Penny Hierons didn't think she was capable of learning another language. Now she makes a living as a Spanish-to-English translator...and she lives on the beautiful southeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. "I assumed I just didn't have the bit of the brain that involved doing languages because I'd never shown any inclination or talent for them. But that wasn't true."
Spend any extended amount of time in Spain and you'll likely walk away having learned two of life's important lessons: how to live in the moment and how not to sweat the small things. Spaniards are famed for their friendly and relaxed attitude, and their commitment to always putting family and friends first means life becomes fabulously freewheeling.
I'd probably been trying to learn Spanish for a good year or more before I had a sudden realization that dramatically and instantly changed my attitude—and had me picking up new words faster than ever.
I arrived in Alicante planning to stay just a few months, thinking I'd wait out Spain's scorching summer months here beside the city's languorous stretch of Mediterranean coastline, a chance to relax and recharge before returning to a larger city. My German landlord eyed me dubiously. He'd moved here almost a decade ago, planning to stay just one year.
With almost perpetually sunny weather, glittering stretches of Mediterranean coastline, and a relaxed, easygoing lifestyle, Spain has long been a favorite playground for Americans on vacation. But plenty of business-savvy Americans are extending that vacation into a way of life, and making a prosperous living here, too. In a country where even the Prime Minister struggles to speak English, locals are only too aware of the need to improve, meaning native speakers can easily find work as English teachers and translators.
It's a little embarrassing to admit but...I knew barely a word of Spanish last year when I arrived in my new home in Spain. I had plenty of time to prepare for the impending relocation but I'd busied myself working full-time and, like lots of other native English speakers, the few Spanish classes I did take just didn't seem to stick.
Tom Vercillo is paid to know the best places to wine, dine, and sightsee in scores of cities in the countries lining the Mediterranean. Regularly sampling the region's finest offerings is just one of many perks in a career that sees him cruising around the Med's warm waters seven months a year, stopping at exotic new locations almost every day.
Jonathan Ahladas tells a great story about the day his Spanish-born fiancée sent him out solo into the streets of Madrid with a shopping list. It was just a few months after he made the big move across the Atlantic from America to the Spanish capital and at that stage, Jonathan had only a basic grasp of the language thanks to a few months of intensive classes.