The Benefits of Being Corrected By a 10-year-old

On January 25, I said goodbye to friends and family and got on a plane to Seville, Spain. However, unlike many other students that decide to study abroad for a semester, I said goodbye to speaking English as well.

Spanish Studies Abroad is a highly intensive program. All our classes are taught in complete Spanish, with professors that do not speak English. In addition, we have a strictly enforced “Spanish Only Policy.” Meaning, if we get caught speaking English to our peers, we get five points deducted from our final grade in our Spanish grammar class.

At first, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and scared. However, once my language comprehension and understanding became stronger, my Spanish improved so much. I still have a long way to go towards complete fluency, and I understand I will never get there in a just a three-month program, but I no longer face issues getting the general idea across and I can always find ways to work around saying what I need to say if I do not have the exact vocabulary I need.

I have noticed this most clearly with my host parents. I live with Ana and Jesus, a retired couple with a large apartment in Los Remedios, the neighborhood outside of the main city of Seville, with another student studying abroad from Salve. Somehow, even after a long day of tiring out my brain with two languages, I am able to talk to them at dinner each night about my day. Living with host parents was the best decision I made in terms of studying abroad, as they have fully immersed me with the culture, teaching me typical foods of Spain and providing me insight on the day-to-day language and slang of Spanish. Along with everything they teach me, they have also become my parents while here. For example, Ana made me tea when I was sick and hugged me when I got a poor grade on an exam. Jesus is always trying to make me laugh and reminds me a lot of my actual dad. I always feel comfortable in their home, so much so that I do not struggle at all to call it my home away from home.

And the best part about Ana and Jesus: their grandchildren.

Twice a week, four of their grandchildren between the ages of 5 and 10 come to the apartment to eat lunch with us. These meals are always the best: conversation-wise and food-wise. Hearing the kids talk to each other in Spanish makes me that much more excited to be learning the language. As an education major, I love being around kids and I always learn from our conversations. I ask them about their school, their after-school activities (the 10-year-old is taking Flamenco classes, the traditional dance of Andalusia), and their lives. I find so many things very intriguing, such as the math that they are learning and the history lessons they get taught.

However, kids are ruthless, but in the best way. These kids make my roommate and I laugh so hard, like the time the six-year-old looked between me and my roommate, pointed at my roommate and said, in Spanish: “You are better at speaking Spanish than her.” Yes, a child told me that I am bad at speaking Spanish, the main reason I came to Spain. But I realize that although my host parents and my instructors at school want me to do well, they are not going to correct every minor detail of my language expression. They understand the general idea, and that is what is important. These kids do not understand that aspect of our journey in the slightest.

One of my most favorite moments from this experience that I will never forget is the time that I was sitting on the patio watching the sunset, and the 10-year-old came to sit with me while I did homework. Instead of just watching me, my homework became a two-person activity. I would answer the questions, and Lola would correct the grammar in my responses. Though embarrassed because I am nine years older, I felt like I learned so much. There I was, being tutored by someone that is actually going to tell me if I am right or wrong.

I benefitted from her mini lesson so much. And the best part? We were able to laugh at my answers when she told me what it sounded like I was saying versus what I actually wanted to say. This was one of those moments that made me realize that being overwhelmed by the language barrier will all be worth it someday.

Last weekend, a cab driver complimented both my roommate and I on our Spanish. We were so happy and immediately told Ana and Jesus when we arrived back home. These are the happy moments that will never leave me when I think back on my experience of living in Spain and adapting to all the differences, specifically having to use Spanish instead of English. I am so happy with my decision to study aboard, and so proud of myself for all I have learned and continue to learn while here.

Danielle Abril (’25) is an Elementary and Special Education Double Major with a Spanish Minor studying abroad in Spain at Spanish Studies Abroad in Seville.
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