The Spanish club
The first time I went to my Spanish meetup group, all I could say was hola – which means hello. Everyone else was chattering away and I was going, ‘Hola, hola, hola!’ Since then, speaking Spanish has opened up a whole new world for me and that's what encourages me to keep going and get better at it. In 2014 I started at the Spanish school in town, and after I got to know some of the students, I suggested to a couple of them that we form own little group.
The first time I went to my Spanish meetup group, all I could say was hola – which means hello. Everyone else was chattering away and I was going, ‘Hola, hola, hola!’ Since then, speaking Spanish has opened up a whole new world for me and that's what encourages me to keep going and get better at it.
In 2014 I started at the Spanish school in town, and after I got to know some of the students, I suggested to a couple of them that we form own little group. There are three of us at the moment, Tania, Heidi and me. We meet twice a week and go through our grammar, practice speaking and listening and so on, have a coffee and the occasional glass of wine. The rule is that for the first hour we can only speak Spanish and then we can break into English for the second. It’s a beautiful language, it’s actually quite musical.
I love that with the Spanish group I get to meet people with a common interest. It’s more than just sitting down and talking – you have a purpose. I’m pretty convinced that the two things that can occupy your brain and keep it alive are learning a musical instrument or a language. I also wanted to travel so I thought I’d combine the two by having a language that I can integrate into my trips. When I visit a country, I like to stay and meet people and speak to them rather than look out of a tourist bus window. Spanish is one of the third most spoken languages in the world after English and Mandarin and there are about 19 or 20 countries that speak Spanish, which gives you a pretty wide choice of tourist destinations.
I was recently in Spain for six weeks, in Cordoba, which is inland in central southern Spain. I went to a Spanish school there and stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by Christina and Pepe who were wonderful hosts. They have an enormous courtyard and are very social people. Every week they’d have concerts – I even got talked into playing the harmonica, one of my other interests. Once I was there, I found I got around without any trouble. I could order a coffee and plane tickets, catch buses and taxis no problem at all, though I had more difficulty understanding when they spoke back to me. It was a great experience being able to use Spanish in the real world. Three days before I left, Pepe and Christina put on a special dinner for me. There was a lot of wine flowing and I realised that after a few glasses I was speaking Spanish and listening and understanding so much more freely than before!
I think it’s so important to have contact with people. If you live on your own, you can become very closed off which means you don't really have anybody to challenge you or ask you to explain yourself. Having friends gives your brain a bit of a workout and you also have to put a bit of thought into what you’re saying. It’s handy too. I had my car serviced recently and I was saying to my friends (in Spanish of course!) that I’d have to wait until 11 in the morning to pick up my car. But one of them said, “That’s no trouble, I’ll pick you up and drop you off!” It certainly makes life a little bit fuller and easier.
Learning Spanish has broadened my horizons and has also made me appreciate what a wonderful place Australia is. When you return from travelling you really see the advantages we have, to be living here. It’s opened doorways that would have been closed to me otherwise, along with a whole new world of adventure and friendship.