Being a Spanish major from The College of Idaho, you are encouraged to study abroad. It’s somewhat difficult without study abroad to meet the credit requirement, regardless of what level you start at. Aside from the credit requirements, I had three main reasons I decided to study Spanish (Castellano) while abroad in Bilbao.
I wanted to practice the Castilian dialect and accent. In the US, speaking Spanish with a Castilian lisp is not very common. Some teachers and professors will emphasize vosotros form or at least a foundation of basic vosotros conjugations. While I’m here in Bilbao, I’m almost relearning all of the vosotros conjugations. Between my Grammar and Linguistics classes, we talk about differences in dialects and accents all the time. Studying in Bilbao means we also analyze how “Bilbainos” have extra emphasis on r’s and x’s. As many Basques do. With that, I also study Spanish while abroad to appreciate and understand the culture.
I want to experience the culture through its natural language. Here in Bilbao, Euskara is recognized as an official language along with Castellano. To have a job here in Bilbao, you need to be able to speak Basque. When you learn about the town history or about the Basque Country, there will be Basque vocab. For example, “Txirimiri” is Basque for rain but a fine mist basically that doesn’t seem to stop. A Basque drink that I highly recommend, for those of you that are of legal age, is the Kalimotxo. It’s half cheap red wine and half coke or Pepsi. There are also basic Basque courtesy words like “Agur” for goodbye, “Egun on” for good morning, and many others that get used with Castellano here. Along with the Basque, Spanish also offers words that we maybe haven’t created in English. Sobremesa is a classic example. “Sobre” is about or around and “mesa” is table. That’s when you are at the table after you have finished lunch and you are chatting with family or friends. It can go on for as long or longer than the actual time to eat itself. Part of it is said to aide digestion but it is also a part of the social culture and norms. Not everything in Spanish will translate directly and studying in that country helps you really understand how vocab and phrases are used with cultural contexts.
It has been said, to really know Spanish, you need to think in Spanish. With simple phrases and responses, I would first think in Spanish. I wouldn’t just be translating. Even though classes purely in Spanish can be tough, I walk out of class sometimes thinking in Spanish. Maybe for a couple of minutes or until another student starts talking to me in English, but that is a big step for me. Without studying a foreign language abroad, my level of Spanish could not reach its full potential. Some days I struggle, but there are days here where not only my host parents and professors notice my progress, but I notice my progress. I’m obviously not a native speaker, but there are times that locals don’t think I’m a tourist and that is probably my favorite perk of studying Spanish while abroad.
The world awaits…discover it.