was floating there. I didn't know, I thought it was like a fish, but okay.
Of course, I... And more in those... In those remote towns, near the... The fields and the jungle. Uh... Their origins are indigenous. So, although they speak Spanish, but they don't... The culture is supremely different,
Yes, yes, yes. And there were differences in words like "botar" which in Spain is "tirar", "tirar la basura", but there they said "botar". And I... Like, but who am I going to... Vote for? How to vote in a... Some... Elections... So I saw that everywhere, but, I mean, after a week you... you go.
Yeah. Uh... Well, that you... Your success on the road to fluency in Spanish doesn't depend so much on the course you take or the methodology. Those do have their place. But more important is the attitude and the motivation; if you have a good motivation and a good attitude and a... A challenge. Already... After that, everything automatically comes together.
Yes, everything fits. If you are intermediate, advanced. It's to keep listening, keep reading as much as possible like having a Spanish diet every day and forming habits of switching like from English to Spanish as much as possible, like getting into it, and recreating that immersion. And of course, our podcasts help a lot with that. And also, the truth is that.... The classes are important too. Erm... I wish I had taken more classes because there were some things that I could have learned or could have learned faster, or some mistakes that... That I still had or still have that maybe with a few classes or regular classes, can be avoided. By the way, we have an academy, so I would get involved in that of course.
Yes, I, I, I agree that that... That second step is... Of, of, of talking, it's like activation because first and in... As you explained to me before, the podcasts... You fill yourself with information, but it's an attitude, a passive activity. But then when you are confronted with a conversation, with... Talking is when the neurons are really activated and you have to process, or else everything that enters your brain, it can stay there and it needs to do that process.
To, to interact. So if you live in Spain or in a Spanish-speaking country, Mexico, wherever, well, I would say that even if you live there, not everybody is your teacher. Not everybody wants to help you. Not everybody will... Is going to motivate you. So it can be difficult. And speaking opportunities are not automatic either. But if you live in the United States, in England, where they don't speak Spanish, it's.... You have to look for those opportunities and you have to look for that feedback. So then, classes and teaching is like the most... The most obvious thing.
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