This Is My Ongoing Theme: Learning Spanish Frustration

“I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to understand and speak a second language,” I said today to my Spanish teacher. “Learning Spanish is hard.”

“You will. You’re doing great!” she responded. Thankfully, she’s my cheerleader, because I’m realizing just how far away I am from being able to understand Spanish. I can say things. I can ask simple, present tense questions, and order food. But understanding the language and being able to speak in a bit more complex manner is eluding me. Reflexive verbs? K(ill)M(e)N(ow) (not really, please don’t).

I feel like I’m forgetting English now, too. “El codo,” I say, looking at the chart my teacher brought. I look at the picture. “I can’t remember the English word.”


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Help! I’ve forgotten how to talk!

“Elbow,” she replies.

Inwardly, I cringed. What is happening to my brain, I wonder. Please let this language start sinking in. Brain, you are learning Spanish whether you want to or not.

We are well into our sixth month of living in Mexico. While I know far more Spanish than I did when moving here, going from a handful of words to the equivalent of first semester Spanish doesn’t seem like enough.

a spanish label from cheese at a grocery store. It says cheese and also coconut.

This was the label on cheese. At the top, it say QSO, meaning queso. However, the second line says “coco rayado.” Even though it translates as striped coconut, it indicates grated coconut. It was cheese, like it was supposed to be!

There are days when I want to give up. It feels too hard. Or impossible. Never mind that my Spanish teacher speaks 5 languages! Never mind that I just met a woman who I thought was American at first and said she learned English phonetically. She has a mild accent, but her words are very east to understand. It can be done.

At this time, I cannot give up. I’ve always wanted to be fluent in a second (or third) language and up until this point, I didn’t put the time in to do so. Moving to another country and immersing myself in it will make it so easy to learn, I thought. It’s partially true. I can immediately practice my new lessons. However, it is far from easy. It still takes a lot of work.

a bag of tortilla chips, "salsa verde" flavor and a without gluten label in spanish. Learning Spanish is hard, but I know a few basics.

All I need to know “sin gluten” (which means without gluten). These chips are really good, even though they are a little too spicy for me. I eat them anyway.

Practice makes perfect better

“El va a venir hoy,” I say carefully to the guard at my neighborhood, letting him know my gardener will come today (“he is going to come today” is the translation). Do you know how difficult it was to call the guards when we first arrived? More difficult than I want to admit! It was scary. It’s getting easier.


Today, though, they called because I had a delivery. I couldn’t understand a word. Literally not one word past the initial pleasantries. Thankfully, they let the delivery person in anyway, who received a heartfelt and profuse apology from me.

I have so much to learn.

Have you ever struggled through learning a new language or skill? What things made the process easier for you? 

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