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Ananda Bhatia, University of Kansas Part 1

21 Feb 2016

Last week I had my first TalkAbroad conversation, and while I had initially been nervous, the experience was much better than I had anticipated. One of the main things I was worried about was being embarrassed about my sloppy language skills while talking to someone who was fluent in Spanish. I had only ever spoken Spanish with my professors or other students who struggled just as much as I did, and I assumed it would be very uncomfortable to stumble through a conversation with someone who knew the language by heart. However, the experience felt very natural. My conversation was with Claudia Barajas Bañuelos from Mexico. Of course, my partner made no mistakes while I sometimes took forever to put my thoughts into words, but she was very understanding. When I couldn’t understand the question she was asking, she put it a different way and explained it in more detail. When I was unsure of whether what I said made sense at all, she asked me to clarify what I meant and moved the conversation forward.

I was also concerned about how boring or forced the conversation would feel since we had assigned topics to discuss. I am a University of Kansas student using TalkAbroad to practice speaking for a conversational Spanish class, and our professor assigns different prompts we are required to talk about for each conversation. For this assignment, the prompts were social media and income inequality. Luckily, we did not simply jump into the assigned topics the way we would in class. Since I was unsure of how to begin the conversation, Claudia took the lead, commented on my name, and asked where I was from. Before anything else, we got to know each other — I learned where she studied, what she is interested in, and where she worked.

She also already knew that there were certain topics we had to talk about during the thirty minutes, and she seemed to have thought about them already beforehand like I had. Unlike in class, where I feel like everyone says the same things about the same topics every time, I actually got to learn about how similar the problems related to social media and income inequality are in Mexico and the United States. Now that my concerns about TalkAbroad are gone, I am definitely convinced that my future conversations will be the best way for me to truly learn Spanish.