In her most significant novel/memoir, Eat Pray Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert stated that she wanted to learn Italian simply because she loved the sound of the language. Because she just loved learning Italian. Because it was fun and it was the language she actually wanted to learn.
There was no logical or sensible reason to pick Italian. It’s only spoken by one country, and not even a country she lived near. It was not rational, it was a pursuit of love and devotion to learning.
I feel like, in Britain, there’s a huge misconception that ‘everyone speaks English.’ Okay, we might not mean literally everyone. But we do tend to say this about countries geographically close to the UK like France, Germany and Spain. But it’s just not true. You can only really count on hospitality workers and people in cities being able to speak English as a second language. But in the olive fields of Andalucía? It’s unlikely.
I don’t want to be an ignorant Brit anymore. I want to be bilingual and have more in common with our European neighbours. The big question is, though, which language would be most useful to a Brit? It’s so difficult to choose because you don’t want to spend a lot of time learning a language that would end up being of little use.
The language that you will find the easiest and most enjoyable to learn is the language you want to learn. And when I asked myself this question, learning Spanish was the only answer. This was because of lots of little, rational reasons and a slightly more obscure one.
Why I am learning Spanish
These are all of my rational, extremely sensible reasons to learn Spanish…
- Lots of people speak Spanish in lots of countries. It’s up there with French and Arabic in terms of the number of different countries who use these languages. I could learn Mandarin but I’d still only be able to converse with citizens of one country.
- It’s got to be easier to learn Spanish than a language with a whole other alphabet, right?
- I love Spain. I’ve only been to Barcelona once and spent two weeks in and around Granada, but I know I love it and can’t wait to spend more time there.
- Someday, I want to walk the Camino de Santiago where some basic Spanish would be incredibly useful.
- The language is BEAUTIFUL. This is a language where ‘almond’ is almendra. ‘Bedroom’ translates to dormitorio and ‘love’ is amor or enamorada or enamorado. How freakin’ pretty are those words?!
La razón principal
But my main reason for learning Spanish… the reason that I first considered before I began my Spanish language learning pursuits… is because I would really love to be able to watch Spanish films without the subtitles.
Specifically, Pedro Almodóvar films.
Sometimes this seems silly and ridiculous but most of the time it makes so much sense. He’s hands down my favourite filmmaker. His films may have themes of rape, child molestation and AIDS… but I’ve never watched films so full of joy, life and colour. When did making films about serious subjects mean the films themselves have to be serious?
But the sad fact is I have only seen ten out of the twenty films he has directed. Why? Because watching films and reading subtitles is a pain in the arse. For a so-called cinephile, I have such a horrible attention span for watching films. I’m always checking my phone, painting my nails or even, yes, writing a blog post.
In fact, I’m writing this post with Look Who’s Talking Too (1990) in the background.
And Pedro Almodóvar’s films aren’t just in the Spanish language, they are incredibly dialogue-heavy and dammit those Madrileños talk FAST.
The thought of being able to watch Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) without also having to read it fills me with so many warm fuzzies. It tops every other reason for learning Spanish.
If you’re a film fan and you are considering learning a language, I recommend asking yourself the same question. What country’s films do I love the most? Do I love the French New Wave movement? Am I really getting into South Korean horror? It could be the justification you’ve been looking for to choose a language.
Hasta aquí todo bien
I’ve been attempting to learn Spanish since August last year, just before I went to Granada. It’s going moderately well but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. Little and often has been my mantra for learning Spanish.
I’ve downloaded the Duolingo App and it’s working for me at the moment. I sometimes feel like the phrases and vocabulary it is teaching me aren’t the most immediately relevant, but if I plan to be conversational I guess it’s all useful.
I know reading in Spanish and watching Spanish movies is really useful in language learning, but I know that I’m going to need to converse more in the Spanish language. I really hope to move there for a while, but we’ll see if that works out.
And let’s not forget the great Mexican films I’d be able to understand… Amores Perros (2000) and Y Tu Mamá También (2001)… Not to mention The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)! Who said learning a language is boring?! Oh right, I did, in Year 8 repeating French verbs for the thousandth time… Yeah, no wonder us Brits are so ignorant.
And that’s why I’m learning Spanish! Have you ever wanted to learn a language for an unconventional reason? What foreign language films do you think you watch the most? Let me know in the comments below!