And So My Trip To Spain Begins…

So I am finally on my way to Spain.

I have packed up the bike and have made my way down to Plymouth.

As I write this, I am on the Ferry which is heading south west towards the bay of Biscay and then onward to Santander.

This trip has been the motivation for learning to speak at least a little Spanish.

And here I am.

Out in the South Western Approaches, on a glorious July afternoon.

It seems a long time ago since I first decided to take the trip and then more importantly, commit to learning some Spanish.

How do I feel about my Spanish?

Well I still feel fundamentally unprepared.

But I suppose until I am completely fluent and understand every Spanish utterance I encounter, I will always feel unprepared.

And at the moment, I am far from that.

In the last few weeks i have let my efforts slip a little. The earlier momentum and progress I was making dropped off sharply. The main reason for this was a very heavy presenting and travel schedule for most of the last month.

The only thing I have been consistent with has been my daily Anki flash card review. Although even that has been a struggle sometimes. There have been at least a couple of occasions when I have let the review roll over to the next day.

That has meant a few days of frantic activity to try and catch up.

But the encouraging thing is that my recall of the words and phrases is still pretty good.

The system works.

In the early days, one of drivers that motivated me to keep on learning and experimenting was ŵriting about my experiences on this blog.

It had become something of a public accountability for me. The number of daily visitors is still small but nevertheless I felt a responsibility to continue sharing my experiences.

But unfortunately I had a few technical issues with my web hosting company that took the site down for about three weeks.

Combine that situation with a heavy workload and all of a sudden my efforts stuttered and almost came to a halt.

Despite The Challenges, I Still Feel Positive

Now it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

I have had a couple more excellent lessons with my italki tutor.

With my trip to Spain looming ever closer, the last two lessons have focused on a couple of important things.

First of all we had a really great lesson looking at useful phrases to help manage and make sense of conversations with Spanish natives.

I am determined not to resort to English when I encounter difficulties in Spanish and so needed to get some useful phrases under my belt.

As usual the lesson with my tutor was engaging, fun, stimulating but most important very practical.

Ahead of the lesson I had a bit of a brainstorm about the sort of thing I might need to say during aconversation where I might be struggling.

Here are just a few of the phrases we covered.

Useful Phrasese To Help Me Converse In Spanish

¿Cómo se escribe…?

This means “How is this written?” I thought this would be a useful phrase to help compensate for my current difficulty in hearing what is said clearly.

My ears are still tuning into the language. To me it often appears that individual words occasionally roll up into each other. This sounds like a continuous stream of consciousness with no breaks.

I figured if I can see it written down, it might help me understand it better.

[Note to self – must remember to have paper and pen ready otherwise this phrase becomes redundant.]

¿Cómo se dice xxxx en español?

Now this phrase is going to be useful when I come to the end of my vocabulary.

It means “How do you say XXXXX in Spanish?”

I figure this will be useful if I can see “XXXX” and can point at it. Or if I know my conversation partner speaks some English, I can always just insert the English word and hope for the best.

¿Cómo se deletrea…?

The verb deletrear means “to spell”.

If I don’t have a pen and paper with me, this simple question could be used in place of “¿Cómo se escribe…?”

¿Qué significa XXXXX?

As I have found when speaking to just about every Spanish speaking person I have met, they use words I don’t understand or know.

I make that distinction between knowing and understanding because sometimes they use an unfamiliar conjugation of a verb that I already know.

So being able to ask “what does XXXX mean?” Will really help.

Some More Useful Phrases

¿Qué significa eso?

This phrase is a variation on the previous phrase and will help me understand what “it” means. I am hoping that I will have already established what “it” is to use this phrase. Otherwise there might be a confusing few seconds of dialogue.

Who am kidding?

I expect just about every Spanish conversation I will have over the next few days will be a confusing few seconds of dialogue!

¿Hay otra palabra para…?

This phrase was suggested by my tutor and it means “is there another word for…?”.

I actually think she has greater faith in my abilities than I do. This is because at the moment I just have a huge sense of relief if there is a word I can use that is remotely relevant!

Why would I need more!

No sé lo que significa eso

Now here is a phrase that I am sure will become deeply engrained in my memory because I expect it will get a LOT of use. It means “I do not know what that means”.

Which I think I can apply to probably 99.5% of all Spanish at the moment.

No te he entendido

Similarly this one is a varation on the previous and means “I have not understood you”. I suppose that is a little bit more sophisticated than the basic “no entiendo”.

Phrases In Spanish About Spanish

But let’s stay positive and have high expectations of being able to deal with the unfamiliar. Again, these next few phrases are another example of the greater levels of confidence in my Spanish that my tutor has.

I never thought I would find myself even remotely equipped to discuss nuances of Spanish grammar IN SPANISH, but here are some phrases I could use.

They are based on the assumption that I have been able to hear, identify and repeat a word that I have not understood. That in itself will be an achievement I think!

¿es un verbo?

Is it a verb?

¿es un sustantivo?

Is it a noun?

¿Es masculino o femenino?

Is it masculine of feminine?

¿Cuál es el infinitivo?

What is the infinitive form?

So with all of that under my belt, I should be able to dissect and manage any conversation that goes off piste from the basic and limited vocabulary that I do know.

Well that is the theory anyway.

And just in case I start to get a little more confident with my abilities to communicate in Spanish, here are a handful of phrases that might also come in useful:

Por favor, perdóname por mi acento pero soy inglés y estoy aprendiendo español.

Please forgive my accent but I am English and I am learning Spanish

Perdona, ¿puedo practicar español contigo durante cinco minutos solamente?

Excuse me.  Can I practice Spanish with you for just five minutes?

Lo siento por el Brexit. Yo voté “no”.

I am sorry about Brexit.  I voted no!

And finally, given that I am exploring Spain on my own on my motorbike, here is a phrase I think will top the usage charts:

Estoy perdido. ¿Dónde está…?

“I am lost….where is”

Which sort of sums up where I am with my Spanish lol.

I will keep you posted about how it goes.

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