Life Lost in Translation

I took Spanish in high school and college but after two years of zero Spanish practice, I went from a high intermediate level to a high beginner level.  So people have been asking me how hard it is to be in a country where I don’t speak much of the language.

 

First off, it was not required for my job nor is it required for most teachign abroad jobs.  I was asked if I spoke Spanish after the job offer.  They don´t really care. While with preschool it has been helpful to know enough to get them to clean up and get in a line, I don´t speak a lot of Spanish with the kids.  Sometimes I explain things in Spanish with the help of my Android translator.  Many times I explain in English and do it on the board then leave it there so they can clearly see the instructions.

 

It´s a little isolating because to have a conversation with an adult or understand a child is a chore.  It´s like a mental pull up because I just can´t understand everything. I mostly understand words and try to fit them in context.  Sometimes I get exhausted from being surrounded by words I can´t understand but I am picking up much more vocabulary than if I was taking a regular Spanish class in America.

 

I can get by though and I learn quickly by looking up phrases I need during the day and using them often. You can get by without speaking any Spanish.  Many people that come here just come because it´s a easy way you travel the world.  There are many teachers that come here with no language background and they do fine in their jobs.

 

You learn fast and it´s important to minimize Spanish in the classroom, anyway.  I find myself speaking in a lot of Spanish sometimes. I have to stop and remember they need to be exposed to the language.  While they don´t understand now, they figure it out through hearing it and using it.  You better believe they know¨sit¨, ¨quiet,¨and ¨can I go to the restroom, please?¨

 

I wouldn´t let language get in your way of a very positive experience.  I would say that it´s not bad once they hit 5-6 years old but before that it is very difficult. I struggle all the time because I simply can´t understand the children let alone the language.  You do get to learn their body language and figure out what is happening.


It´s worth all the stress to be able to travel Europe.  I´m going to London in two weeks and backpacking for winter, then Istanbul and Portugal are on the to do list.  All of this travel because I keep my head down and get through the tough job.  It´s a great reward.  And the reward isn´t always the smile of a child but it can be.

10 thoughts on “Life Lost in Translation

  1. I can completely relate to the feelings of isolation. Not understanding the language and being surrounded by it is exhausting at times. And I definitely agree that you pick it up when you’re around it. I don’t know what your time line is like here in Spain, but I’ve heard that after the six month mark things start to really click! Best of luck with your kiddos!

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  2. Very well written – language is wonderful, but can also limit us – I remember as a teenager – I am danish born and had a dutch girlfriend – I didn’t believe her mother liked me – it sounded as if she was mad at me – until I learned dutch and found out that was the way dutch sound… 😀

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