...the moment I landed in Buenos Aires, I realised that I had been somewhat cocky about my abilities.
Having spent the last three years learning Spanish, with a huge desire to become fluent, I decided that the most logical place for my next travel adventure was South America. Before leaving, I studied hard and spent every waking moment immersing myself in as much Spanish as I could. I was happy with my level and certain I would have no troubles communicating. However, the moment I landed in Buenos Aires, I realised that I had been somewhat cocky about my abilities.
A disheartening start
I struggled to say the most basic sentences, but even worse, I couldn’t understand a single word that was said to me and it didn’t take long for my confidence to drop. I felt frustrated and stupid most of the time, and by putting immense pressure on myself I soon became my own worst enemy. After a couple of terrible experiences and then traveling with other English speaking foreigners, whose level of Spanish far exceeded mine, I all but stopped trying.
Regaining confidence in Bolivia
We traveled for a few weeks before arriving in Bolivia and that's when I decided that I needed to take some action. I realised I wasn’t going to wake up one day with the ability to speak Spanish. I had heard Bolivia was an excellent place to learn Spanish with their neutral accent, slow speaking speed and insanely cheap prices. So I said goodbye to my travel companions and started taking lessons in a lovely little place called Sucre.
There, I got more than I bargained for. I instantly fell in love with the city and the people. My amazing Spanish teacher not only taught me an insane amount of Spanish and helped me get over my fears, but she also taught me a lot about the Bolivian culture. Things I would never have learnt without her. This incredible woman is someone I now consider a friend. It was an unforgettable experience and after 5 weeks of classes I felt I was ready to move on. With a little sadness and a lot of excitement I said goodbye to a place that will forever hold a piece of my heart.
Language learning - A lifelong journey
I have now travelled to six countries in South America and each new country possessed its own challenges. Different speaking speeds, word usage, slangs and accents as well as different people and cultures, some not as understanding or patient as others. But language learning is a lifelong journey. I still have good days and bad days. My confidence comes and goes. Although I am not where I want to be (yet), I am improving everyday and when I look back, I can see how far I have come.
Author - Melissa Mulry
Mel is a writer and photographer from Australia. With a passion for slow travel and a life philosophy of tiny little moments, she is currently exploring Latin America.