By Michael Peterson
This past Wednesday was the exact mid-point in the semester abroad here in Chile. I think for all of us in the group, when we look back at when we first landed in Concepción and how we struggled to communicate with our host families, and our hesitance to go out alone or without any of our buddies, we can appreciate how much we have changed and grown more comfortable with living here, with speaking Spanish, and with communicating on our own.
We all arrived here in Concepción with different levels of Spanish proficiency, some of us with a few Spanish classes, some with maybe one or two, all at different places with the language. But, these past two and a half months have made all of us put English aside and give Spanish our best go, to learn a language through exposure and practice, through speaking with native Spanish speakers and with others still learning the language.
This is the idea behind the group in Concepción known as CosmoPolíglotas, a group of people living in Concepción who want to practice their language skills with others doing the same. This group meets every Friday near the center of Concepción to just talk. A few hours every week, people who speak German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and English come to the bar CosmoPolíglotas has chosen for the week. We interact with each other, practice whatever language we want (for me I usually speak in Spanish while those I talk to speak in English) and we help each other.
For me, aside from learning about a different culture and having an experience abroad that I would remember for the rest of my life, I came to Chile to improve my Spanish. Halfway in, I can say for sure that I have improved and become more confident speaking with others in Spanish. Less and less I have to ask someone to repeat themselves, and more and more I feel like I can have a conversation with a native Spanish speaker without having to think about my words. Spanish being more instinctual, building a vocabulary, and losing at least a little of my gringo accent have been some of my goals this semester.
One of the major steps I took to improve my Spanish was – of course – speaking with native speakers and being away from English as much as possible. Meeting friends through the University and through CosmoPolíglotas has helped me tremendously to become more confident in speaking Spanish.
With the two and half months that I have left here in Chile, other than travelling and seeing all the amazing and beautiful places here, I hope to come back to the US feeling like I did everything I possibly could have done to improve my Spanish.
And as of right now, I feel like I am on track to do exactly that.