About – Who is Suzanne?

Whats the best way to learn Spanish? I asked myself this very question with some sarcasm 6 years ago when I moved from a small (ish) town in the North East of England to Southern Spain with my husband Stuart (then boyfriend). The answer, I thought at the time was ‘easy’ I’ll learn Spanish grammar just by living in Spain, mixing with the natives, reading signs, kids songs in Spanish etc. The truth of the matter hit home not long after we moved to Spain and it dawned on me how easy it was to ignore the Spanish signs, menus and the natives to some extent.

Typical Expat

I soon became one of those ‘expats’ that the Spaniards love to hate, i.e we don’t bother to learn the language and we don’t bother to integrate with the locals.  The problem (or excuse) for most is that officially there are around one million British expats living in Spain, the majority being around Marbella and Malaga, including my husband and I.  So you can imagine how easy it is to ONLY go to English bars and restaurants and to make a brand new group of English friends. Many of the Brits I have come across actually believe it’s not necessary to learn the language living in this region of Spain…now put yourself in the shoes of the Spanish locals and it is easy to see why they don’t warm to us.

Failing Miserably

Don’t  get me wrong I half heartedly began to learn the ‘odd’ word, I remember a friend trying to teach me ‘Que tal’ (pronounced kettal) meaning a casual ‘how are you’ by demonstrating pouring water from a ‘kettle’ and another favourite ‘Mi llamo’ (pronounced meamo) meaning ‘my name is’ this time she demonstrated by patting her arm. kettleAt the time I laughed thinking how childish it all seemed, but those were two of the first Spanish words/phrases I learnt and I have never forgotten.

So in the early days living in the Costa del Sol struggling along with my “holiday Spanish“and having started (but not finished) various of the available on-line courses, Rosetta Stone, Michel Thomas to name a few, most of which I learnt little from, I decided to enroll in an intensive Spanish language course at the University of Malaga.

Studying Spanish at University

I was made redundant from my job at the end of August 2010 and decided with some of the redundancy money…€550 to be exact, I would take the plunge and finally get to grips with the language, by this time I had lived in Spain for three and a half years and my level of Spanish was barely improving. At the time I blamed the job I had been working in which was solely dealing with English clients based in the UK, suggesting that I didn’t get to speak Spanish with anyone and I was working full time so couldn’t dedicate the time…I know crappy excuses.

Being quite a shy person, it took all of my resolve to commit to this course, not made any easier by being around 45 minutes from where I lived in a place called El Palo, on the other side of Malaga. So at 8.30am on 1st September 2010, I arrived at the University amongst approximately 60 to 80 other students from all over the world.

We spent the first morning being assessed to determine our current level of Spanish and put into groups/levels, my level apparently being A2.

So for the month of September I studied for 5 hours per day, 5 days a week and communicated only in Spanish throughout with around 2 hours Habla Espanol ?of homework every day too.  At the end of my first day I didn’t think I would be able to get through it as a few of the other 6 students in my group seemed to be far more advanced than me.

I soon relaxed and got into it and have to say I actually enjoyed learning and speaking the Spanish language, suffice to say I took the final exam, passed and left with more confidence than I could have imagined vowing I wouldn’t let my new found knowledge go to waste.

I promised myself I would speak to Spanish people every day at my local gym, with Spanish waiters, with locals on the beach even and for a while I did this but it eventually tailed off and I sit writing this 2 and a half years later with what I learnt somewhere in the back of my head but with not enough confidence to use it.

I now see words and phrases in Spanish that I should know because I used to know them, and that leaves me feeling frustrated and disappointed, with only my lazy self to blame.

Here We Go Again…

And so….to fast forward to the present, Stuart and I are still happily living in Southern Spain, my husband working in IT and myself being a fulltime mum to our beautiful 15 month old daughter.  Oh…and I STILL cannot speak Spanish, don’t get me wrong I can just about ‘get by’ at the supermarket, airport or at the bank for example but my lack of confidence continuously holds me back and I’m not asking much I only just want to be fluent fast, he he!

So having lived in Spain for 6 years now (almost to the day) I am embarrassed when I have to go to the doctors with my daughter, or to try to enrol her into nursery and I STILL have to ask if we can communicate in English.

Also in the back of my mind once she starts school, which happens when children are just 3 years old in Spain, I will have to communicate with her Spanish teacher and be able to help with her Spanish homework. This is what has inspired me to try again, but this time to try harder and this time I really want to learn for my daughters sake as well as my own and also to have a better and more fulfilled life in Spain.

Once again I have agreed to… I can’t say enrolled this time as I have nothing official yet and you will see by my 1st Spanish blog post that the conversation with the guy to enquire about the course was in Spanish, so I am not entirely convinced I understood everything he told me.

But anyway…I am to start an 8 month Spanish course this time, yes I am committing 8 months to nailing this language once and for all, starting on 2nd April 2013 and I will attend class from 11 until 12.30 every Tuesday and Thursday, I think he said we break for summer in June or maybe he said May???

What I’m offering You

I plan to blog about my Spanish lessons in as much detail as possible, I will upload PDF lesson plans, documents, MP3 sound bytes and videos so that I can share my journey with you my readers and with your support we can learn Spanish together.

My Spanish Resources Page

I have compiled a resources page with some recommended books and dictionaries that will help you that we used on my course. There is also a FREE 6 Day trial with Rocket Spanish

Free Learning Spanish trial

Oh by the way am going to attend an intermediate class (nivel medio), a little ambitious for me I think but I can confidently say I know more Spanish than to start at beginners level (nivel inicial) the other 2 choices being nivel superior and nivel perfeccionamiento which I am definitely not!

Finally I’d like to thank you for reading…well done if you got this far!  If any of the statements below apply to you, then I invite you to read my blog posts and welcome your comments, questions and suggestions. You never know we might be fluent in Spanish by the end of it, how good would that be!:

  • you find yourself in the same or similar situation as me with learning a language
  • you can relate my situation to any other aspect of YOUR life
  • you would simply like to learn Spanish
  • you are interested in how  well I succeed (or don’t haha).

8 Comments

  1. April 4, 2013, 9:05 am

    Buenos días Suzzane.
    Enhorabuena por tu blog, una gran iniciativa para aprender y mejorar tu español. En nuestra escuela de español siempre aconsejamos a nuestros alumnos que el tener un blog y el compromiso de actualizarlo les ayuda a comprender y fijar todo lo que van aprendiendo.

    Un saludo

    Antonia

    • suzy
      April 4, 2013, 6:33 pm

      Antonia, thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my blog. I agree with you that it will help me, and hopefully others following me to commit and help with the learning process.

      Antonia, gracias por tomarse el tiempo para leer y responder mi blog. Estoy de acuerdo con usted en que me va ayudar, y espero que los demas en pos de mi para cometer y facilitar el proceso de aprender.

      Suzanne

  2. Andy E
    April 6, 2013, 9:04 am

    Hi Suzanne,
    An informative, interesting and amusing blog which I will be following with great interest as I am an occasional visitor to Spain and would like to be able to converse with the locals in Spanish.
    Good luck.

    Regards,
    Andy

    • suzy
      April 8, 2013, 6:25 pm

      Hi Andy, Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I always feel that if i try to converse with the locals they are generally more willing to help so i hope you can learn Spanish too, in the mean time enjoy your visits to Spain.

  3. Mel
    April 12, 2013, 7:16 pm

    A great blog and an admirable effort to learn Spanish. I’ve been living on the coast about the same length of time as you and my Spanish is pigeon at best so I look forward to following the blog to see how you get on.

    • suzy
      April 14, 2013, 6:49 pm

      Mel, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog, judging by all of the comments i have received so far including yours, there are so many of us in exactly the same position with regard to learning spanish. I hope you do keep following me and i also hope that you learn something too, good luck.

      suzanne

  4. Kirsty
    April 29, 2013, 7:33 pm

    Hi Suzy,

    I am in a similar position to you. I live in Spain and have a toddler. I have studied spanish on and off since I moved here 3 years ago but now that my daughter is going to spanish nursery I thought it was time that I really made the effort so I can keep up with her! I am trying a different approach this time, the teacher I have doesn’t use a set structure to the classes eg learning the verbs one by one he tries to make it more realistic by watching spanish news clips on you tube and answering questions and giving my opinion. When new verbs and words come up we discuss them further. It seems like a good way but I don’t think you can get away from the need to sit down and tediously learn the verbs one by one. I think your blog is really informative and is expecially useful to me as it gives me another approach to my learning. Keep up the good work!!! X

    • suzy
      April 30, 2013, 7:29 pm

      Kirsty,

      It sounds like you are doing a lot more speaking in Spanish in more natural situations in your classes..great for your confidence! I feel that i need another angle to my learning too and although i’m doing classes twice per week, i’m still not speaking in Spanish every day as i should be. I hope you are managing to remember everything you learn as that’s the hardest part for me, actually retaining it!

      Thanks for reading and commenting & Good luck to you! x

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