To Be Honest With You, I Am A Bit Overwhelmed – But That’s OK… I Think

It was 3 months ago today that I decided to learn some Spanish for my trip around Spain in the Summer.

I figured that if I was going to ride solo around Spain, then I had better be able to speak at least a few words.

Knowing a few phrases might be the difference between inadvertently biting into a steak sandwich or tucking into a vegetarian paella.

Having the words for “nearest”, “petrol”, “station” and “where” could also save me from an embarrassing “no go” biking situation.

And so I embarked on my journey to learn some Spanish recorded by posts to this blog.

The journey has been interesting, stimulating, challenging and quite enlightening.

But I find myself at the stage where it seems like effective communication is Spanish is an almost impossible distant dream.

A few things have compounded that.

First of all I hit the “Reflexive Verb Wall” after weeks of great progress with vocabulary and basic grammar.

Secondly, my real time conversation with my tutor reminded me just how different it is to speak Spanish live.

Thirdly, I tried to watch a Spanish TV crime drama streamed on the internet and was convinced they were speaking a dialect of Spanish I’d never encountered.

So with all those reference points I had this rush of overwhelm that it was never going to be possible to speak and understand Spanish.

The goal of effective communication seems just too far away.

And I wonder whether the effort of the last three months has been a waste of time.

When I create the flash cards and work through them it feels like I was making progress.

But then when faced with flesh and blood Spanish I can feel my brain lock up and overwhelm set in.

The theory of learning and the practicalities of application seem to be worlds apart.


I have some inside knowledge.

It’s one of those secrets that hides in plain sight.

And it is this:

This is part of the learning experience.

Yup. Feeling like it is all too much is NORMAL.

However, knowing that doesn’t make the feelings go away. Nor does it make them any more bearable.

The overwhelm and despondency is still there. But at least I know their presence is part of the journey.

The easy thing would be to give up. Which is what many do.

But that is because they don’t know they’ve reached an unavoidable milestone in their journey.

These feelings are to be expected because learning is about change.

I am taking my brain from the state of only being able to speak English to one that can still do that AND do something similar in Spanish.

That means my brain will have to change.

It will need to do different things. Things it can’t do right now. Because if it could, it wouldn’t need to change.

And change is never comfortable – certainly not for me anyway. But my experience with working with thousands of people in some form of developmental situation shows most people feel the same.

Funnily enough the brain will do all sorts of things to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

But that’s a mistake.

Because it’s on the edge of discomfort that progress is made.

What is uncomfortable and seems impossible today, will tomorrow feel like something we can do in our sleep.

Without this knowledge it would be easy to fall by the wayside.

But I am not going to let that happen… even though I feel it would be easier just to give up.

The secret is to persist in spite of those feelings.

…Even if I don’t feel like it.

Fortunately my desire to learn Spanish is sufficient enough (I hope) to see me through through this hurdle.

I’ve also got quite a lot invested in doing this so I can’t really afford to back out now.

….So let me go find una mujer española and dazzle her with some reflexive verbage!

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