Living in Spain, but speaking no Spanish

By: Avery Buckman

I have always wanted to travel and see the world, so when I had the opportunity to study abroad I did not hesitate. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go but I knew I had to. At my college, everyone raves about the Sevilla Program through CIEE, so I thought this is the place for me. One problem, I don’t speak spanish. Ever since 6th grade I took French in school, but I wanted to go to Spain. I was very nervous about coming here and not speaking the language, and it was more difficult than I thought. The summer before I came, everyone told me not to worry because many people will speak spanish. While this is true, living in a world where you don’t speak the primary language is an experience that I was not ready for. I am living with a host family where the mom speaks no english. When I first arrived, all I knew how to say was my name and I don’t speak spanish, “Hola, mi llamo Avery, no hablo espanol.” At the dinner table, I would just sit there and feel lost because I had no idea what was being said around me. The lack of communication was definitely a huge barrier, but I didn’t let it stop me.

Because I live with a host family, I am surrounded by the Spanish language every day. This encouraged me to really work on my Spanish so I can communicate with my family and learn more about them. Also, the more Spanish I learn, the easier it is to order at restaurants and communicate with the locals. I pushed myself to speak at dinners, even if I needed some help forming questions, and I really tried to speak Spanish whenever I had the opportunity. 

spain sunset

Read More: The 6 Best Places to Learn Spanish Abroad - CIEE

If you are dying to go to France, or Germany or Ireland but do not speak the language, do not let that stop you from traveling to these places. If there is one thing I have learned about living in a country and not speaking the language is that the best way to learn it is by putting yourself in it. You have to surround yourself with the unfamiliar to become familiar with it. When I first arrived all I said was “Hola” to my host family, and now after just two weeks living here, I am able to ask my family questions about their day, their family, and what they are eating. CIEE has given me the chance to step out of my comfort zone and step into the unfamiliar.