The diary of a complete beginner


It was in June when my wife and I decided to make the final move to Spain. I had been working for many years as a lorry driver for a large supermarket chain. The work was hard but the pay was good, for this reason I had stuck it out for a lot longer than I had planned. However the last few years had really dragged and if it wasn’t for the thought of retiring early to Spain and making a new life there I don’t think I would have made it through some days. The last year before the move seemed endless there was so much preparation to do, so many tedious things to get done before we could start our new life, selling the house ,car, organising removals the list was endless so was the stress. Then there was the hassle of finding property in Spain. Trusting the estate agents, parting with so much hard earned cash, but it would all be worth it in the end so on we struggled.
Finally came the move, the house we bought was so lovely and in such a picturesque area I finally felt that all my dreams had come true. It felt wonderful to feel I was at last a Spanish property owner, this feeling lasted quite a while but then little by little the problems started; not big life threatening problems just really niggely irritating things that seemed to crop up just when you thought everything was going along just right. One day I sat back and tried to work out why doing things in Spain was so much more complicated than in England. Simple things like registering at the town hall, buying a car, getting a residents card, even finding a plumber or any other worker. Now, it would have been really easy to have blamed the Spanish system and anything to do with it but the real problem lied in the fact that I couldn’t speak the language and I felt that I was at the mercy of anyone who I could communicate to in English about what they thought was the right way about doing things and a lot of the time their information had come from hear say as well and maybe exaggerated a little along the way. My neighbours were a great help they were so kind, forever giving us vegetables and fruit, they even invited us for paella one weekend, but trying to communicate with them through signals and pointing was really hard work and very frustrating.
That was it, there was no way I could continue like this I had to learn the language to really enjoy all aspects of living in Spain and to be able to go about my every day life here in an easier way.
I enrolled in a class two months after the move, there was still some painting and re-decorating I was doing in the house so I was quite busy but this had now become a priority and I had to make the effort. The enrolment was easy enough and the staff were very friendly I was issued a book and told when my first class was going to be, but when I got home I started to sweat ,I flicked through the book I’d been given and I started to shake. I am never going to understand this, I thought I was never very good at school, in fact I hated the whole school thing and couldn’t wait to leave and get my first job, I bet everyone in the class are real geniuses, and I’m going to look the biggest fool ever, this was a real mistake I thought, maybe I could just get a good phrase book and memorise the sentences. Too late just get through the first few classes then make an excuse not to come back, anyway I do have family coming over and they are hard work (their from the wife’s side.) and there is also the age problem, you know I’m not a spring chicken and I can hardly remember anything about my school years except the pranks we used to play on Mr Price our English teacher, poor soul must have passed away years ago.
So I was determined just to show my face, not to speak unless I really had to and then make a quick exit. God forbid if the teacher asks me a question! Maybe I should say I’ve made a big mistake and it isn’t the schools fault but I have so much decorating to do, and that I’ll start when the weather gets better even if it’s over 30º c outside.
My wife must have sensed my silent fears because she constantly reminded me about the start date and maybe I should buy a notebook and a pencil case, a notebook! I thought I am definitely not going to write anything not even my name; anyway all I want is conversational Spanish so why should I have to write anything.
First class (The end of the world)
I arrived a little before the start time; I couldn’t bear the thought of being late and everyone staring at me as I made my nervous entrance. A familiar face greeted me, the secretary, she had a pleasant smile and started talking about the local fiestas, as the other students started to arrive she left me to attend the others, what do I do now? I thought, my life line had just been severed, as I was just beginning to panic, a friendly chap of about the same age as myself come up to me and said “first time?”, “That’s right” I replied, “Does it show that much?” He carried on to explain to me that he thought I looked the most relaxed person in the place, so I must know a bit and could maybe help him if he got stuck. I then explained that apart from ordering “dos cervezas” I wouldn’t be much help to him, but we stuck together chatting for a while until it was time to go in to the classroom and start the lesson. I wasn’t too worried now because I realised I wasn’t the only one in my situation.
The first hour flew by, we learnt the alphabet, words to fill in forms, how to say the verb - ser, (I wasn’t the one in the class who asked what a verb was, but I was really grateful he did, because I didn’t know.) and we did a lot of sort of acting speaking games the teacher called role plays (new to me) this had everyone rolling around in laughter. The teacher never asked me a question, she only ever asked the whole of the class and anyone or no one could answer. We had a little break and all went together for a coffee my new found friend Ken bought me a coffee with a small shot of brandy included for medicinal purposes of course!
   The second hour went just as quick we learnt numbers played bingo, (only for sweets) and then the teacher mentioned the word grammar! No! just when everything was going so well! However it wasn’t such a big deal it was only explaining , why  things were the way they are, it wasn’t as complicated as I thought. I felt really glad I’d come I’ve got a bit of homework to do and me and Ken swapped numbers just in case we needed a bit of moral support.
After 12 classes……..
  Now there are ups and downs, some classes you think you've got it made and others feel like your going nowhere but that’s just the way the learning thing goes, but I am going forward that’s the main thing, I trust my teacher and try and follow her advice, I know if I don’t get it first time around I get it the second, third or fourth but I do get it eventually. I've made some good friends and we’ve had a few laughs, and  I know now that I’m no different to anyone else, we are all in the same boat, learning a language from scratch trying to get on with our new lives as best we can.
Best of all I can now have a have decent time talking to my Spanish neighbours, shop keepers, officials and so on. I know I still baffle them a lot of the time and they some times look puzzled or even break down laughing and it’ll be a while before I can really get to say everything I want to but what the heck I’ll get there eventually and I’m not going to give up now .It might be a while before I write my first novel in Spanish but who knows, watch this space………………..

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