I have often heard of people moving overseas and after a few months, bang, they are fluent in a new language. I had high expectations moving to Spain. I figured I would return to my home university bilingual and have a Spanish major on my résumé. HA.
Let’s clear things up first:
The Basque Country, El País Vasco, and Euskadi each mean the same thing. The Basque Country is the name in English. El País Vasco is the name in Spanish. Euskadi is the name in the native language. I will refer to the region as the Basque Country to avoid further confusion.
Now in the Basque Country, they speak Euskara (the native language) or Castilian (Spanish). When wandering around the Basque Country, you often see Spanish or Basque and the two languages are nowhere near close to each other.
If you think this is all confusing, wait to you see how they spell. They sound NOTHING like they look (obviously from a foreigner’s point-of-view).
So far in my three months here, I have noticed many of the current inhabitants of this region are simply Basque. I have yet to meet many people who were born elsewhere in Spain and moved to this region. So naturally, locals are very prideful of their culture and language. Not many speak English.
So, again, how to not learn Spanish while in Spain:
1) Live in the Basque Country: I cannot say you won’t learn Spanish at all, but I haven’t learned Spanish. Like many countries that share a common language, different phrases are used for different situations, different dialects, etc. Or there is Spanglish, which is a blend of Spanish and English. I would compare this region to Spanglish, but Basque+Spanish= Basish. Yes, Basish.
For example, people do not say “adios” here as we learned in our high school/college textbooks. They say “agur.” And for those of you who do not know what adios means, you are obviously not from the Southwest.
The fact that locals say “agur” is not a big deal, I know. The Basque language is hard to learn and is very different from Spanish making it discouraging. I find myself not wanting to speak at all.
*Disclaimer: I love the Basque Country and think EVERYONE should come visit this gorgeous region of Spain.
2) Live with Americans: I figured this was obvious so I opted to live with locals. That backfired when my roommates turned out to never come home.
3) Travel outside Spain: Other countries in Europe do not speak Spanish. Clearly. If you did not know, I don’t know how you even read this far.
Thankfully I have traveled mainly throughout Spain, but when I did go to Portugal, I obviously did not speak Spanish. It slipped a few times though, I’ll admit.
4) Tell someone you speak English: Because they will ONLY want to speak English. My program sets each student up with an intercambio, or a language partner. He/she is a local who speaks the language and you meet anywhere from once-a-week to once-a-month to practice your Spanish. Surprise! She only wanted to speak English.
It’s mainly the younger generation wanting to speak English with you, but I cannot limit the age group. But seriously, guests at hostels, foreigners at the Erasmus parties (all study abroad students from around Europe), students at our school, the boy I tutor’s mom…
You will lose all chances of speaking English when you introduce yourself as a native English speaker. Just pretend you don’t know any language and they will help you with your Spanish.
- Soccer in heals and cultural differences (kristiatkinson.wordpress.com)
- Lost in the Basque Countryside (kristiatkinson.wordpress.com)