One of my favorite parts of my study abroad program are the “intercambios” we go to about three times a week. The intercambios are sessions where we go and have language and cultural exchanges with Oaxacan students learning English. Twice a week we go to an English prep school, called Emax, and literally just talk to students our age. We practice our target language by talking about each other’s social life, school systems, foods, etc. We also have cultural exchanges like teaching each other dances and different card games. It is a very laid back atmosphere. Ironically, even though it is nothing like a classroom setting, the intercambios are where I feel like I learn the most Spanish.
The third intercambio is held at a private school that has kindergarten-12th grade called La Salle. My specific intercambio is with the 5th grade classes. These intercambios with my little 5th graders are by far my favorite. The children are so eager to talk to me. They love telling me about themselves and even learning about me. It’s even better with the kids because our English to Spanish exchange level is about the same. The older students I talk to at Emax are sometimes way better at English than I am at Spanish. So, in conversation, they always revert back to English when I struggle, even if I’m only having a little trouble. The 5th graders and I struggle together though… lol!
The little girls are so intrigued by my hair. The interest has led us to talk all about hair and the different hairstyles we like. I have also been able to teach them about different African American hairstyles. Because of this exchange, I’ve picked up on a lot of Spanish hair terminology such as words like blonde, brunette, twists, braids, straight, curly, etc.
Carlo, one of the kids at La Salle, loves to tell me about his hobbies, his family, his studies, and all things him. I have learned a lot from him because he is so eager to talk and make me understand. When I am unsure about something he is saying he will draw it or act it out. For example, I was able to learn that he was super into F1 Circuit drag racing and that his dad is the CEO of a big construction company, his mom is the vice president, and the rest of his family all have part ownership of the company.
The Best Learning
These intercambios have taught me the best way to learn Spanish is not in a classroom taking tests on conjugation and reading comprehension. The best way to learn Spanish, or any language for that matter, is practicing with those who speak the language. It’s even better when you are engaged in the topic of conversation. When you are interested in the words you are learning, they are much easier to retain!