“Learning Spanish will change your life.”
These are the words a friend of mine once told me while we were going on a walk through the historic La Candelaria district in Bogota, Colombia.
His argument was that speaking Spanish would truly change my life.
That knowing Spanish will change where I want to vacation, where I want to live, and with whom I want to have relations.
At the time I agreed with him, but didn’t realize the true breadth of the consequences of knowing the Spanish language.
I’ve thought about it a lot lately here in Spain.
Just over two years ago, when I set out to live in Medellin, Colombia and learn the language, I didn’t know the full impact of my journey.
My only real plans were to go to Colombia, bring my bike, take Spanish classes, and learn to dance salsa.
Over two years later, I have now lived in three of the four largest Spanish speaking nations: Colombia, Argentina, and Spain. The majority of my travels in the last two years have been to Spanish speaking countries.
The reasoning for this is three-fold.
One, I enjoy learning and using the language.
Two, Spanish speaking countries are fun places (and usually warm places) to visit.
Three, I feel comfortable being in a country where I know the language and can speak to the people in their native language.
The impetus for me learning a new language happened here in Spain in 2010. I flew to Barcelona in September of 2010 to undertake a 15 day cycling trip from Barcelona to Rome.
It was a fantastic trip, and I had some amazing (and some not so amazing) days on the bike on that trip.
I really enjoyed the cycling, but when I was off the bike I felt kind of uncultured and ignorant, since I only spoke English.
I remember clearly a campground attendant on the Costa Brava asking me, “Do you speak any other languages? Spanish, French, German, Italian? Or just English?”
I realized at that moment that although I have the world’s most useful language for a mother tongue, I was limiting myself by not knowing a second (or third, or fourth) language.
When I got home, this thought kept nagging at me, until I ended up enrolling in a beginners’ French class through Alliance Francais in my hometown of Calgary.
My thought was ‘I should really know both of Canada’s two official languages.’ (I still feel this, and will be working on correcting the fact that I don’t know French in the near future.)
Fast forward a few months, and I quit my office job in Calgary to undertake my dream of day trading abroad.
I chose Colombia because I had heard great things about the people, country, and accent.
All of what I had heard was true.
When booking my trip home from Colombia I added on a return trip to South America. This time to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Buenos Aires, which I had spent five days exploring in early April of 2012, was to be my home from October of 2012 until March of 2013.
During this time I made new friends, learned about Argentine history, took tango lessons, ate great food, partied my ass off, met distant Argentine relatives, and yes, even improved my Spanish.
Much of this would not have been possible if I had not started learning Spanish in October of 2011.
I also realized something interesting through my travels in Spanish speaking countries.
“If you speak Spanish. You know how to party.”
This, with few exceptions, is true.
The Spanish speaking world is a fun place to be!
Look at some of the most famous party destinations: Cancun, Miami, Havana, Buenos Aires, and Ibiza to name a few.
All of them are Spanish speaking cities.
So, learning the beautiful language of Spanish has helped me have a better time in my life. That’s a pretty big gift for a language to give a person.
Finally, I love to travel. I mean this is a travel blog about my excursions around the world.
I’m also a very social person, and enjoy meeting new people, no matter where I am.
Meeting new people is much, much easier when you know the local language.
Sure I could rely on everyone speaking English, I mean many people do, but that would be limiting myself.
Learning Spanish has changed my life for the better.
I didn’t know just how much it would change my life when that friend told me “Learning Spanish will change your life,” in Bogota in 2012.
A year and a half later I’m just starting to realize the positive effects it has had.