When I first went to Spain in the spring of 2008, I expected to come back “fluent,” whatever that means. I thought being in a Spanish-speaking country automatically equaled fluency. How wrong I was.

Study abroad didn’t do a whole lot for my Spanish skills. Honestly, they were a lot of English speakers and English speaking is just too easy. I had intercambios, conversation exchange partners, but that was only a few times per week and language immersion requires more than that. I came back home with better Spanish skills, but nowhere near fluent. My senior year was spent wanting more. I was frustrated by the lack of Spanish opportunities in Indiana. I decided to go back.

By chance, when I went back in September, I met this boy.


He happens to speak perfect Spanish, too. Weird coincidence as he’s Spanish, huh? He really is the reason for my level of Spanish today. Whenever I have a “doubt,” as they say in Spanish, I ask him. He’s like my own personal WordReference in the flesh,  but I can actually touch him, see him, talk to him, listen to him.

I have improved 100% in the last few years. This is due to a combination of reasons: hard work, luck, ability, environment…but the number one reason? His name is Mario. His unending patience with me is “to blame.” Time with native speakers is often the key. Well, Mario is my native speaker. He is unendingly patient, unendingly willing to answer the questions that arise as I read the newspaper. I cannot be more grateful for that.

I often get nervous when I speak Spanish. It’s part of my personality. But sometimes, just once in a while, my Spanish seems flawless, my accent non-existent. Who do I owe this to? Mario. Speaking to him, listening to him, asking him hundreds of questions…all those things helped me to be the Spanish speaker I am today. Thanks, love. I promise to help you achieve this in English, although it will be nowhere near as much work. Your English is already pretty flawless. After all, in London, you had to be the interpeter….that English English was so confusing.


18 thoughts on “Bilingual

  1. Hey Kaley. I’m going to be a high school exchange student this fall for about 4 1/2 months in a small town called Miajadas, which is a little south of where Salamanca is actually! I’ve taken 4 classes of spanish at my school but I know school spanish doesn’t really prepare you for the real world. Do you think I could become fluent in spanish if I really isolated myself from english while I’m there?? Sorry for the long comment..Thanks!

  2. Everyone always says the best teacher is a boyfriend or girlfriend! Unfortunately my husband speaks less French than my little preschool French students :( Your boyfriend should be very proud of his (and your) hard work!

  3. Mine is called Kike, who can also translate words into German and Arabic without being prompted. That,s great, Keeks, you can tell me how to say, Jódete, creep, while In Morocco, but I don’t really care. ANYWAY! For a man who is not patient with anything, his seemingly endless patience with me stumbling over por vs. para and el andalú is more than agradecido.

    Is it weird I want to squeeze Mario? He’s just so darn cute!

  4. Word. Fluency is such a relative thing – I’m still trying to grasp it after 3+ years of living here and having passed every exam possible. These days, me and my Spaniard finally only speak Spanish (after lots of nagging on my part – he really likes to practice his English, which he speaks perfectly). I can’t imagine learning the language without him!

  5. My personal wordreference is the novio Juan. I’ve definitely learned a ton from him! Great post :)

    And I totally agree with your comment about persianas, when you have to work they make it so difficult to wake up!

    And I’m actually going to Puerto Rico to get my Master’s in Linguistics at the University of Puerto Rico. It’s a really cool place, and has the additional benefit of being where my personal wordreference lives hehe. It will definitely be interesting going from Spain to PR though!!

    Are you going back to Spain as an auxiliar or are you staying in the States?

  6. Bummer I moved to Spain already with my (English) boyfriend :( Only kidding, I wouldn’t swap him for the world…but I totally agree that having a Spanish partner is a speedtrack to fluency. On the plus side, we now have a native Spanish speaker in the house and his rapidly growing vocabulary and perfect accent are rubbing off on us (his name’s Jack and he’s our gorgeous 2 year old son, born here in Asturias :) )

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