The other day I was relaxing in my apartment in Bogotá, Colombia with my boyfriend. He got up to go to another room prompting me to say in Spanish “Don’t go. Look at this video. It’s stupid, but funny.”
The words effortlessly flowed out of my mouth. To someone who has never tried to learn a language, those words about something as insignificant as a cat video might seem mundane, but there was a lot going on with syntax, vocabulary and verb conjugations.
I didn’t consciously think about changing the infinitive form of the verb “to go” to “you go” in Spanish since I was directing the command at my boyfriend. I didn’t get tripped up with the difference between “this video” and “that video” like I used to in Spanish class and I assigned the proper genders to the words describing “video.”
Living with my boyfriend who only speaks Spanish, playing soccer with Spanish speakers and living far from the expat community in Bogotá means I speak Spanish about 95 percent of the time. I’m not completely fluent and I still struggle for words and mess up grammar, but instead of trying to actively elevate my current level of Spanish, I’m taking on a third language – Italian.
It’s been less than a week since I began teaching myself this lovely language and I’m not going to lie – I’m pretty pumped. What gets me most excited is thinking about all the Spanish I know and recognizing if I work hard enough and practice, my Italian could be at the same level as my Spanish or even higher.
I don’t think I would have this same level of enthusiasm or positivity about learning Italian if I was a native Spanish and English speaker and never had to study a language. Plus, learning Spanish in school has given me a great foundation for being successful with Italian since they both originate from Latin and have similar grammar and syntax rules.
Being able to speak Spanish, even if it was at an intermediate level, made moving and starting my life over in Colombia so much smoother. Having a solid grasp on the basics of Spanish also made it a lot easier to improve because I could converse with locals, allowing friendships and romantic relationships to blossom. Not even being fluent, but at least knowing some Spanish, has opened professional and personal opportunities (re: meeting my handsome dude) while living in Colombia and made traveling to other Latin American countries more fulfilling because I could talk to people and learn about their culture. And now I want to reap those benefits in Italian.
My plan is to practice Italian at least one hour a day using Duolingo, Youtube videos and flashcards. Eventually I will seek out a language partner. I know learning a language takes dedication and practice. But it will all be worth it when I am able to casually invite someone to watch a cat video in three languages.