English: A Global Language and a Spanish Learner's Crutch

Emma Ropski
October 23, 2015

English is everywhere here.

It’s on advertisements, on the radio, at the movies, and even on t-shirts (my recent favorite read “Let me ask my mom first”). There are students, travelers, tourists, and workers here from all over Europe and all over the world, so often the common and connecting language is English. It’s a huge economic and social boost to know. Even if one’s reason is simply to have an easier time traveling, knowing English offers one more freedom and access to opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s no wonder, then, that for many people here in Barcelona, both locals and immigrants alike, English learning is a diligent, often self-taught, practice, a way of thinking, and almost a way of life.

My BCC is studying for a really hard English exam that’s so advanced, I’m not even sure how to answer some of the questions in her practice book. My intercambio partner tells me she wishes she could be in my situation and speak English all day, everyday for a few months. A lady I met in my apartment elevator wants to pay me to come over every once in awhile to chat in English with her. The man who hosted a cooking workshop asked if anyone would come over once a week to speak English to his young kids. We even got an email from a professor asking if anyone wanted to get paid to talk with his son in English each week. We are halfway through the semester now and as part of the CORE (Continuing Orientation and Reentry) training we reviewed the goals we made for ourselves at the beginning of the semester.

One goal I had (and still have) is to improve my Spanish conversation skills. As I explained, everywhere around me are reminders of my native culture and language as well as prompts and requests to share it. Many times people have replied to my Spanish in English or handed me an English menu when I ask for one in Castellano. Strangers have even come to help in conversations I’ve had with cashiers because so many people know English. Looking at it from their perspective, even though it’s good to help me learn, efficiency and clarity in communication is often the name of the game. 

So being immersed here is tougher than one might expect when you’re regularly surrounded by a comforting language in a foreign place, and people from all sides want to speak English so earnestly. I have put myself in situations to practice my Spanish through multiple avenues: my homestay, my intercambio, my internship at the hospital, group exchanges, “Spanish-only” dates with friends, my phone and Facebook language settings, and listening to music. So though I do do a lot, I want to recommit myself to my goal, and pledge to avoid naturally falling back into English when it is so easy to do so. Though surrounded by totally different contexts, I want to use the English students here as my language-learning role models and strive to get even close to the excitement and diligence they invest in their daily practice.

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Emma Ropski

<p>Hi all! My name is Emma Ropski and I&#39;m a senior sociology and psychology major at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I am a middle distance runner on the track and field team there and love it to bits. My interests include the sociological imagination, thrifting, lifting, daytime judge shows, and gorditas. I am so excited to share my study abroad experience in Barcelona with you!</p>

2015 Fall
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