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.
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.