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How To Thrive & Not Just Survive In Mexico

One of the most difficult parts of moving to Mexico is the challenge to communicate. Unless you arrive fluent in Spanish, there will be an adjustment period and the agony that goes along with not easily getting your thoughts across to someone else. I did not arrive for my life in Mexico fully fluent in Spanish, and therefore anytime I need to communicate with folks from the Yucatan, there is a bit of embarrassment and struggle with sounding like a child.

I started my studies in Spanish in high school some 28 years ago. I took 4 years of Spanish, and by the time I graduated high school, I knew the alphabet and could form simple sentences. However, information not used is information lost. Fast forward to my 40's, and now I really want to learn Spanish because I know in a few years that I hope to be living in Latin America. I tried everything, Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Spanish for dummies. My wife of 26 years even went to college and became a Spanish teacher, so one would think that I would absorb the language. Well, that was not the case.

It wasn't until we had decided on a location, Merida, that I got really serious about learning Spanish. My first effort to grasp the language was to attend an intensive Spanish class for 3 straight weeks at La Calle in Merida. This class served two purposes. It was the first time I would be thrust into the Spanish-speaking world without my wife, which forced me to be solely accountable for my communications. Secondly, it lets me know exactly how little Spanish I knew versus what I thought I knew, and built me up, rather quickly from there. It was intense but a great way to jump-start my quest to have decent conversations.

After those three weeks, I left with the ability to express myself in the present tense and future tenses. That was in June 2019 and was a great start. When we returned in October of 2019, I had planned to continue my studies as our Airbnb was right around the corner from the school. However, the challenges of moving took precedence over taking classes, so I only was able to take 1 more week of intensive classes. In January of 2020, my wife saw that so many of us ex-pats there needed to learn Spanish and started a twice-a-week Spanish class for about 5 or 6 of us. I already knew she was amazing, but MAN, she blew our socks off with real tangible ways for us to learn the material. We advanced so much in the 2 months before Covid hit. We covered numbers, the past tenses, future tenses and touched on the subjunctive. We even read our first Spanish novel aloud and began to work on the pronunciation. She whipped us into shape quickly. Once we were back in Georgia during e pandemic, she kept the classes going twice a week via zoom. This was even more effective as she had a captive audience. We really made some good strides during this time.

I returned to Merida in June of 2020, just after Father's Day. Now armed with a grammatical knowledge of how to read and write in the tenses above. I was able to text like a champ. Speaking was still a challenge, and hearing was even more difficult. We hired a live-in Nanny in October of 2020. Speaking with her daily has been a huge boost to my language skills, hearing, and speaking. Even though she is studying English, French, and Spanish in college, we mostly speak Spanish. She has been a huge boost for me learning the language, and I know she gets tired of me asking her whats this word or that word. But she is so sweet to suffer my language blunders, and I know I add entertainment to her life as I screw up and find humor in the weirdest things.

The good news to all of this is, one day, it all clicked. I went from can you please slow down, to responding to questions, having phone calls, and general conversations with people out of the blue. I can't tell you the moment that it all came together, but I certainly noticed that I could hear conversations around me when I was out in the world, where are before, it was like I had headphones on unless someone was speaking directly to me. I lost the fear of not speaking Spanish when I realized that my Spanish was better than the English people who tried to speak with me. There is always that weird tango when someone wants to accommodate you by speaking English, and you would rather stay in Spanish at the same time.

Now I feel that I am conversational. I recently had a conversation about my beliefs with my barber. It was interesting to have such a deep discussion with someone in Spanish. I am now thriving in my new home. I feel I have the decoder wheel. At the same time, I have a ways to go to fluency. I feel that I can totally get around and accomplish most tasks without issue.

My key piece of advice is not to wait until you arrive to learn the language. Your life and experience will be 1000 times better if you can navigate and understand your new world in Spanish. Learning the language allows you to Thrive when moving to Mexico.

For the visual folks and more tips. Check out the accompanying video on youtube.

Until Next Time,

MexitPlans Monte "I'm Out"


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