The Immersion Factor By Erin Golden

Erin Golden is a sophomore at Ohio University majoring in Journalism and minoring in Spanish. Erin is currently studying in Toledo, Spain.

In my first grammar class, my professor asked me how long I had been studying Spanish. My answer? Seven years. My thoughts? Wow, seven years is a heck of a long time. Just as soon as I had realized just how long seven years is, it also came to mind just how much I had actually learned. Before arriving in Toledo, I would have said I had learned quite a bit. However, after being shoved into Spanish culture head on it became clear just now little the classroom had prepared me.

When I first got here, (and realize, this was only about a week ago) I conjugated every word in my head before speaking and translated my host mom’s sentences in order to understand her. Yet a few nights ago at dinner, my host brother said to me, “You are speaking better than you were on Sunday when you got here.” I was happily surprised and pleased. If only a week had improved my speaking, what would three months accomplish? At first I thought that this was ridiculous. How could I have improved in less than a week here?

I was immersed into Spanish culture, my ears taking in the rapid sounds of the language every morning on my walk to class and in every store the girls and I have been in shopping. Dinner table talk consists of me sharing my day, and my host brothers correcting me when I make a grammar mistake, or teasing me when I correct it myself first. I’ve caught myself thinking in Spanish right before I fall asleep, or starting an email to my grandparents with “Hola…”

There starts to become no separation between the language and the culture, and there’s no way to just stand at the edge of the pool and dip your toes to see if it’s too cold. The only option is to take a running start (dangerous, I know) and cannon ball right in.

I love this beautiful, romantic language and that’s why I have taken so much time to study it. By the time I leave Toledo in April, I’m hoping to proudly call myself a fluent Spanish speaker.

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