Speaking Spanish in Guatemala

I read Linguistics as an undergraduate and spent a year studying Language Acquisition i.e How we learn languages. British people are famous for not bothering to learn languages or proclaiming that they are not very good at languages. I have always disliked this island mentality or the arrogance of the old empire …… and inspired by my mother (a passionate language teacher) I sought to learn the languages of the countries close to mine.

First I went to Berlin, then Paris and finally Antigua after acquiring a few Spanish friends along the way. I was always the foreigner who managed to have local friends …….. why? Not because I was particularly great at learning languages but I was always motivated to try to communicate with people in their own language. People like this. Contrary to what people like to think, we are ALL capable of learning languages the main decider is MOTIVATION.

You have to feel a little silly and swallow your pride but it is worth it in the end. After 7 years here I can now make people laugh in Spanish and express my emotions and frustration and almost be myself. I am not as eloquent of course but people like me in Spanish!! so I must be doing ok. I now have friends with whom I only speak Spanish and I truly feel close to them and even manage to chat on the telephone …….. the hardest!

I am lucky that my husband has a large circle of Spanish speaking friends, not all of them living here ……. some in Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Spain. We visit them, they visit us and they have accepted me and my bad Spanish with a lot of love and affection as I am the love of their great friend.

When I met my husband I could hardly speak Spanish and he was the one making all the effort. Now we are slowly changing to the perfect model for a bilingual family he speaks Spanish to me and the children and I speak English. We are in our comfort zone but we are always learning.

Over the years my husband has met a lot of my English speaking friends and although he manages he is not always comfortable speaking English especially in a large crowd. Also, at times he quite rightly says. I am in my country and these people have been living here for years and speak Spanish so why do they never bother to speak Spanish to me. I think he sees it as a lack of respect to his country and culture and ultimately himself.

Why do people think it is ok stop bothering? Is it not rather an imperialist attitude?

Please friends try to speak Spanish with my husband. I know you can. He will feel much more comfortable and you may find yourself even enjoying talking to him. He is a VERY interesting man when you bother to speak to him in his own language!

You should still keep bothering. Building bridges and connecting with people is vital for multicultural relationships. We should set this example for our families, our friends and our children.

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