My gringo-ness at it's finest. And I wonder why people don't think I'm Mexican. haha.

After being here for almost a month, the initial shock of being in a foreign country has more or less worn off. There are still those moments when the fact that I’m in Mexico hits me like a ton of bricks, but more or less I’ve basically come to accept and respect the cultural differences that exist here.

Something that has been troubling me over the past few weeks is the fact that I have been relying on English way too much. The problem is that everyone here speaks English. Whether it be my suitemates, my Mexican friends, or even people at restaurants, everyone sees that I’m clearly not Mexican and they speak to me in English. At first this didn’t bother me that much because I thought that people were just trying to be helpful, but now it’s just downright annoying. I came here to speak Spanish. I need to speak Spanish in order to get better at it.

I have heard various reasons for why it seems that “foreigners” are able to pick up English with much greater ease than native English speakers can learn other languages. English is supposedly easier to learn conversationally, while foreign languages in the U.S. are taught through lectures and not through practice. Another theory is that English as a second language is taught much earlier than foreign languages are taught in the United States. Someone else suggested to me that English-language media, like movies, tv shows, books, etc., is so globally used that even this exposure primes people in non-English speaking countries to speak it with greater ease.

I haven’t been really sold on any one of these theories, as they all have certain flaws. And they don’t seem to explain to me why my roommate can speak English almost fluently after only taking one semester of it in college. I’ve been taking Spanish for eight years and he still runs circles around me.

The conclusion I’ve come to within the last few days is that I’m just going to have to accept that for some reason other people are able to learn foreign languages easier than myself. I’ve resigned myself to force myself to speak Spanish as much as possible. If native speakers speak to me in English, then I am just going to have to respond to them in Spanish. If they make fun of the way I pronounce things or of my gringo accent, then I just have to remember that they make mistakes when they speak to me in English and that I’m never going to get better unless I just ignore them.

The other thing that I have started to do is just telling people that I want them to speak to me in Spanish. I can’t count how many times I’ve said, “Me puedes hablar en español,” in the last week. It’s been working slightly, but as soon as they say something that I don’t understand, people start talking to me in English. I am just going have to be more proactive with all of this. Hopefully I will walk away with this semester with improved Spanish skills.