Confessions: My Life is in English
As I mentioned recently when I wrote about accepting my own journey, I’ve been going through a bit of a transitional period lately. Recognizing that enough to put it into words that I felt comfortable sharing caused me to do quite a lot of reflection and to practice some self-awareness. It’s also got me thinking about how, despite living abroad in Spain, my life is lived mostly in English. My initial response to that is one of a bit of shame and disappointment in myself, but let me explain my thought process about this topic and how I’m currently feeling.
So here’s the deal...
As you now know, over the past year I’ve lived completely on my own for the first time in my life and simultaneously helped my boyfriend through the process of buying his first home. Between the frustrating process of finalizing the house purchase and therefore not having as much energy to speak Spanish among ourselves to the obvious factor that living alone took away the daily interaction I used to have with my Spanish roommates, my Spanish usage has definitely decreased.
Add to it the fact that I’m an English teacher and so I spend 5-8 hours everyday speaking in English, with additional time writing my after class reports in English. On my walks when I listen to podcasts and at the end of the day when I want to unwind and disconnect I regularly choose English language options. I also write these articles and work with Claudia in English. Although my contact with the families of my private lesson students here in Spain happens almost entirely in Spanish, the conversations are similar and do not require much of a challenge in terms of vocabulary or grammar usage. Whenever I go out to the grocery store, bank, or restaurants I use my Spanish too but, again, these are not exactly the most engaging or lengthy conversations. Basically, my life is in English.
Why I’m still okay with that
When you summarize all of these facts, it becomes pretty clear that I’m not making the effort that I could be. I could just as easily choose to listen to podcasts and watch TV in Spanish or to stick around longer after my private lessons to engage the parents in more conversation. I could be seeing my Spanish friends on a more regular basis. I could actually be taking Spanish courses like I did last summer or using other conscious methods to improve my language skills. However, when I’ve thought about all of those options in the moment in which I could implement a different choice, I haven’t been moved to change course. You have to WANT to make those choices in order for them to be beneficial and at this exact moment in time they’re just not the choices I’m prioritizing. Why?
Because I’m thinking about my future:
This may seem like a strange way to put it, but learning and using Spanish has been a priority of mine for the last fourteen years. From the ten consecutive years of having at least one Spanish course (and up to five courses taught in Spanish) each year to the four full years I’ve lived in Spanish-speaking countries, I DO believe I’ve invested a great deal in my language skills. It’s okay that I’m letting my grip on that loosen for a bit. Instead, I want to focus on being a great teacher, building an amazing community here through Sincerely, Spain, and being the best partner I can be for my boyfriend. I don’t think it’s wrong to invest in these other important areas that influence my future.
Because I’m investing in my growth:
So many great minds have preached the importance of learning everyday and constantly investing in your own education. While language-learning is a big part of that, it’s not everything and right now I’m deep in the process of getting as much knowledge as I can from podcasts. I know I’m really late to the game, but in the last year I’ve finally gotten into the idea of listening to a variety of shows while I clean, cook, walk, and even shower and it’s helped me reach such important realizations and expand my mind. It’s also lots of fun...despite being just one more way in which I’m filling my life with English.
While I CAN have fun listening in Spanish (and it is something I plan to incorporate more) it does become slightly more work for me to listen and think in Spanish so, especially when I’m doing other things at the same time, I want to be able to just soak up the rich information. The same goes for my self-care in terms of practicing yoga, meditation, etc. While I could be doing this in Spanish (and I have been checking out different options for yoga classes here in Granada as well as using a Spanish-speaking YouTube fitness channel), sometimes I just need to focus on one thing at a time.
Because I haven’t really lost those skills:
Despite the fact that my Spanish may not be as polished at the moment, I know that I’ve built myself a strong foundation that I can return to at anytime. I recently went on vacation with two Spanish friends to visit an American friend who has all Spanish coworkers and the vast majority of the long weekend was in Spanish. While I did feel like I was tripping over my words and making stupid mistakes at the beginning of the weekend, by the second or third day everything was flowing much more fluidly and the fact that everyone was speaking to me in Spanish (despite almost everyone having great English skills as well) was a clear reminder to me that I’ve ‘got this.’ Even Spanish people who have lived for years in the US wanted to converse in Spanish so my skills can’t be that rusty.
Want to know the funny part? As we were trying to translate a message into English for my Spanish friend, neither of us could think of the right word to say de todos modos in English. I finally felt like I’d made a breakthrough and shouted out ‘sin embargo!’—another expression in Spanish. I can still easily get into the mindset of being so immersed in Spanish that my brain is not even differentiating languages. I think that’s pretty cool and something to be proud of!
As you can imagine, I sometimes feel a bit insincere when people talk about how amazing it is that I’m so immersed in Spanish on a daily basis when, in reality, ¾ of my waking hours are filled with English. Still, I know that life is made up of seasons and there will always be moments in which I focus more or less on my Spanish speaking. Sometimes you just want the comforts of your mother tongue and/or the ability to have a deep conversation without having to worry if you’re choosing the right words. And I don’t think it’s fair to discredit everything else I’ve been doing more of during this lower period of Spanish. “Circles and cycles and seasons. For everything there’s always reason.”