Languages@Muhlenberg.edu
Newsletter 2002
 
Intercambios Here and Abroad
In the process of learning a foreign language, more often than not, by far the hardest thing to do is speak and carry on a conversation. Listening, I can understand and comprehend at a much higher level than speaking; even in writing, I have time to think of what I want to say and how I want to say it. But in speaking, there isn't the luxury of time. The only way to improve conversational skills is by practice. Intercambios (conversation exchange) are an immense help in this area. My favorite phrases are "I don't know," "I don't understand," "What?," and "Can you say that again?," all in Spanish of course. But through perseverance and practice, skills in a foreign language can advance more quickly than one might think.

For me, having a conversation partner is more than just help with a foreign language, it's making another friend. In Allentown my intercambio was Eduardo, a young Mexican immigrant, and here in Spain my intercambio is an older Spanish professional. Both intercambios are in the same boat that I am in, they have the same difficulties with English that we have with their language. In having these conversations with intercambios, you learn a different language, expressions and words not taught in the classroom, you learn about a different culture and gain a different perspective on many issues, and best of all, you learn about a different person.
   Are you thinking about an intercambio? Be willing to make mistakes, they will happen. Be willing to loosen up and don't be nervous, there's no greater hindrance on being able to speak than nervousness. And perhaps most of all, have a good time in getting to know a person very different from yourself.

Brian Talbott, '03
Brian writes to us from the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies in Seville, Spain, where he is studying this semester.