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The sweet taste of fluency

January 8, 2012 in The road

The sweet taste of fluency

It has been seven months since my last post. This summer I went on a (sort of) digital sabbatical, spending an unforgettable summer in Barcelona, followed by a considerably hectic second half of the year. There was no warning made whatsoever, so it might have appeared as if this blog was abandoned (although I did journal my bureaucratic stand-off with the Spanish consulate here and on Twitter). This was not the case, and thus I’m back, my friends, with the erratic and consistently inconsistent programming.

The real reason for my sudden and almost complete disappearance is, I am quite certain, the incredible sense of surrealism and some kind of unexplainable fascination I felt once I stepped off of the plane in Barcelona, sleep deprived beyond measure, exhausted, but incredibly happy to finally be able to experience living in a foreign land.

I knew that my visit was going to be a short one and the eight weeks would fly by, and so I made a decision to immerse myself as completely as possible, diving in as deeply into the culture and language as I could.

Barcelona is a place of great variety, successfully combining a relaxed, incredibly friendly and open-forward mindset of the Spanish people together with the never-halting busyness and buzz of a major metropolitan, always bursting with life and ready to welcome guests from all corners of the world.

I am not a seasoned traveler, and this experience was pretty much my first proper voyage beyond the borders of Russia. I’ve spent an immense amount of time preparing for the trip. Mentally, financially and, what’s most important, studying the language. By my estimation, it has been roughly one year and a half between my beginning of the studies and landing in Barcelona.

Have I succeeded in learning? Absolutely.

Of course, it was not completely perfect. In retrospect, I see that I’ve made certain mistakes in my immersion scenario which might have pushed the first few days of getting accustomed to the language a little bit over the edge of the amount of mental stress I am usually fine with.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent eight fantastic weeks in Spain, using Spanish everywhere, living each day through the language and with the help of it. Making friends, meeting open-minded and fantastic people from all over the world, hearing and telling the stories, laughing and crying, dancing. The knowledge of the language not only has made it easier and more enjoyable, but it also has transformed the whole experience into something that felt incredibly honest, rich and emotionally authentic. This is how the real fluency feels.

Upon my return to Russia, I’ve been asked many times by friends and family, colleagues and acquaintances, to share the story of my experience in Barcelona, and I’ve tried the best I could describing the climate, the food, the language, the customs, the incredible people I’ve met, stories I’ve heard and so on.

However, I have yet to find the proper words to describe the emotional impact this trip has made on me. The thoughts are buzzing and sparking on the edges of neurons, leaving a small, but unforgettable footprint of the adventure in my memory.

I believe this is something one has to experience at least once. I have no idea if I will have the same sense of wonder in my future trips, but I will try as much as I can to make it happen. And the most important part of it will be, of course, learning the language.

However, my affair with Spanish is not over yet. I’ve passed over the plateau, climbed the hill, and now am on a steady road towards true fluency. This is an extremely important moment. It might seem that I’ve obtained a certain degree of mastery over the language, but in reality I need to double my efforts now to solidify the success and progress even further.

We will continue this journey together.

Cheers,
Roman D.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana January 9, 2012 at 00:28

What a beautiful post! I completely understand how you feel, because I felt exactly the same way the first time I went abroad, to Japan. I fell in love with the place so much that I ended up going back and staying for three years. Now I’ve moved on to other things, but I know Japan will always be a part of me and I’ll probably go back again someday! I’m sure this experience you had in Spain will always be a special memory for you. =)

Welcome back, by the way!

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Roman D. January 12, 2012 at 21:49

Thanks, Jana!

Indeed, it is something that is impossible to forget. I can’t imagine how much I would’ve missed out on without the knowledge of the language. And now I also can’t see myself traveling without at least trying to understand the language and the culture of the place I am going to.

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Fábio Vieira January 9, 2012 at 00:28

Hey, Roman!

I’m really happy for you and it’s nice to see you blogging again. ^^

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Roman D. January 12, 2012 at 21:50

Hey, Fábio!

Thanks, and it is great to see you as well! I am glad that my writing is considered worthy enough to stay on even during such long periods of silence :)

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Laurie January 10, 2012 at 08:05

Just stumbled onto your blog, and I’ve read several of your posts. Your experience in Spain sounds fascinating! I’m curious what you would have done differently to prepare for your trip?

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Roman D. January 12, 2012 at 21:52

Hi, Laurie!

Thanks for your interest! I will be sure to summarize my language learning experience and what I think I did right and wrong. So stay tuned! Sorry that I can’t give you a direct answer right here, but I feel this is the topic that deserves a separate post :)

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Aaron January 10, 2012 at 16:48

Glad to have you back Roman. Great post and one every new language learner should read to gain inspiration and get the future perspective of what all the hard work is about. Thanks for sharing it with us all.

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Roman D. January 12, 2012 at 21:53

Thanks, Aaron, for your support! It’s great to be back!

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David Mansaray January 11, 2012 at 10:30

Great post Roman. Glad to see you back! What you describe is exactly how I felt when I went to Spain last summer. I can’t wait to finish university to become a full time nomad! I’ll of course be coming to see you at some point in Russia! :D

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Roman D. January 12, 2012 at 21:54

Thanks, David!

Hahah, I am certainly looking forward to seeing you in person! Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to visit you in London first :)

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Wendy January 11, 2012 at 12:32

Eager to hear more, especially about what you would have done differently!

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Roman D. January 12, 2012 at 21:55

Hey, Wendy! I have several requests already to do that, so I am most certainly going to write a post on that, so stay tuned!

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Mezzofanti Guild January 15, 2012 at 01:09

Great post.
“it also has transformed the whole experience into something that felt incredibly honest, rich and emotionally authentic.”
Really sums up how I felt after my first stay in Egypt.

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Roman D. January 19, 2012 at 21:45

Thanks, Donovan!

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Karen February 20, 2012 at 01:25

Hi Roman

Very interesting blog! I love hearing about how other people are learning languages, and I also love seeing how fluent you are in English — it’s fascinating and it’s very interesting to notice my own reaction to it. When I read the things you’ve written, it feels like a fellow native speaker talking to me; I feel as if the nuances of English are “real” to you — that you aren’t just following grammatical rules but that you really are thinking like (and as) an English speaker. There’s a feeling of an effortless meeting-of-the-minds that I don’t always feel when reading things written by a second-language speaker of English — that is, as much as it’s a joy to communicate with people across barriers of language and culture, when I read what you write, it feels as if there is no such barrier. When you make an occasional slip, it feels like an aberration — not like you don’t know how things work in this language but like there was just a slight wobble.

Since I’ll probably be hanging around a lot, let me just introduce myself: I have a doctorate in linguistics with a specialty in cognitive linguistics; the quickest way to explain it is that I specialize in studying how people think in words. (I wrote an entire book about how English speakers understand pronouns.) I’ve recently come back to studying Russian after many years away and have been developing my own method for exploring and remembering vocabulary; I have no idea whether it would ever work for anyone else, but it’s helping me. I’ve only recently found out about this vast language-learning community on the internet, and this is one of the blogs I expect I’ll be coming back to regularly.

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Roman D. February 24, 2012 at 23:48

Hello, Karen!

I really find myself in search for better words to express my gratitude for your comment. I am incredibly pleased and even honored that you consider my level proficiency in the language so high as to be compared to that of a native speaker.

I think fellow language learners and lovers would agree with me that this is one of the biggest rewards one who aspires to master a new language could receive.

Thanks again, and I hope to see you again on the pages of this blog.

Please, let me know if I can help you in any way with your quest of studying Russian. I’d be delighted.

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