When I decided I wanted to go abroad to Barcelona, I didn’t really stop to consider the fact that my Spanish is minimal at best. I figured I’d see if I got into the programs I applied for, and figure it out then. Well “then” kind of snuck up on me, and here I am in Barcelona. I figured I’d pick up some Spanish just by being in Spain, and I am, but very slowly.

The language barrier has given me a new appreciation for the ease of communication between people who speak the same language. On my (slow) learning curve, I’ve had to come up with a few alternate methods. Sometimes if someone just doesn’t understand me, I’ll give up and speak in English, and oftentimes that just leaves everyone more confused. Sometimes I’ll incorporate elaborate hand gestures, or accidentally speak Spanglish. My Spanglish has a bad habit of getting confused with my even worse French, and I end up speaking in some tongue that would leave the originators of the Romance languages sure that human society was at an end.

Yesterday, on my lunch break at work, I walked the streets for a little while trying to find a good, cheap place to eat. I love Asian food, so when I saw a restaurant called Udon I figured that was a good bet for lunch. It was a little pricey, so even when walking into the restaurant I was debating my decision. I went up to the lady at the counter and tried to order, and then tried to ask something about the lunch specials and whether or not they take credit cards, and she looked at me like an alien had just walked into the restaurant (which, in a way, is exactly what happened). Instead of trying to rephrase my questions into actual words, I got flustered and left, leaving a trail of “gracias” and “lo siento” behind me.

I went to Udon again today for lunch and actually had a successful meal. Maybe if I had looked at the menu a little longer yesterday I would have figured out that “ramen pollo” really isn’t all that hard to say. Thankfully, I have Spanish classes for four hours a day all of next week. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll be able to expand my vocabulary. I feel like I’m doomed to be the dreaded American tourist, no matter what precautions I take otherwise. Hopefully by the end of next week I will be a sunburned American tourist who can keep up a conversation in Spanish!


By Kelly Greacen
Boston University