After almost two months of living in Argentina, I’ve made an important realization: Holy shit, I can speak Spanish.
Granted, I don’t speak it terribly well. I have an accent and I make tons of mistakes that just scream, “FOREIGNER,” but I can get the point across without having to use English.
That counts, right?
No, really. All my classes are in Spanish and I use Spanish to talk to the other exchange students. In two of my classes, I’m the only exchange student in a room full of native speakers, and I can understand what’s going on pretty well. My host family doesn’t speak much English, so that must mean we’ve been communicating in Spanish this whole time, right?
Logically, I know this. There should be no room for doubt since about 90% of my conversations in the past two months have been in Spanish.
That means I can speak Spanish, right?
Not according to whoever is in charge of my brain, at least.
If I don’t think about it, the words come almost naturally. I can speak more or less fluidly, pausing if I don’t know a word or if I’m not sure about the grammar, but I don’t think it’s painful for the native speakers to hear me talk. And when other people are talking, I might not know every single word, but I can usually get the gist of what they’re saying. But, inevitably, there will be a voice in the back of my head that pops up and says, “What are you doing? You know we don’t speak Spanish!” And then I’ll realize, holy shit, I’ve been hearing a foreign language this whole time. And then I’ll think, “Oh God, you’re right! What am I doing?” Suddenly it will all feel like a lie. Maybe we had been talking about our respective countries, or the weather or exploding polar bears or something (conversations tend to take a weird turn when I’m involved), but how did I get this information? This isn’t a language I know! Did I steal this information from them? Quick, stop talking before they notice that you don’t speak Spanish, you liar!
And then my brain shuts down and an awkward silence ensues.
On an unrelated note: Spanish speakers kick ass at speaking Spanish. Sometimes when I’m talking to someone, I just have to stop and admire their beautiful grammar. Is it weird to compliment someone on their grammar in their native language?