How Spanish has made me a better person

This weeks guest-writer is no stranger to us. Her uber-cool blog called “Bacon is Magic” makes us laugh, cry, salivate and thump the table in agreement with her lively travel anecdotes. Here is Ayngelina with her post on “How Spanish has made Me a Better Person”.

 

Last April I arrived in Mexico to spend a year traveling and I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish other than si, no and cerveza por favor. Needless to say, you need a bit more vocabulary than that and for the last year I’ve been learning Spanish while traveling in Latin America. It’s been a wonderful experience to actually connect with people in their language and I firmly believe that you should try to speak as much of the local language as possible as a sign of respect. But along with learning the tactical aspect of the language, I’ve become a kinder better person that I hope I now apply in English as well.

Being present

How often do you only half-listen to your friends and family? Isn’t it annoying when you know someone isn’t really paying attention to something you say? I used to catch myself daydreaming when people told me a long story and had to snap out of it.
In Spanish I need to listen more intently to make sure I understand, looking them in the eyes and often repeating what is being said. There is no question that I am giving my full attention to the person.
I’ve learned that the gift of attention is one of the most respectful things we can give.

Being polite

Early on I was told that foreigners aren’t very polite in Spanish. I learned it was a bit of a cultural hiccup as we often thank people but forget to say please and greet people formally with usted. I realized that in English we have also forgotten to say please; we remind children but don’t think we need it ourselves.
Now, even for the smallest request I always say please, and ensure my thanks isn’t a quick passing thought.

Being friendly

How many times have we run into a grumpy person and their mood brushes off on us ruining our day? There are many times when I need help and I’m tired, sick, cold, hungry or a combination of any of these.
As my Spanish is still a bit crude and I don’t understand all the formalities I ensure my tone denotes respect and friendliness. I always approach people with a smile and a friendly tone.
I want to ensure that when I’m direct in speech with I want or I need that they understand it’s just because I’m new to Spanish not because I’m rude or disrespectful.

This does not mean you need to learn the language of every country you visit

It would be impractical to learn every language but you can be more aware of how you are perceived beginning with your own. I have started to think about how I interact with people in English and if I’m as attentive and responsible as I should be.

It only takes a bit more effort to smile, look someone in the eyes and say please and thank you.

Many of us have forgotten these pleasantries but they really make a difference.

 

About this Week’s Guest Writer:
Ayngelina left a great job, boyfriend, apartment and friends to find inspiration in Latin America. Follow her adventures on her blog Bacon is Magic, on Facebook or Twitter.

Comments

  1. Lovely post.

    Learning Spanish, coincidentally, taught me how difficult a language English actually is…vowel sounds all over the place, silent letters, nonsensical grammar and syntax, and a general unpredictability that must drive ESL learners loco.

    And travelling with Spanish through Latin America made me much more aware of the different tunes and songs that cultures overlay on their version of the same language.

    Beautiful to listen to the subtle changes as countries slowly rolled by.

  2. Excellent points, Ayngelina. I think “please, thank you and you’re welcome” are the 3 most important phrases of any language, including our own. I was raised to use them, and I still do, but I know what you’re saying. Many people don’t.

  3. I loved having even the tiniest ability to speak in another language. I felt super-proud that I could get a room or a meal in Spanish. It, again, gives me pause to think of all the immigrants in my home country who come and have to learn English in order to get by. How courageous!

  4. The other thing learning a foreign language did for me was make it easier for me to talk in English with people who didn’t speak English well. You figure out fast how much it helps to speak slowly, use very simple words like “good” and “bad” instead of “amazing” or “discouraging”, avoid wit or jokiness, etc. It helps a lot since many people do speak a basic level of English in many countries.

    • Diane, very helpful tips and I bet you are speaking from experience. Yeah, I agree that the English language is tough – I’ve spoken it all my life so I don’t even notice what’s difficult about it anymore but I will say that Colloquial expressions are the hardest to understand. That, and a Scottish accent;) LOL

      • I agree. I´m amazed at when people realize I´m at an intermediate level they will still speak so quickly. I often have to ask people to slow down for me, especially now here in Chile where they are so fast!

  5. Great post! I’ve been following Ayngelina’s travels and enjoy reading about her adventures in South America. It’s true, speaking in another language really gives you a sense of perspective. Sometimes it’s challenging to find the right words and use a respectful tone (especially when every country has different preferences for tu vs. ud)!

    • Yeah I agree.. can only speak English, Malay, Cantonese myself so not great! Got up to intermediate Mandarin and French but due to lack of practice, i’ve lost it! :o(

    • The sense of formality is definitely something I´ve learned. We never really treat our elders with much respect in English, I like the formality.

  6. Ayngelina rocks! With a blog called Bacon is Magic? Who doesn’t like that?! I’m proud of my Canuck gal! Happy Travels!

  7. Great lessons – Be attentive, polite and friendly.
    And you can definitely get away with more with a bit of a cheeky grin!

  8. Genial, Ayngelina!

    There’s a tavern we call the Bacon Tree in Barcelona, with legs of cured ham hanging from the beams and choice bocadillos & burgers with any shade of pork you can imagine. Mmm…better than El Bulli?

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