Estoy Aprendiendo!

I’m starting to realize that starting my first Internship in a foreign country, where I don’t speak the language, may be a bigger challenge than I anticipated.

There are definitely some cultural differences, such as the concept of time. Chileans are notoriously late. I expected this to be true in social situations, but I didn’t think it would apply to my job. My gringo impulses still make me panic when I oversleep, and rush to make it to the office by 8:45, but inevitably, I’ll end up sitting outside for 30min or so (because the door is still locked) until the next person shows up at 9:15.

I asked one of my managers about this, and she insisted that work starts promptly at 9am, so I’m still afraid that if I ever do show up late, that will be the day that everyone is there early, and they’ll shake their heads at me as I walk in at 9:05.

I do love all the people I work with. They’ve all gone above and beyond to welcome me to the team, but still, there are definitely days when I want to cry, because everyone else can communicate perfectly with each other, and for me, just the most basic communication can be a struggle. I kick myself everyday for not learning more Spanish before I came here.

Of course I didn’t expect to be a fluent Spanish speaker by week 3 of my trip…did I?

I just met the new intern from the U.S. this past weekend (she’ll be starting on Monday) and she is already fluent in Spanish (thanks for throwing off the curve, smarty pants). She told me that when she first did an immersion program she went through 4 phases:

1. First, she was just very very confused…all the time!

2. After a while she started to learn some new words, and then she heard those words everywhere.

3. In the next phase she understood Spanish, but she had to think about it. She thought at a slower speed than people were talking, so her brain was working on overdrive to try to keep up. She said this phase would give me a headache.

4. Finally she said things just started clicking and she could understand and respond instantaneously in Spanish. She didn’t have to translate in her head anymore, from spanish to english or english to spanish. She started thinking in Spanish.

I might not get to this level in 8 weeks (It would probably take me more like a year), but I am learning more everyday that I’m here.

I have to keep reminding myself that my Spanish can only get better while I’m here. Everyday I know a little more than I did the day before, and for every frustrating situation, where I don’t know the word for something, I always, at least, end up learning a new word.

For example, today I learned the verb, “Aprender”-to learn

eg. Estoy aprendiendo!


2 thoughts on “Estoy Aprendiendo!

    1. Thank you! I’m sure I will appreciate having learned Spanish. I have so much more empathy for kids who are thrown right into a classroom where they don’t speak the language! I know immersion is the best way to learn, but that doesn’t make it easy, especially at first.

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