I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who hasn’t thought “I wish I could speak another language” at some point in their life. Well, I was the same! I used to think about how cool it would be to talk without other people understanding. Or how amazing it would be to have a friend from another country. Now that I speak a second language at a very functional level I love it. To be honest with you, learning Spanish has helped me in ways I never thought it could. I’ve seen some changes in myself and others have too.
Here are three of the biggest changes I have noticed in myself from learning Spanish:
My social life has changed dramatically since learning Spanish. As an 18-year-old, my social life consisted of going out to a bar, later to a night club, a brief visit to a kebab shop and then a long stumble or a short taxi home. That lasted until around the time I turned 22. That was my social life back then. It’s quite sad to look back on it, to be honest. The amount of money I must have spent on pints, shots, and Jaegerbombs in my youth is incredible. However, that was the culture that surrounded me. There weren’t many people my age not hitting the pubs and clubs. Everybody was everybody’s friend; they were all drunk. But these friendships aren’t real. There’s only so much that one can say over a DJ set.
Now you may think, “How has learning a language changed your social life?” The truth is, it gave me one. Most of the closest friends I have now are Spanish. Many don’t even speak a word of English. We go out for coffee, for walks, have meals, and most importantly; we talk! In Spanish of course!
I now live in Spain, so these changes were easy to me. However, they definitely started before I arrived here. I began to speak to many Spanish speakers online. I was learning about the culture directly from them.
Roughly a year ago, I had no confidence at all. I was a university drop-out. I had a dead-end job. I had little to no close friends. I spent most of my time behind a computer screen, wasting my time (and money) on computer games. I was a complete recluse.
There is one thing you have to realise if you want to start learning a second language; it doesn’t happen overnight. You are going to need time, and that time needs to come from somewhere else. I made the great decision of cutting back on my time playing computer games. I love them, but there are certainly better ways to spend your time.
For someone who didn’t communicate much with anybody, other than teammates in Counter Strike, learning a new language was hard. I started off in a group class. There I had to talk in front of other people, most of them older than me and with no common interests. I lasted the first term, and I completely gave up on learning Spanish. Another failed attempt at learning a language. Come March 2015; I found Benny Lewis’ TEDx Talk. Of course, the way he spoke about language learning had me hooked. I wanted to follow his advice, but it was remarkably difficult for me.
The first part of his course involved uploading videos of yourself speaking in a new language. I could hardly talk to my parents, let alone post a video of myself in a forum, and look for a Spanish speaker to converse with. Well, from somewhere I managed to muster some confidence and do it. I followed Benny’s Speak from Day 1 approach rigorously from then onwards.
Speaking with strangers, in a foreign language gave my confidence a much-needed boost. I started to believe in myself. I could see myself improving. I felt much happier!
Now, I am no longer the introvert I once was. I can make jokes with strangers I meet on the street, in Spanish! I don’t avoid basic social interactions. I love talking now!
This is the most surprising change I have noticed in myself since starting to learn Spanish. I suppose it ties into the change in my social life and confidence too. The best thing is, it’s not just me that has noticed this shift, others have too. I believe that when you learn a new language your personality changes. I think this happens because each language has a different way to express itself. The people are different, they have diverse backgrounds, cultures, and even the weather can change a person’s personality.
When I’m speaking Spanish, there is happiness that I feel that I don’t have in English. Many of my friends say I’m much more serious when they see me speaking in English. I often crack jokes when I talk in Spanish, or tell rude rhymes. These are things that I don’t feel we have in English.
I also think that coming from Scotland; I was born with an innate pessimism. In Scotland, we are always moaning about something. Whether it be bad weather, good weather, the English, or the price of a pint, we always find something to get our chins wagging.
That pessimism seems to go when I am speaking in Spanish. As babies, we learn everything from out surrounds. We learn how to behave, how to speak, how to laugh, how to cry. We take everything in. Our environment moulds us. Well, I think it’s the same, albeit to a lesser degree when you learn a second language. The general personalities of the native speakers rub off on you. As a by-product of learning the language from them, you also learn their mannerisms too.