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  • Writer's pictureChris

Refreshing your Language Skills for a Trip

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

I’m off to Spain!

I’ll be heading on my first holiday abroad since pre-COVID times shortly and I’m very much looking forward to it. It’ll be a great chance to relax, get my yearly dose of vitamin D and explore some new culture.

It’s also made me consider where I need to top up my spoken Spanish. Spending a long time using English almost exclusively in my daily life, it’s inevitable there will have been some drop-off in my Spanish, but that should come back fairly quickly once I’m over there. That being said, there are some specific weaknesses that I’ve thought about and decided to address over the last couple of weeks. I thought I’d write this blog in case other translators had any concerns about revisiting one of their source languages again now that COVID travel restrictions are easing.

The first challenge I realised, perhaps surprisingly, was that my knowledge of Spanish food vocabulary left a little to be desired. For those who don’t know, the Spanish-speaking country I’ve spent by far the most time in is Cuba, and their food is a) different, and b) often has different names even when it is the same. To rectify this, I’ve looked up a handful of Spanish menus and food lists, taken the words I’m not confident with, added them to a flashcard app, and started to revise a little bit every day.

The next challenge was going to be the local accent. I’m going to Andalucía where the accent is quite distinct from other parts of Spain, particularly the so-called ‘standard’ of Madrid. On top of that, as I said, I have more exposure to Cuban Spanish which has different pronunciation again. In order to accustom myself better to the local accent, I downloaded a local radio app and started listening in a few times a day as I went about my housework or admin. This has the added advantage of picking up on any local news stories that might explain things going on around the city when I arrive.

Now, despite my best preparations, I’m sure there will still be occasions where I misunderstand the odd thing or forget the word I’m looking for - but that’s fine! We do it in our first languages often enough, so it would be too much to expect perfection in our second, third or fourth languages. The most important thing is surely to give it a go and soak the language in as you go along, and that’s what I’m planning to do on my short break.

It’d be great to read about how you prepare for trips when you’re going to have to use a different language in the comments!

Oll an gwella,


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