Practicing Another Language in a Different Country

During my time here in Costa Rica, I made it a point to practice Spanish. It kind of worked out in the beginning. You see, my whole thought process was that I would practice 24/7, but in between communicating with students in the group and family members back at home, that wasn’t exactly realistic. In the beginning of this whole journey, I urged my roommates to speak Spanish. We would speak Spanish here and there, really only to locals for ordering food, asking for directions, asking for prices, and so forth. One time, my roommates, some members from the group, and I went to a nearby mall. I made it a point to speak Spanish the entire way. Particularly, so we wouldn’t stand out that we were not from Costa Rica. I kept the conversation going with one of my roommates and another student, but the rest of the group simply decided not to speak Spanish. It’s difficult. Because some students were at different proficiency levels in Spanish. But, one could only try. It was nice being able to speak Spanish, but there was a lack of consistency and a bit of awkwardness talking to someone who responds to me in English or looks at me like, “we are not in class right now.”

I think that it is important that wherever you travel, that if you are trying to learn a language, to practice it. Even if it means being the outsider. Trust me, there were some English-speaking students that spoke Spanish exceptionally well, why? Because they were not afraid to practice, make mistakes, and learn. So many times, we hesitate. One day, I was feed up with speaking English and not meeting new people that I told my roommates that I was headed to the University of Costa Rica and that they were more than welcome to. I didn’t exactly have a plan for this, I just knew that I would go there. They decided to join after school and so we Ubered our way there. When we got there, the most logical thing seemed to be going to the cafeteria. There was this huge cafeteria and here we were like fish out of water. We didn’t study here and we didn’t feel entirely comfortable approaching locals. We stood in a corner of the cafeteria and looked at all of the people sitting, eating, minding their own business. I kept telling my roommates that we had to go ahead and approach people, but they were hesitant. They urged me to speak. So. I. Did. I asked a Tico sitting by himself if we could sit at the table with him. We introduced ourselves and he mentioned that he actually doesn’t even go to that school, but, one nearby and that he just comes for the food. He continued and showed us all the amazing artwork he has done on his phone and he talked about his interest in anime and his family. It just took asking. I know. It’s scary. But one way of practicing a different language is to put yourself out there.

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