One day last fall, I stumbled upon the Lemon Rock Hostel and Bar. I believe it was a Sunday and I was in search of a place to do some work from my laptop. Somehow I had stumbled upon one of the best Granada hostels and it had a very cozy-looking cafe.
I quickly learned that the Lemon Rock was more than just a hostel. The Lemon Rock is a place enjoy good coffee, beer and food. It’s a place that Spanish people love just as much as the tourists. They host good concerts, dj sets and even language exchanges. In short, it’s a place you have to visit when you come to Granada.
I rarely ever write about my favorite Granada spots. I suppose when you live in a place, you can forget that it too has many amazing hidden gems. While I had been to the Lemon Rock dozens of times in the past, I had never really thought to write about it. It seems a little crazy to me as I love to write about hostels on here.
Today we feature Susana from Australia. Like most of my blogger friends, I know Susana solely from the internet. We are in various Facebook groups and such together. I have always admired her style and confidence, so I thought I would ask to feature her here. Enjoy!
name, age, where you’re from and where you live now:
My name is Susana Lopes-Snarey, I am 44 years old and I was born in Portugal and live in Australia now.
When did you start your blog?
My blog was launched on the 16 January 2016. It’s almost coming to its 2 year anniversary! Can’t believe it I’ve been blogging for almost two years!
Recently, I wrote a blog post about why Spain is a great country to learn Spanish in. I loved receiving all of your comments. I had lots of people saying things such as “yeah it’s really best if you can go to another country to learn and be immersed in the language.” While I do believe that that is one great way to learn, it’s not the only way. So I thought it was time to let you all in on a little secret.
I didn’t learn Spanish in Spain.
In fact upon arrival, I routinely shocked locals with how well I spoke after only a few days to a week in their country. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn. It was just a fact that after working a bilingual job in the United States for a year. I was comfortable having conversations in Spanish because I had been having conversations in Spanish in my own country for an entire year. Now these conversations were nowhere near perfect. I of course still made mistakes and had things to improve. We all do with a second language.
I want to tell you this story because I know for many of us, a move overseas is simply not possible right now. I don’t want you to think that all hopes of learning a second language are lost simply because you cannot make a move. So here’s my story of how I became fluent in Spanish while living in the United States.
It all started with a coffeeshop
It was 2014 and I had decided to spend a year volunteering in Nicaragua. While I had learned some Spanish in high school, I hardly remembered any of it and I surely could not form sentences. However I wanted to be able to communicate when I arrived, so I decided I would take a class or find a tutor.
One day, I was at my neighborhood coffeeshop. I was just browsing the bulletin board of flyers when I found a flyer for Coffeeshop Spanish. The idea was that they provided one-on-one tutoring in a coffeeshop. “Well I do need to learn Spanish,” I thought. So I tore the information off and sent them an e-mail. I ended up meeting with them once a week for the next six months.
Then I went to Nicaragua …
Coffeeshop Spanish provided me with a great foundation. However things were not easy. It was hard for me to understand. I was one of the weird and rare cases where I could speak decently well, but struggled to understand what was being said. Furthermore, the environment I lived and worked in in Nicaragua was very unsupportive. You can read more about what happened in Nicaragua here.
I also made the classic foreigner mistake in Nicaragua. All of the friends I made were native English speakers. It’s just often so much easier to find people who speak your language when in a new place. While these women were wonderful people, I wasn’t speaking Spanish with them.
Then life happened. Due to some personal, family things, I returned to the United States. As luck would have it, I landed a bilingual job coordinating an ESL program for Hispanic adults in my community. Su Casa Hispanic Center was having a hard time filling their AmeriCorps position for this role. I warned them that my Spanish was not perfect and that I was still learning. That really didn’t seem to be a problem for them. They were happy to have someone who was willing to try.
Like night and day
Su Casa Hispanic Center was the place where I really became fluent in Spanish. First, it was an incredibly supportive environment to learn and practice Spanish. This is incredibly important when learning another language. The more comfortable and supported you feel, the more confident you will be in speaking the language. Everyone on staff at Su Casa was required to be bilingual in Spanish and English. About half the staff were Hispanic and half were Americans. My wonderful Hispanic coworkers came from countries such as Peru, Mexico and Venezuela. They all understood completely if I struggled or didn’t understand as they had all been there with their English. And of course my American coworkers too could understand as they had all started from 0 at some point with their Spanish.
My clients were also absolutely wonderful. The majority were from Mexico and Guatemala, with other South American countries being represented here and there. If they called the office about English classes, the call would get transferred to me. I was their first contact with our education department. Even though I likely made lots of grammar mistakes and had an accent, I tried my best to be friendly and genuine. I think that they could feel that genuine warmth, even over the telephone.
I also got to know many of them in person as I was there when they came for English class. No one was ever rude about my Spanish. They were just grateful that they could call our office in their native language. They sincerely appreciated the effort I was making to communicate with them. After leaving that position, several of my clients have friended me on Facebook. They love seeing my photos of life in Spain and talk with me from time to time. It’s always good to hear from them.
I would say that around March I really felt fluent in the language. That was about 5-6 months into the job. I think too the work that I was doing really pushed me to speak as well as I could. It was just so cool to see what difference I was making in my community because I could speak Spanish.
What factors drove me to fluency
I was surrounded by Spanish 40 hours a week. Even if I didn’t have many phone calls that day and it wasn’t a day we had English class, I heard Spanish everywhere. When I did speak Spanish, I often didn’t have the option to speak English. Most of my clients coming to English class for the first time knew only a few words or phrases in English.
When you have no option but to speak the language, you learn quickly. And I don’t mean you learn everything. What you learn are tools to communicate. You learn how to ask people to slow down or repeat things. You learn how to say what you want to say in a different way if you can’t say it exactly as you would in English. And you also learn to describe things if don’t know the exact word in Spanish. These are all tools I still use today when communicating in Spain.
I also stated above that I was in a supportive environment. One thing that Coffeeshop Spanish, Su Casa Hispanic Center and the country of Spain have it common is how well they have supported me in my Spanish journey. Everyone has been very encouraging with my Spanish, always reassuring me that I was doing a great job.
It’s all about YOU
The thing about moving to a country that speaks the language is that you still have to be intentional. Many people just assume that going there is enough. Well it’s not. As mentioned above, in Nicaragua all of my friends were English speakers. I wasn’t speaking any Spanish with them. There are English speakers I know where I live in Granada who only hang out with other English speakers. They all want to befriend more Spanish people, but are often intimidated at how to actually do it. Also Spaniards have this stereotype of moving to London and only befriending Spaniards for this very same reason. Upon arrival, they find it easy to just hang out with each other.
Think about it. If you live in Spain but have American roommates, American friends and speak English with your coworkers (since most of us English teachers work with bilingual teachers), how much Spanish are you really practicing? Other than ordering at a restaurant, not much.
Before I moved to Spain, I knew how easy it would be to find English speakers to befriend and to live with. And don’t get me wrong, I do have American and British friends here in Granada. While I never say no to a new friend, I knew that to make Spanish friends, I would have to be intentional. I would have to set up my life so that I was interacting in Spanish daily.
So the first thing I did was seek out a flat with Spaniards. In fact, I only looked at flats with Spanish roommates. I then made a point to do things where I would meet Spaniards and then pursue friendships with the people I met. As I wrote in my post about learning Spanish in Spain, once you do meet a Spaniard you like, it’s not hard to befriend them. They’re very open people who are always down for coffee, tapas or a night of dancing. Furthermore if they want to practice their English, it’s even easier. You can set up a nice regular exchange where you practice both.
What you can do
At the end of the day, learning a language is all about initiative. No one learns it for you. You are the one who puts in the effort. So here are a few ways you can learn and practice a language in your country.
Volunteer. In the United States, there’s a Hispanic population in virtually every city. Many people think Latinos only live in California, Texas and Florida. However this is false. I worked at Su Casa Hispanic Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. No one thinks that there are Spanish speakers in Ohio. Wrong. Simply search on google to find an organization in your community that helps the Hispanic community. Call them and ask if you can volunteer. I know in the case of Su Casa, we were always looking for volunteers. This doesn’t just stop with the Hispanic community. If there’s a significant population from a certain country in your city, there are likely opportunities to volunteer with them. In my city, we also had a lot of refugees from French-speaking African countries. There were organizations that worked with that population as well.
Join a meet-up. There are meet-up groups for everything these days. So, there are often meet-up groups to practice languages. If you cannot find exactly what you’re looking for, google it. Some cities might not use the exact website meetup.com but might use something similar. Also lots of cities have sister cities all over the world. I know Cincinnati has something like seven. Perhaps your city has a sister city in a country that speaks the language you’re learning. You could get in contact with that committee or organization in your city to see if they do anything or know of anything. From a meet up, you could end up befriending someone to practice even more.
The internet. Guys we live in such a cool time. You can learn any language you want from the comfort of your own home. There are people all over the world that will teach you their language over Skype. I teach adults in Turkey English over the Internet and it’s amazing. Many of them speak very well and have never left Turkey. Here are a few websites to try: Verbling, italki
Youtube. A big part of learning a foreign language is listening. The more you listen to people speaking the language, the more you will be able to understand. You will even begin to hear the language more slowly and begin to think in it with enough immersion. There are youtubers from all over the world. Find a few that you like who speak the language you want to learn. Make a point of watching a video every day. I also want to shout out my favorite bilingual youtuber: Superholly. If you’re an English speaker learning Spanish, she’s wonderful. Also if you’re a Spanish speaker learning English, she’s wonderful for that as well!
Do you want it?
At the end of the day, I’m a big believer that only you can learn a language. No one can do it for you. You have to take the time to listen to the language being spoken. You have to seek out people to practice it with. Even in Spain, I had to consciously set up my life to where I would be speaking Spanish daily. I was the one who sought out Spanish roommates over American ones. I was the one who sought out Spanish friends over friends who spoke my language. I’m so glad that I did it because I now have such an invaluable skill.
If you want to learn a second language, the tools are there for you. It just depends on how much you want it.
When it comes to wearing a dress, there’s a lot of things we like to consider about our choices. Whether our body shape is right for the look, whether the dress is long or short enough for our tastes, and whether the colour is right for our skin tone. These are just a few of the questions that pop into our minds when it comes to not clashing in our style journey, but sometimes, it sounds a little bit like overthinking! So you want to wear a dress but isn’t sure it’s for you? Here’s some tips on finding the right kind of garment for your taste.
There is No Right or Wrong Answer
It needs to be said first of all: If you want to wear a dress, then the easiest thing to do is wear it! Look in the mirror as you do so and think, ‘this is great for me!’ Faking some confidence until you actually feel the real thing is what makes us a lot of the time, so start yourself on that path now.
Of course, everyone’s taste is different, and so people on the streets or at work might think something about you, or they might not. Being preoccupied on this thought is what stops us from branching out with what we want, so try to keep a lid on your self esteem! Finding something that fits you perfectly, and hugs you in all the right places is akin to finding the holy grail in the fashion world, so hold onto a dress if you’ve found one that does all that for you.
If You’re Curvy
Curvy figures can range from hourglasses to pear shaped bodies to any kind of body shape, depending on what juts out and what doesn’t. However, if you have great hips and thighs, then break them out with your dress shape. Wrap dresses are good at clinging to these assets and still leaving a lot of breathing room to freely move about in; you’re always going to look good when you have a bit of leg on show!
When it comes to wearing designer dresses, you have a lot of pick to choose from. Anyone can wear a designer dress; that doesn’t have to be an exclusive club. But make sure it’s something you like and know you would wear. No point forking out otherwise!
For a Triangle Shape
The shoulder to waist ratio of someone with this body type always looks good in something like stripes and checks. Patterns have a good optical illusion about them that can make certain parts of our body look bigger or smaller depending on their alignment.
If you’re insecure about your hip or shoulder size, you can maximise and minimise with these kind of patterns. Short dresses that show off the legs also work well with this kind of body shape, as there’s a lot to show off!
There’s a lot of dresses out there to choose from, so take a look!
This post was a collaborative post. However all opinions are my own.
As I begin my second year in Spain, I often find myself reflecting on everything I love about this country. One year ago, I had no idea how well my time here would turn out. I had no idea how many wonderful people I would meet and how much Spanish I would speak on a daily basis.
If you are wanting to learn Spanish or better the Spanish that you already speak, I would recommend living in Spain if you can. Of course I’m sure many parts of South America would also be wonderful places to learn as well. However except for Nicaragua, I have not traveled in South America. One day I hope to get to Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Costa Rica and basically everywhere else in that part of the world. However right now I’m in Spain and I love it here.
Welcome to another Women around the World. This week, we are jumping over the Netherlands to talk with Nancy from Nancy’s Fashion Style. Nancy is a fashion blogger that I have been following for some time now. She hosts a weekly link-up on Fridays. She’s also just a very supportive person. I always say that I love all the supportive women I’ve met through blogging. While I’ve been fortunate to meet some in real life, there are many I just know through a computer screen. They are super nice and supportive of each other. I love that mentality over that of competition any day. So enjoy my chat with Nancy!
This summer, I spent several months in the Czech Republic. The intention was to spend some time in a different culture and travel from time to time in a new part of Europe. Several times throughout my two months in the country, I found myself exploring Czech Paradise. I always had my camera and phone ready. So I thought I would share a little bit about that part of the Czech Republic.
Last weekend, I spent a day exploring the beaches of Almeria here in the Andalucia region of Spain. My English teaching program is an adventure sometimes. Last year was the first year both myself and Amy taught English in Spain. We both got placed in tiny pubelos. However I got lucky as two teachers from my school commuted from Granada and they gave me the option to live in Granada. I of course took it and had a fabulous year living in Granada. Like what? I got to live in one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It was like a dream all year last year.
Amy, however, got placed to work in a pueblo of Almeria called Albox. She did not have the option to commute from a larger city like I did, so she lived in the town. However from all her stories, it sounded like she had a good year. The teachers from her school were always going out and getting together, so she made some good Spanish friends that way. And when you’re in a pueblo, you’re really forced to speak Spanish as less people speak English.
This week, we are featuring our first digital nomad. Meet Andrea, someone I found through this Facebook group called Girls Love Travel. They have an Instagram account as well and let different women take over their stories each day. She took it over one day and I was intrigued by her life, so I decided to follow her. I had heard the term “digital nomad” before and was intrigued by the idea. As someone who loves to travel, I’ve considered the digital nomad life from time to time.
The thing I love about Andrea is how honest she is. All her photos tell a real story and many are not perfect (since no one is perfect). I’ve definitely learned a lot from following her and watching her stories. And she has influenced me to try to be more “real” when I post to Instagram. So thank you for that Andrea! Hence I figured she would be a very interesting woman to add to this little Wednesday series! Enjoy!
This week, we are featuring Danielle from Sparkling Southerner. She is a fashion blogger living in Atlanta. She is someone who I have been following on Instagram for a few years now, so naturally I reached out to her for this Q&A series. She always seems to find the most colorful walls to take photos in front of. In fact when I think of her blog, I think of lots of colors.
Her style is southern with a twist. Enjoy the Q&A!