Though I travel frequently among Spanish-speaking populations and have studied Spanish in classes and through various at-home courses and "refreshers" (a misnomer for me and Spanish), I have always struggled mightily with the language, despite having a semi-grasp of other Romance tongues. Folks say, "But Spanish is easy!" Pour vous, I always thought, lapsing into typical linguistic confusion.
I am in lovely Guadalajara now, and a miracle has happened -- I seem to be making myself more or less understood en Espanol.
This is huge. I have spent much time wandering about Latin countries, saying, "Donde (the hostel, the mercado, the cantina)?" and "Gracias" to ridiculous exclusivity. It would appear those days may be over, and the secret may be that I am traveling alone. When cruising strange-to-you foreign countries, perhaps the whole sink or swim aspect of speaking the lingo when going solo forces a linguistic leap in pure self-preservation. I've traveled alone before and still been language-impaired, but I like this theory and I'm sticking to it.
All that vocabulary study is paying off, too: in my hostel last night, I recalled "borracho" when I wanted the word, for example. I'm not sure what purpose the vocab recollection served, but at least I could identify the situation en Espanol.
Related: Beginner's Guide to Mexico Travel | Travel and Language
| "Yo Suis Perdu"
"Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages." -- Dave Barry