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Megan Mason, Belmont University

23 Sep 2016

Dread. All I felt before I met with my conversation partner was dread. I’m a sophomore in college and last summer I went to Argentina for a month to study Spanish. This year, I’m in an advanced Spanish class, so why was I so nervous to talk to a native speaker? The truth is, most people get nervous before speaking Spanish to someonewho speaks it as a first language. The key is to practice, practice, practice!

My first assignment was to get to know a Spanish native for 30 minutes. I’m not going to lie, it did feel like a long 30 minutes, but my partner was awesome. I chose a young woman from Colombia who was in college, studying communications, and liked the same bands as me! It made it so much easier to talk about the things that we had in common. We talked about some bands for a little bit and I learned that one of the bands we both like is actually from Colombia.

Because she had experience talking with students like myself, it wasn’t very awkward and she was really good at keeping the conversation going. I would ask a couple questions and then we would get into a mini-discussion about the topic. And I realized that the more I talked, the better I was getting, even just within 30 minutes! I got more comfortable using more complex sentences and tenses and I wasn’t afraid to mess up because I knew that if I stumbled with my words, she would try to understand and keep going.

At the end, I realized it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The assignment I had been terrified of turned into a friendly conversation that I want to do again. My advice: don’t be afraid to mess up! The partners on this site are experienced and don’t mind a slip up or two … or twenty. They’ll hear the mistake, understand what you were trying to say and move on. Don’t just do grammar exercises and read boring literature. Talk with a native speaker!