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How I Learn Spanish


By Frank RichardsonPublished 5 years ago 2 min read

While packing to leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was thinking of all the places I would visit and not be able to talk with the local people, order meals, or ask for directions, because I did not know a single word of Spanish. With a quick trip to my neighborhood bookstore, I found the last Spanish phrasebook on the shelf, and quickly purchased the book for reading on the plane.

After arriving in Buenos Aires and finding a taxi at the airport, I proceeded to give the taxi driver a piece of paper with the address of my hotel. I started feeling awkward when the driver began conversing in Spanish, and I could not reply. After a while, he understood that I did not speak the language, as I was frantically thumbing through the phrasebook, looking for right words to reply with.

At the hotel, I was able to pay the taxi driver the exact amount on the meter, and to quickly add in a small tip. Upon exiting the taxi, I managed to find gracias ["thank you" in Spanish] in the phrase book to thank the driver. I even detected a bit of a smile as he drove away.

Settling into my room, I started thinking that then would be a great time to go exploring. I proceeded to wander the streets, looking for the ideal restaurant to try my new language. Upon entering the restaurant, I was shown to a table in the corner, and presented with a menu in Spanish. Hesitantly, I opened the menu, looking at the entrees to see if there was anything that looked familiar. I was on the verge of panic, realizing the phrasebook was still in my hotel room.

When the meal arrived, I was very surprised that I did so well. However, what I received was not what I had expected. Throughout the meal, I scanned the menu the waiter had left on the table. Beginning with the entree I ordered, I started making notes of the items on my plate and words in the menu, so next time I could order something different. Over the next few weeks, dinner was becoming more adventurous. I was asking for the menu, saying thank you, and requesting the check in Spanish, along with wishing the waiter a good night upon leaving the restaurant.

Breakfast turned out to be daring; along with a coffee and pastry, I started asking for a local newspaper. Though my Spanish was not good enough to read the newspaper, with the pictures and captions below, I was able to piece together what was taking place in the article. If I had a few spare minutes, I would skim the local news, business, and cartoons, looking for new words to use. By the end of my trip, I was comfortable ordering meals, asking directions, along with using a few pleasantries. I thought I was well on the way to using Spanish, and planned to continue using my new language when I returned home.

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    FRWritten by Frank Richardson

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