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¡Hola, chicos y chicas!

Have you learnt a lot of Spanish this week? Are you perhaps thinking that you would like to give a boost to your Spanish and take it to the next level? If that’s the case, I recommend you try out a Spanish immersion program abroad. In fact, today’s blog is going to help students interested in this kind of program pick a destination that suits their needs, and explain how to make the most of the trip. Let’s get started!

Length of stay

The first thing you want to consider if you want to study in a Spanish immersion program abroad, is how long would you would like the immersion to be. Most of us have busy lives and can’t afford to study abroad for six months, let alone a year. That’s why many people take part in immersion programs abroad for one or two weeks.

In my opinion, one week is great as an experience, specially if it is the first time you go abroad alone to study Spanish. You might end up with culture shock or find out that the place you chose doesn’t cater to your needs. Nevertheless, although one week is probably not enough to make a big difference in your Spanish, it can be a good first experience. I encourage everyone to try it at least once.

Now, if you want to see some progress, the minimum you should stay in an immersion program is two weeks. For students who want to go up a level, I recommend doing one month. However, students who are in the B2 level or a higher level would need more than a month to go up a level.

Location

Once the period of time you’d be staying has been decided, the next step is choosing the right place for your Spanish immersion program. When I say “the right place” I don’t mean to say that there are right or wrong places, but places in where you’ll learn better than others.

For example, I recommend going to a medium or small city instead of going to a big city. The reason for that is that in bigger and more cosmopolitan cities people usually speak English. Another factor to take into consideration is whether there’s a second official language where you want to go. This situation is not ideal because the environment where you would be wouldn’t be a 100% Spanish. I am from Barcelona, and I love my city, but Catalan is an official language there. It’s very present in the city and everyday’s life, so I always recommend that my students go to other cities in Spain where Spanish is the only official language.

Language

There’s a third and very important thing that you need to remember before you pick a destination for your study abroad program: the kind of Spanish you want to learn. Maybe you’d like to go to Spain because it’s in Europe, or maybe you want to go to Guatemala because it’s cheaper to study there.  Keep in mind that the kind of Spanish you will learn in every country has distinct characteristics, like the vocabulary and the pronunciation. In conclusion, if you want to learn, let’s say, Mexican Spanish; Mexico is the place to go, or perhaps you prefer a more neutral Spanish and may want to go to Bogota, Colombia.

I have more tips for you on what to do once you’ve made up your mind on a language school, but I will leave that for next week :). I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

¡Hasta la próxima semana!

Octavi

PS If you have attended a Spanish study abroad program, please fill out our form, which will help others find the right program for them. Thank you! Language Immersion Program Survey.

PBO teachers to share their favorite resources to learn Spanish!

Bienvenidos al blog una semana más,

Have you learned a lot of Spanish during the last week? I hope you did. As you know, coming to one or more of our conversational classes @ PBO is probably the best way to learn the language. However, there’s plenty of things you can do when you’re not in class to keep learning and improving your skills, even when you are not at PBO.

Out there, the amount of resources to learn Spanish is so big that it can be hard to find the best ones. In fact, it’s hard to determine what are the best resources, because every student is different and something that works for someone might not be ideal for someone else.

This week, we asked the PBO teachers to share their favorite resources to learn or to practice Spanish with us. Today we’re going to see half of them, and next week the other half. Here we go!

 

National Geographic – Adri

This is the official magazine of the National Geographic Society. It primarily contains articles about science, geography, history, and world culture. It has excellent and very assorted articles.

https://www.ngenespanol.com

 

Muy interesante – Gracia

“Muy interesante” is a monthly popular science magazine which deals with fun facts and current events, such as the development of nanotechnology, physics, biology, astronomy, genetics, neurosciences, new investigations and inventions, and world affairs. As the name says in Spanish, its articles are very interesting.

https://www.muyinteresante.es

 

XHUAN-FM (Fusión 102.5) – Susanna

A public radio station licensed to Tijuana, Baja California, owned by IMER (Instituto Mexicano de la Radio), Mexicos public radio network. Like the Public Radio stations in the United States, IMER presents a variety of discussion and music programs. It’s a good choice to listen to while driving.

https://www.imer.mx/fusion/

 

BBC Mundo – Susanna

BBC Mundo is the BBC’s service for the Spanish-speaking world. It is part of BBC World Service. The website offers news, information and analysis in text, audio and video.

https://www.bbc.com/mundo

 

Why Not Spanish – Vanessa

Cody and María want to help you improve your Spanish and get over the fear of actually using it in real life. They bring you tips, fun facts,  listening activities, and lessons.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIdFcLCIJQ_YMrormG_nU8w/featured

 

Easy Spanish – Vanessa

Their videos are subtitled in both Spanish and English, show local language and culture in natural, everyday situations, and mostly consist of street conversations with native speakers from Spanish speaking countries.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAL4AMMMXKxHDu3FqZV6CbQ/featured

 

Tapas de español – Vanessa

Short and entertaining videos about grammar explanations for Spanish learners of all levels.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUKlJas17MPjEkmt-94rSsap3Ntedy3sc

 

These are all the resources for this week. Perhaps you know some of them, but don’t worry if you didn’t find anything new, next week we’ll introduce more resources. Oh! And thank you PBO teachers for sharing them with us :).

 

¡Nos vemos la próxima semana!

 

Octavi

Por favor, háblame en español

¿Cómo están, estimados alumnos y alumnas?

This week we got the inspiration for the blog “Por favor, háblame en español” from one of our students. During class, this student was sharing with everyone how frustrating it is when all the people talk to him in English when he tries to speak Spanish in Mexico. I’ve heard similar stories from several students in some of my classes too. I completely understand the frustration students experience, and let me tell you, it happens to me too!

Sometimes I say something in Spanish to people who are speaking in Spanish, and they look at me as if they had seen an alien. Most of the time they look bewildered and hesitate before choosing a language in which to reply to me.  I would say that 80% of the time they choose English. Then they compliment me with this: your Spanish is really good! Usually I just say that I’m from Spain and then they switch back to Spanish before I have to say “Por favor, háblame en español.”

I had the same experience when I was living in South Korea, so I found a way to make Koreans talk to me in Korean.  I also came up with a trick or two in case my method didn’t work.

First, I made sure that the first sentences I would say before addressing someone were as grammatically correct as possible. Then I tried to pronounce them very well. I chose simple sentences, in that way I was able to say them pretty past, with confidence and with good pronunciation. I think it worked because Koreans couldn’t hear any English accent in my Korean, so they thought that I either spoke Korean so well that they could use Korean with me, or that I wasn’t an English speaker.

My method usually worked, but in some cases I got answers in English. What did I do then? I used one of my few tricks. Trick number 1 consisted of saying (in Korean): Sorry, I’m from Spain and I don’t speak English. ¿Do you speak Spanish? I used that trick for 5 years and nobody ever said they spoke Spanish, so they did not keep using English; except once or twice.

I remember a man who worked at the snack bar of a cinema I used to go to. He was very stubborn, and always talked to me in English, even though I kept speaking to him in Korean. That was the kind of situation where I used trick number 2. This trick consists of saying that you are a Spanish (it was Korean for me) student and that your assignment is to speak with a native speaker for 5 or 10 minutes. I love trick number two because people almost never refuse to help you. You can usually practice and ask questions freely, knowing they won’t switch to English.

I would also like to say that this is the perfect time to announce that the Pura Buena Onda pins are coming soon! Have you seen them on our Instagram or Facebook page? They say: “Por favor, háblame en español, soy estudiante de Pura Buena Onda”. What a great idea, right (thank you Jean E. for suggesting it!!)!? Now, when you wear the pin, people will see it and they will be more prone to talk to you in Spanish. They might even strike up a conversation in Spanish with you before you know it!

Muy bien, chicos y chicas. As always, I hope my little method and couple of tricks work for you. Give them a try, they always worked for me ;)

See you next week! ¡Nos vemos la próxima semana!

Octavi

Beating the presents out of the Shit Log. Yep. It’s a thing.

Hola, estimados alumnos :)

This week we’re going to take a break from common mistakes. Christmas is around the corner and I want to take this chance to let you know about a Catalan tradition that’s pretty weird and many of you might not know. This tradition is called “Caga tió”.

This tradition is only celebrated in Catalonia, and the name means “Shit log”, in Catalan. Yes, you have heard correctly. Why does it have this name? You might be wondering… What is this tradition about? You might be asking… Ok, let me explain it.

On the 8th of December, which is the Feast of Immaculate Conception, Catalan families put a “Caga tió” by the fireplace, or else they put in a corner of the living room with a blanket to keep it warm at night. Kids pamper the log and they “feed” it sweets and candy for two weeks. Then, on Christmas Eve, adults send the kids outside the room where “Caga tió” is, with sticks. The kids have to prepare the sticks for what’s going to happen next. In my case, we were sent out to the staircase and we had to rub the sticks on the steps of the stair to make them warmer. Afterwards, we were sent back in and then we started singing a song while we whipped the log with the sticks. This song is called “Caga tió”. When the song ends with a final cry of “Caga tió!”, kids check under the blanket, and they find the presents that the log has “shit”.

This operation is repeated several times, until the parents in the room say that the log has shit everything and there’s nothing else. The presents are usually candy, nothing big, and only kids are supposed to beat the log while singing the song “Caga tió”, which literally means “Shit, log!”.

I’ve always cherished this tradition and it was one of my favorite Christmas activities. However, when I started explaining it for the first time to my Korean students in Seoul, and while I saw how their faces muted into expressions of pure awe, I realized how scatological and kind of crazy this tradition is. I know that many of you will probably be shocked too after you read this, but… I love “Caga tió”! Ha, ha, ha!

Kate McKinnon, from Saturday Night Live, explains this tradition very well too. I will leave the link to the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=UjzkxcHPb9g

Also, for whoever might be interested in it, here are the lyrics to the “Caga tió” song (Remember this song is in Catalan, not Spanish):

 

Caga tió,

Tió de Nadal,

No caguis arengades,

Que són massa salades

Caga torrons

Que són més bons!”

 

Shit, log,

Log of Christmas,

Don’t shit herrings,

Which are too salty,

Shit nougats (turrón)

Which are much better!

 

Do you have a special Christmas tradition? Something that only you or your family does? Let us know in the comment section :)

 

Saludos a todos!

Octavi

Common errors made by Spanish language learners

¿Cómo están hoy? Espero que bien :)

During the past two weeks you have actively and positively responded to the blogs about common errors made by Spanish language learners. You have expressed how much you like to see this kind of topic, and I can’t deny the students what they want, so this week I’ll write about five more mistakes that students make when they are learning/speaking Spanish, this time related to prepositions. I hope you like it!

 

1 – “Salí la casa.” – I left the house.

This is incorrect because in Spanish, when we are leaving a place or exiting a place, if we want to use the verb “salir”, we need to say “salir de”:

“Salí de casa”

 

2 – “Pienso mucho sobre tu tía.” – I think a lot about your aunt.

The problem in the sentence above is, once more, the preposition. In Spanish, when we think about someone or something, we should say “pensar en”. You can also say “pensar sobre”, but that means something like to reflect on or to ponder. For example, “pienso sobre el sentido de la vida”, I think about the meaning of life. However, the example sentence should be:

“Pienso mucho en tu tía.”

 

3 – “Mi plan para el fin de semana depende en el tiempo que haga.” – My plan for the weekend depends on how the weather will be.

In this case, the preposition “en” is incorrect. We should always say “depende de”, and not “depende en”:

“Mi plan para el fin de semana depende del tiempo que haga.”

 

4 – “Tu computadora es similar de la mía.” – Your computer is similar to mine.

Again, the problem with the sentence is the preposition. In Spanish, we don’t say “similar de”, instead of “de” we should say “a”. Therefore, we would say this:

“Tu computadora es similar/parecida a la mía.”

 

5 – “Dependentemente de tu respuesta, haré una cosa u otra.” – Depending on your answer, I’ll do one thing or another.

Many students assume that since “depende” means depends, then depending will probably be “dependentemente”. I don’t really know where this comes from, but either way the correct translation for depending is “dependiendo”, and it is also used with the preposition “de”, like in “depende de”:

“Dependiendo de tu respuesta, haré una cosa u la otra.”

 

I hope this new entry has helped you find some mistakes you didn’t know you were making. Next week I’ll do something unrelated to common mistakes for a change, but in case you still want me to write more about this topic, let me know and I’ll continue doing this kind of blog in the future :)

¡Les deseo una buena semana!

Octavi

 

Check out our idioms and sayings on Twitter!

5 more common errors made by Spanish learners

 

Hola a todos :)

A couple of weeks ago I received some positive feedback about the blog regarding some of the common mistakes students make when they speak Spanish. By popular demand, this week we’ll look at more common mistakes that people who learn Spanish make:

1 – “Me gustaría preguntar una pregunta.” – I’d like to ask a question.

If we literally translate “to ask” and “question” in Spanish, it is “preguntar” and “pregunta”. However, we never say “preguntar una pregunta” because this expression is incorrect. We have a couple of options to express this in Spanish:

“Me gustaría hacer una pregunta.”
“Me gustaría preguntar algo.”

2 – “Mi hermana puede hablar español.” – My sister can speak Spanish.

In this example, the problem is “can”. When someone has learned something and has acquired a skill, like being able to play the piano, to speak another language or to surf, we should use the verb “saber” instead of “poder”. Thus, the sentence should be:

“Mi hermana sabe hablar español.”

3 – “Busco por mis llaves.” – I’m looking for my keys.

In this case, the mistake is attaching “por” to the verb. Many students translate “to look for” as “buscar por” (or “buscar para”), when “buscar” actually has the “for” built in. Buscar = To look for. The right way to say this is:

“Busco mis llaves.”

4 – “Mi madre es corta.” – My mother is short.

In Spanish, people are not short, people are “low” :). The correct way to express this is:

“Mi madre es baja.”

5 – “Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…Actualmente, no estoy seguro.” – I think I have bread in the house. Or maybe not…actually, I’m not sure.

The sentence above has a classic mistake. The word actually doesn’t translate as “actualmente”. It’s very misleading because it looks like a correct translation, but it’s not; it is a false cognate. “Actualmente” in Spanish means currently or nowadays. You have several options if you want to use the word actually when speaking Spanish, like “en realidad”, “en verdad” or “de hecho”:

“Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…En realidad, no estoy seguro.”

 

This is it for this week, everyone. I hope this blog entry helps you, and if you are still interested in a third installment of the mini series “common mistakes” (or another topic), let me know in the comments section for the blog on Facebook.

Besos y abrazos!

Octavi

 

If you missed last week’s post: 5 common errors Spanish learners make

Common errors made by Spanish learners

Hola, estimados [email protected] :)

This week I’d like to talk about some errors that most students make. These erros are very common, because they are caused by the fact that English is the mother tongue of most of the Spanish learners that come to PBO. The problem is that students might not know that some structures that are correct in English, can’t be used exactly in the same way in Spanish. Let’s look at some of those mistakes:

,

1 – “La semana que viene estoy yendo a casa de mis padres.”

Next week I’m going to my parent’s house.

The sentence above in Spanish is not correct. In Spanish we only use the Present Continuous/Progressive (for example; I’m talking, you are sleeping, she is going) when the action is taking place in the present time. Therefore, using it for future actions is a mistake and we should avoid it. To express future actions, we have two options in Spanish:

“La semana que viene voy a ir a casa de mis padres.”

“La semana que viene iré a casa de mis padres.”

,

2 – “Después de tomé café fui a trabajar.”

After I had coffee I went to work.

In the case above, the problem is the conjugation of the verb “to have” in the past tense. In Spanish, verbs are never conjugated when they come after the words before (antes de) or after (después de), or any preposition for that matter, regardless of the time in which the action takes place. Instead, we use the non conjugated form of the verb:

“Después de tomar café fui a trabajar.”

,

3 – “Mañana tendré el desayuno y pasearé.”

This time, the problem is the fact that we are using the verb “to have” with a meal. In Spanish we don’t “have meals,” we have verbs that express the action of having breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Thus, we can use just one verb to express that. This is what you should say:

“Mañana desayunaré y pasearé.”

,

4 – “Me levanté a las 7 en la mañana.”

The mistake we see here is a small one, but I realized it’s hard to fix the habit of using it. Try to remember that in Spanish we never say “en” after a certain hour and before a time of the day. We should always say “de”:

“Me levanté a las 7 de la mañana.”

,

5 – “Lo siento, estoy tarde.”

When students are late to class, they usually say this. However, that is not the correct way to express that we are late. In Spanish, we are not late, we “arrive” late. Besides, in most cases we shouldn’t use the present tense once we get to a place, and we say that we are sorry for being late. We already “arrived”, so we use the past tense:

“Lo siento, llegué tarde.”

,

You probably know some of these mistakes, and I know it’s hard not to make them when we are talking. Try to challenge yourself to get used to not making one or two of the things we’ve looked at here today, and slowly you will not make those mistakes. In my opinion, the point is to pick only one or two and work on fixing the habit of saying those wrong. Over time, you’ll get used to saying them correctly, and then you can work on one or two other common mistakes. One step at a time, my friends! :)

,

Un abrazo a todos!

Octavi

PS Join us on Twitter for sayings/expressions/idioms in Spanish!

Our in-house polyglot shares his language learning routine!

¿Cómo están hoy, queridos alumnos?

For several weeks, I have written about how I learned the languages that I speak. The time has come to share with you the different things I do to to keep my language skills fresh. I’ll be honest; once you decide to learn a language, it is pretty similar to going to the gym: you need to keep exercising, or else you get “out of shape”. Therefore, when you speak a language, you have to commit to it and practice regularly. In my opinion, you’re basically adopting a new lifestyle, as that practice becomes part of your life.

The next few things are strategies or techniques that I use that work for me. Some of them might not work for you, or you might not like them. Hopefully, you will like some of them and try them out, if you aren’t already doing so. Ok, here we go!

 

1 – Speak at least one hour a week

This is essential. I make sure I speak French, Italian, Japanese and Korean every week. I speak English at home all the time and Catalan and Spanish at PBO. If you are busy and can only do one thing, speak for one hour or even just 30 minutes every week. A little bit is better than nothing.

By the way, be sure to listen carefully to the native speaker you’re talking with. You learn by speaking, but also by listening. Pay attention to the expressions they use, the sentence order, the filler words, etc. You learn a lot by listening. Oh, and repeat corrections!

 

2 – Read books

I like reading, and I like reading in foreign languages even more because you also learn and practice at the same time. When I read, I look up one or two words that I don’t know and I write them in the last page of the book, which is usually blank. When I read the book the next time, I review the list of words in the last page before starting.

Make sure you pick “useful” words, meaning: words that you have seen several times while reading the book, words that seem important, etc. You shouldn’t try to understand every word, because you will end up forgetting all of them and not reading at all. Just getting the core of the story is enough. Now since understanding the story is vital, you should pick a book in which you understand 70% or 75% of what you read, at least.

 

3 – Watch TV

Nowadays we are lucky to have services like Netflix that provide countless shows and movies in several languages. I love watching Netflix. I watch shows in the languages I learn and also American shows dubbed in foreign languages. In case you like a show from the US, why not watching it dubbed? Obviously, the original version is always better, but you could enjoy a program that you love and want to see, and learn Spanish at the same time.

Also, put the subtitles in the matching foreign language. This enables you to learn new words and to get used to the pronunciation and even the normal speed at which natives speak while having the support of the written dialogue.

 

4 – Listen to podcasts or Youtube videos

When I go to sleep I put my earphones on and I choose a video on Youtube. It usually is a video in which someone speaks constantly, like an audiobook in Japanese, or a speech in Korean about China’s economy.

This is the best moment in the day to do it, because everything is quiet and I can focus in what I’m listening to. Since I’m not reading any subtitles, I also practice my listening comprehension. Always make sure to choose something you like, for it is hard to focus, at least for me :)

 

These four things are what I do on a weekly basis. Sometimes I don’t feel like reading and sometimes my teachers have to cancel our hourly conversation class. Reading and watching TV are not super important to me, but conversation is. That’s why when one of my teachers is unavailable one day, I try to find another day or time in the same week to talk with them. You know what I always say: consistency and speaking are the most important factors when learning a language.

 

Besos y abrazos

Octavi

 

For the last month, our in-house polyglot Octavi, has been sharing his language learning journey with us. He told us about the seven languages that he learned, but there was one he didn’t mention. Today he shares that experience with us:

 

Bienvenidos al blog una vez más :)

Today the blog is going to be about the language I studied for several years but I don’t speak.
That language is German. Let’s get started and see why I don’t speak it despite years of study.

How did it Start

Those of you who have been reading my blogs will probably remember how I got interested in the Japanese language. A similar thing happened with German. My Dad decided to go back to learning German, (he and my mum met in a German class!) so there were a bunch of notes and books in German in the house. My dad also spent some time watching German TV during the weekend, so I got curious and decided to add German to my list of languages.

Four Years in College

Some of you might also remember that I studied Translation and Interpretation in Barcelona. All the students were required to choose two foreign languages. Mine were French and German. The first one had to be a language that we already knew, and the second one could be any language we wanted, as we would learn it from scratch and throughout the fours years of college.

I studied German for a long time. What I was taught in the classroom wasn’t enough for me, though, so I tried to be active in the learning process, and looked for language exchange partners. I did all I’ve always done to learn a new language: be consistent, read books, watch TV, find language exchange partners, etc. But this time it didn’t work.

What went wrong? Why didn’t I learn how to speak German?

First of all, I realized that I wasn’t really interested in the countries where German is spoken, or its culture. I think it’s fundamental to be interested in something beyond the language itself, otherwise we don’t have the motivation to learn. Furthermore, I might have been unlucky, but the three German language exchange partners I had were boring and not very talkative. I wasn’t looking forward to meeting with any of them at all; ha, ha, ha!

The couple of things I’ve mentioned above were the biggest reasons why I gave up on German. To me, no matter how big a language is, how useful, how necessary it might be in the future, etc… If I’m not interested in something beyond the language, I know I’m not going to learn it. Why didn’t I learn Mandarin instead of Korean or Japanese? I’m just not as interested in Chinese culture, music, or its TV shows as I am with other cultures and their offerings.

So, you see, when you choose to learn a new language, you need something that keeps you motivated and excited about learning it throughout the years, otherwise you will probably give up.

All right, everyone; next week I’ll write again, and this time I’ll tell you how I practice the languages I speak and some of the techniques I use!

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

Pura Buena Onda is a Spanish language school for adults, that uses an organic, conversational approach to teaching Spanish.

For the last few weeks our in-house polyglot Octavi, has been telling us the stories of how he came to be a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English, French, Italian, and Japanese. Today Octavi will tell us about his journey with Korean, his 7th language.

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola a todos!

This week it’s Korean, everybody! This is the last language I learned. I started back in 2006, and like with most of the other languages I speak, I never thought I would seriously learn it.

The Beginning

It all started during my first trip to Japan in 2006. I was walking down the street and in one of the big TV screens scattered around the city, I saw a pop music video sung by a young girl. I looked for the singer online because I liked the song. Later, I found out she was not Japanese, but Korean. Apparently, the song I liked was the first song she had released in Japanese, and it was called ‘Number one’. The singer’s name was BoA (yes, written like that).

I was very curious about her, and I wanted to hear her previous songs in Korean, so I looked for videos on Youtube. I liked the music videos and the songs I discovered, and it made me want to learn more about Korea and its language. With time, I found other singers, other songs, and I even started watching South Korean soap-operas and movies. I liked them, and what I liked the most was the fact that people in Spain didn’t know anything about South Korea, so it became unique and special in my eyes. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but one thing led to another and, after some hesitation, I decided to meet a Korean girl living in Barcelona to start a language exchange.

I still don’t know exactly why, but I was increasingly fascinated with the language. As I said before, the fact that everything Korean was so unknown in Spain made learning about the language and the culture so much cooler. Nowadays things are different, and Spaniards know a lot more about Korean culture, but not back then.

First Contact

2009 was the year I finally traveled to South Korea. I loved it! My first impression was that people were friendly, energetic, boisterous and generous. I didn’t see many westerners, which I liked, and the food was good and cheap; perfect combination! I met a lot of people in only one month, and when I tried to say things in Korean everyone was very encouraging… the country reminded me of Japan, but it was not like Japan. I guess what I’m trying to say is like saying that Spain, France or Italy are similar but different. They are European countries and share some characteristics, but aren’t the same country, obviously. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, Before the trip was over, I changed the plan I had in mind: instead of trying to live in Japan, I would try to live in South Korea. I still liked Japan, but I knew it was going to be easier to find an exchange program that would allow me to study in Seoul, given that most students wanted to go to Japan, and the concurrence was fierce. At that time, There was a Postgraduate degree in Barcelona called ‘Asian Studies’ that offered yearly exchanges to students in mainly two countries: Japan and China. As I said before, most of the students wanted to go to Japan, or China; but only a few knew there were spots for Korea, and those spots were not even filled! That fact made it even easier for me to choose Korea over Japan for my year abroad. I remember how excited I was when I left Barcelona in August of 2010 with another exchange student to live in Seoul for one year. It was a dream come true, and maybe the last time I was going to be able to live abroad.

One Year becomes Five Years

My first year was amazing. I enrolled in an immersion program provided by the University of Foreign Languages of Seoul. The classes were from Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm. All the classes were in Korean and only in Korean, even for total beginners, and they worked! I was lucky enough to get an extension and my year became two years, so I attended the Korean immersion program for a year and half. I completed all the levels and even a special level added for students interested in advanced Korean. We were only fours students in the final advanced level: three Chinese students and me.

I consider myself to have been extremely lucky to have been in such a program for so long when I already was 30 years old. I would advise anyone to take a chance, if they can, and enroll in a language immersion program. It doesn’t need to be one year, it can only be a week, or a month; it is such a great experience and you learn so much…

However, before the second year went by, a friend of mine asked if I could work in a Spanish academy for some days. They needed teachers and I needed money, so I said yes. Within a few weeks, the academy owner asked me if I would like to work with them full time, and he said that they would provide the necessary visa for me to stay in the country. Indeed, they did, and I ended up working in that academy for three years.

Five Years in another Country

Thanks to the being so many years in South Korea, I was able to learn Korean pretty well. However, just living for a long time in a country doesn’t automatically turn you into a good speaker of the language spoken there. I have met foreigners in Seoul who had been there for years and were not able to put a simple sentence together in Korean. Being there clearly helped me learn the language, but you also need to make an effort and talk, meet people and talk, just talk, talk, talk.

When the immersion program was over, I tried to meet up with a Korean friend at least once a week to practice the language. I read books in Korean, watched Korean TV, etc…I also spoke to one of my bosses in Korean, and to people in shops. When someone tried to speak in English with me, I lied and I said that I was from Spain and that I couldn’t speak English. I don’t think anybody believed that, but hey, who is going to say: ‘that can’t be! A Westerner living abroad who doesn’t speak English? You are lying!’ Hahaha! So they spoke in Korean with me :)

Conclusion

By now, you all know what you need to do to learn Spanish, right? Hehehe… Speak! Not being in Mexico or Spain shouldn’t be a great obstacle to learn. Also, read a lot in Spanish and watch Netflix shows or whatever TV shows you might like, provided they are in Spanish.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed my story! I still want to share one more story next week; my experience with a language that I learnt for four years but I don’t speak! The mysterious language will be revealed next week!

Hasta pronto!

Octavi :)

PS Since I left Korea I have been practicing with somebody on the phone for at least one hour a week. First, I did it with a friend, and now I do it with a teacher called Hoyeon :)

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian & Japanese, check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/