In Sevilla, Spain they know that you’re a tourist because you’ve ordered the sangria. “You see, in Sevilla we drink beer and Cruzcampo is our local brand” is what my flamenco guitar teacher told me. “Don’t eat any meals near Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See – and when you go the bullfight, you must visit El Baratillo to meet locals for drinks beforehand.”
One of the best experiences I’ve had, was a long trip to Sevilla to learn flamenco guitar at a local flamenco school. I stayed in town for two weeks and the daily classes were conducted entirely in Spanish. Outside of class, I hung out with some amazing locals and people from all over the world that shared a passion for flamenco and for the Spanish lifestyle. What made the trip so memorable, besides learning a new guitar style, was connecting with so many people in Spanish. For the first time in my life, I was immersed in the Spanish language and that’s when I realized what it felt like to truly connect with a culture and a new group of people on a deeper level.
Aside from Spanish guitar styles, I am fascinated by the cultures of Spain, South America, and Mexico. I am drawn to the foods, music, lifestyles, politics, history, and people of each place, and I especially enjoy learning about what makes each culture unique. One of my favorite things to learn about is the different slang used across cultures. If you’re my good friend in Peru I’ll call you ‘pata’, in Columbia you’re my ‘parcero’ and in Mexico you can use ‘güey’. It seems like a lot of work, but making friends from different Spanish speaking places is that much more fun when you can use the words they actually prefer.
I am planning a few trips to Buenos Aires, Medellín, and Valencia in the years ahead and I know that my Spanish speaking abilities will only help me make the most of these trips. If we’re able to travel this year, I would also love to check out La Tomatina festival in Buñol. It is the world’s largest food fight, where 40,000 people throw 40 metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes (grown just for the festival) at each other for hours.
I have studied Spanish since the age of 12, almost exclusively in a classroom setting, and including at University. I am now almost 30 years old and am still working towards achieving a strong level of fluency. For me, the missing ingredient had always been immersion, or consistent exposure, practice, and application to everyday life. That is why I have been working with Spanish Millennium for over a year to help me achieve my goal with multiple sessions every week that focus on speaking fluency. I’ll continue to work and master the language so I can make the most of my new experiences.