My Spanish experiment: Round 2

Some of you may remember how I posted about my Spanish experiment over the winter holidays last year, where I spent 2 weeks in Gran Canaria with my family and was looking to see how much Spanish I could learn. Some of you guys told me you wanted a sequel as well.

You may remember how I considered the experiment to have, for the most part, failed, simply because there were a lot less opportunities to converse and the opportunities were limited in their nature/scope. This is because the Spanish people you meet when you have a vacation in a tourist area like on the south end of the island are almost all people in service and because they are working, usually do not have time to converse with you that long before they have to service the next customer.

Well those of you who asked for the sequel, you are getting it. I will now be going there again, although I am alone with my two daughters this time, as my wife can not get time off from work, having just recently started her new job. It will be interesting to see how this effects the trip.

I now have more knowledge of Spanish than last time, where I was at about 22K known words and probably 30-50 hours of listening, I am now at about 35K known words and 60 hrs of listening. I also seem to understand much more of the novel I bough there last time.

I know the opportunities will be limited, but perhaps since my wife is not there, I will be able to converse a bit more with locals. Best chat I got last time was when we took a rather long taxi drive, but with my wife not understanding Spanish, there was some switching to English. I will try what I can and I’m sure the fact I know more now will make it a bit easier. Not having covid raging will surely help somewhat as well.

One thing I will do as well is just have chats with tourists from all sorts of different countries. They are there on vacation and will often have lots of time to chat. I am looking forward to practicing some Dutch, French, Norwegian and brushing up on German, Swedish and Danish. That, however, isn’t as interesting an experiment as the Spanish one.


Feel free to comment here of course. I will post a new thread with the results, or rather my assessment of how it went, once I am back in Iceland.

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What are you changing from your first (mostly failed) attempt to improve your chances of success?

Unfortunately I do not think there is very much I can change, but there are a few things. 1) I think I will think a bit about how typical conversations can be started and learn some opening sentences in advance 2) I might try to find locals who do not appear to be busy, like in a store where there are no customers, buy something cheap there maybe and try to converse with the staff 3) Since my wife is not with me, I think I can in some cases chat more in pure Spanish.

Are you organising beforehand any meet-ups with people like you did on the Faroe Islands? I think that was a good tactic.

No, because I do not know any locals in Gran Canaria, but I did know, or was connected with a few people in the Faroe Islands, who I’d met or gotten in touch with over the internet.

I wish you a lot of good luck but I think your listening hours are way too low for understanding any unscripted conversations apart from what is your name and where are you from, good morning, good night, have a good weekend, etc. Based on the FSI report, in-country immersion is really beneficial when your level is already B1-B2 level in your target language.

Please share your experience after your trip. I am looking forward to it.

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I do not really know how much I would catch if listening to a standard conversation between two people, probably little.

There’s a problem with trying to strike up conversations with complete strangers when you’re weak at a language and that is that nobody wants to have a conversation with you. If it’s difficult/painful for the other person, why would they? Here in England, you’d be lucky if a stranger was willing to speak to you even if you were completely fluent, lol.

I guess this is why it’s generally recommended that we wait until we’re at least conversational to go to the country as a form of immersion. Obviously it can’t hurt to go earlier but it’s always going to be super frustrating when we can barely understand, let alone speak.

FWIW, I’d probably try and look for ways to be helpful and sneak in a bit of practice that way; people are a lot more willing to humour someone when they’re getting something out of it. That said, it wouldn’t be easy to take this approach if it’s just a short holiday, especially if you’re with your family.

Your English is excellent BTW.

Good luck in your Spanish learning. :slightly_smiling_face:


I would say this is good general advice, but on a specific level it can really differ. There are definitely certain cultures, where many people are very happy to talk to you, even if you don’t speak their language at all. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s as common with the most popular languages though, as you mentioned in England. I’m not too familiar with the Canary Islands, so can’t comment on that.


You are both right to a degree. It depends on the culture, situation and which language it is, although it is true that it is often not interesting for natives to have a chat with a grown up that is like talking to a 2-4 year old. I agree that it is not generally interesting to an English person that someone in England is learning English, but I find for example that Dutch people who come here to Iceland on vacation are fascinated that I am learning their language and usually willing to talk (my level of spoken Dutch is near fluent now though).

In Gran Canaria, unless you leave the tourist area where I am staying, you meet almost no Spanish speakers except people in service. This means they usually have to be friendly to a degree and try to oblige you when you chat, but it also means they often have other people they need to serve and don’t have much time.

I might actually get a lot more practice with other languages, by talking to fellow tourists.


The results are in this thread if anyone wants to read them:

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I also agree with you here. I just started visiting this community. I have great interest in learning Spanish. Let see what happen next. Thank you!