Which Spanish-speaking country or countries did you visit?
Chile and Colombia for one month in total.
How long had you studied Spanish before your trip? What level did you get up to?
I have studied at El Patio for one year before my trip - I had just finished Lower Intermediate 2.
Now the golden question - was it useful?
In which situations was knowing some Spanish most useful?
It helped the most when I was meeting my partner’s family for the first time. On my first day in South America I went to the 80th birthday party of my partner’s Father. I was able to hold basic (fairly drunken) conversations with the extended family. Uncles, aunties, cousins, second cousins, family friends, and all their partners, all wanted to meet me. My studies at El Patio gave me the basics to have good conversations and feel like I fit in with the family.
Over the next month I lived with my partner’s family. I was able to connect with them, without relying on translations. And there was no awkwardness. It’s amazing how much meaning you can convey with such little vocabulary! And my ear really opened up.
In the middle of the trip I spent just over a week in Colombia travelling solo. Spending hours speaking to locals, I realised just how much I had learnt over the previous year. It was really surprising to see how much I could speak when there were no English speakers around!
Do you have any tips for helping other travellers with Spanish?
Have no fear. Throw yourself into situations where its sink or swim.
Is there anything that you would you do differently for your next trip?
I brought my text book with me. I planned to actively learn while I was in South America, but the holiday took over and I didn’t open the book once. Next time, I would just take a small notepad and write down the new words I learnt.
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August 28, 2019
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