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Moriah Hayes, University of Oklahoma Part 2

22 May 2016

Going into my second TalkAbroad session, I knew what to expect, and this made all the difference. I chose the same partner, Andrés Cañas, and because we had already been through our greetings and pleasantries in the first session, we were able to talk about more interesting topics: the labor force in South America (Ecuador in particular), typical professions for recent college graduates, and details of Ecuador’s city life. My class assignment asked us to discuss the types of jobs that college students seek upon graduation, and to my surprise, being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer is just as popular in South America as it is in the United States. Further, all of these professions require, as I expected, many years of schooling and an intense dedication to making personal connections.

When Andrés and I were speaking, I found myself making several mistakes, and usually I am okay with this, but this time I was embarrassed and began to shy away from the conversation. I would nod, smile, and reply to Andrés with short, careful answers that were impossible to mess up. He noticed this and was very comforting and encouraging as he reminded me that learning a new language is not easy and that mistakes will be made. He told me that I had full control over my ability to learn Spanish and that my feelings of nervousness and embarrassment were my own creations; if I stopped feeding them and just spoke confidently, I would gain confidence in my speaking and, consequently, improve. I felt so much better after hearing this and began to experiment with what I had learned in my Spanish courses, leaving Andrés to correct any of my mistakes with a smile and an encouraging nod.

If I have learned anything from my two experiences with TalkAbroad, it is that practicing with native speakers is invaluable in learning a language. I sometimes feel invincible in my college Spanish classes because I can speak easily with my classmates, but these sessions with Andrés have humbled me in the best of ways. Simply listening to the phrasing that he uses, the way he utilizes certain word pairings and connectors, and the inflection in his voice have all helped me immensely. This is how we all learned our own native languages – as babies who listened to and mimicked the people around us. I enjoy the fact that I can learn grammar and vocabulary in class and then practice them in my TalkAbroad sessions, and I am fully looking forward to next time.