As a Spanish student at Muhlenberg, I have been exposed to various aspects of the Spanish language and culture throughout my courses of study. Working as a volunteer ESL teacher at the Hispanic American Organization not only gave Allentown residents the opportunity to learn English, but also helped me to learn more about Latin American cultures. As I was teaching them the basics of English, I was learning to understand the accents and vocabulary that differ in each Spanish-speaking country. There was no doubt that the Spanish I learned at HAO was the same Spanish I learned in my literature classes, but among Latinos I was learning to have conversations in Spanish, to speak freely and casually. Teaching ESL helped me to make the adjustment I would later need for an even more challenging adventure.
When I arrived in Seville for study abroad this semester, I found myself eager to adjust to the new culture. Many Sevillanos were very friendly and curious to know about me and American language and culture. They often take the opportunity to practice their English with me and have had the patience and interest to listen to my often broken Spanish, helping me when I am at a loss for words.
While I saw these similarities between the people of Seville and the HAO students, I also noticed some differences. People from Andalusia have some softer pronunciations of consonants. They tend to drop the final syllable of each word, making words difficult to catch. They also speak more rapidly than other Latinos I have met. And of course, as I had expected, the vosotros form of you finally came back to haunt me. It's never heard outside of classes in Allentown, but people from Spain rarely address each other formally in their everyday speech. However, this comes as no surprise to me, as I know each language has its own colloquial usage.
Improving my Spanish has been a challenge. But I have made progress, and am glad to have had this experience. I feel it will only strengthen my communication skills and my ability to think more broadly about different cultures.
Alexis DeWald, '02