Looking forward..

Another weekend.

Another few days to catch up on sleep, but it’s not so bad. I’m just home from a very successful Spanish morning organised by Camino Society Ireland. I’ve left my knowledge of the Spanish language fall by the wayside a number of years ago. I have become fearful of making mistakes and to be honest, making mistakes is all part of learning any language. However, since the opportunity arose to dust down my skills and possibly improve them, I grabbed it with both hands.

I need to be taught in Spanish and that is exactly what our “profesora excelente” is doing. Hopefully, I will have less of the fear and more of the patience, to be speaking it before the lessons end. Who knows?

Next May is Camino #8, but who’s counting? Next I travel to Vigo and start walking a little further down in A Guarda on the Portuguese Coastal route. I should be in Santiago within 8-9 days as we are taking our time. I say “we”, as I am walking with my brother. I wonder if I will have the patience, and whether I will walk into Santiago with him. Keep an eye on this blog to find out, folks. He bought his backpack, a Lowe Alpine 35litre, and a few other essentials in the last few weeks, and our walks start soon. We are both constantly looking forward to the start date on May 6th and me being the “Camino expert” is being asked many a question. The real test will be taking the packs out for 2 consecutive days.

I walk into Santiago for the first time since June 2011. I’m not sure how to feel about this, and am hoping we get time to walk to the Coast. The Camino has been calling me big time since I returned from Astorga in September. I am getting more involved with the local Camino Society..and I enjoy it. For any other reason, I would be filled with trepidation.

I must return to my weekend now. More news later.

A Busy Week…and some Spanish lessons

If you live in Ireland, or even in Europe, you will know of the weather we have had over the last week. As I type, Storm Brian is passing over this part of the world blowing winds and delivering rain to parts of southern Ireland.

However, Storm Brian’s predecessor, Ex-Hurricane Ophelia was far more destructive. Parts of Cork and Kerry are still without power and water and trees have fallen in almost every county in Ireland. You can read more about the damage here and here. But perhaps the worst news to come from Ophelia on Monday was news of three deaths as a result of the winds. This is something you don’t hear about in Ireland. Transport throughout the country was severely affected and most companies closed before the storm hit on Monday morning.

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credit – rte.ie

Now, where do I come into it?

I work for a property claims company and have been here since 2012. Since the start of the year, we have been very quiet and I have actually moved roles away from claims notifications as for that reason. I have enjoyed my new role and have been learning as I go. However, as the calls came in on Tuesday morning notifying us of damage, my services were needed and we, as a team, have been non-stop since then. The weekend came at the right time. I have put everything, including the over-seeing off the renovation of my apartment, on the back burner since Monday. It has also been frustrating as I am still in training mode in my new role. Ophelia and Brian has put paid to that until mid-week I gather.

Today was also an early start as I restarted Spanish language lessons. It’s been so long since I took classes. I stopped because the last class I took was through Spanish, which frightened me a little. Camino Society Ireland have organised classes for its members. Once I overcome this fear and learn to use the vocabulary that I know I have, I should be driving in the right direction. Espero que si!

Is Spanish needed on the Camino de Santiago?

Hola y un saludo a todos!!

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I have been asked a number of times by people who wish to walk the Camino if they need to learn or understand the Spanish language beforehand. Hopefully, this post will lend a hand. On my first trip in 2011, the only knowledge of the language I had was from back in secondary school. I could barely say hello and goodbye, let alone ask for the time or ask for directions. So when I was in Spain, I felt I was missing out on something. One of the guys I was walking with was a language teacher and I was reliant on her when I was out and about. So when I came back from that Camino, I promised myself I would start to learn the language.

Now compared to any other language, Spanish is relatively easy. It is one of the most widely spoken languages also; most of South America speak it and you will almost certainly find someone in the States who knows a word or two. I wanted to learn it for the Camino however, not to travel to those countries. That said, you can get by without knowing a word. The Camino is like a microcosm of the world in general. People from all countries do their best to communicate in their own languages, and it’s often difficult to understand each other. Most people choose to speak in “simple English” and if you are walking for 30 days, you “could” return home with your friends and family finding it hard to understand you!!

So at the start of 2012, I signed up to do an evening course in basic Spanish. It is one option available to you should you wish to delve in. I got to learn the simple stuff, without learning grammar, verbs or getting into conversations. I was fairly happy at the end of the ten weeks so I signed up for the conversational level Spanish. Now I found this a little tougher. The whole premise of this course was to immerse you in the language. No English was allowed and we were kind of made to make mistakes in Spanish no matter how bad they were. It was tough going but I came out with alot more knowledge than I had.

Fast forward to now…I can understand a Spanish conversation and can speak but at a slow enough speed. I am delighted I made the decision to learn. It is sad that most people in Ireland only speak one language, but if you go to Spain, they speak three or Holland, they speak four.

There are plenty of resources out there available to you should you wish to learn from scratch and here are just a few:

  1. Duolingo.com – You can sign up for free and learn from scratch. The userface is very attractive and there are great incentives that make you come back each day. I’m currently topping up my Spanish there, whilst re-learning Irish.
  2. Lightspeed Spanish – Another fabulous website that offers tutorials for all levels, from absolute beginners to advanced speakers. Gordon and Cynthia provide podcasts and YouTube videos and last year published a book which I have bought “Victor’s Adventures in Spain”.
  3. Coffee Break Spanish – Another site that provides podcasts. I found this very helpful but don’t let their Scottish accents put you off 🙂
  4. Mi Vida Loca – Not so much geared to those walking the Camino but a great place to start out if you want to learn Spanish. “My crazy life” is an online drama that includes you. It is fully interactive and gives you great vocabulary. I still go back to it to refresh.
  5. Camino Lingo – I don’t own this book, but it has been recommended on the Camino Forum. A basic, all-you-need book providing vocabulary to use while on the Camino.

There are also many many websites that send you daily emails with vocab and phrases. They certainly help.

But with regards to the Camino, Spanish is not essential but it helps to know the basics. I certainly get a great thrill speaking to locals and I try my best to speak as much of the language as I can. It is worth pointing out, that if you are interested in volunteering as a hospitalero, you need to have a good level of Spanish. Maybe, in my 60s I will reach that level 🙂

Buen Camino, peregrinos y buena suerte!

I’ve hit a Spanish wall..

Humph! I’m close to two years learning Spanish on and off. I have been to two evening courses and I do what I can when I am free. I reckon I get on ok with Spanish locals, provided they speak slowly and give me a little time to reply. I’ve tried it and it is great getting corrected as I speak. 

However, I have hit a wall. A very high one. I love the language and so want to speak it, like a second language. I “think” I am ok with the present tense..as in “the now”. Future tense…I take the easy way out and say “I am going to ….” rather than “I will…” and that is fine and well. Past tense..forget about it! If someone asked me “So what did you do today?”, I am instantly stuck. Maybe it is practice makes perfect? I was the same with French and Irish in school..I was never confident with conjugating verbs, whether they are regular or irregular. What do you reckon? 

So…where were we?

Hi folks..I’m back. I find it hard to believe it is a month since I put finger to keypad and wrote. I guess life got in the way. I keep meaning to sign in, say hello to everyone and then sign out, but that is a little too much like facebook. I even forgot my password! I’ve just finished brushing down some cobwebs while reading some posts written by some followers.

I may as well say where I have been all this time. Don’t worry..I haven’t left Dublin or anything..I haven’t decided to pack my bags and move to Spain on a whim..although I would jump at the chance. Incidentally, a few people have told me that now is an ideal time to take that extended break. I have no ties, no mortgage, no children..it’s a great time to do it. It’s a nice thought alright, but….maybe later! The word “regret” automatically leaps into my mind!

As you are all aware (if you have been reading my blog), I have a mortgage approved for quite some time. I have been looking here and there and had pretty much bought an apartment in north Dublin. I was beyond happy as it was central and the prices are getting higher, so I got a good deal. But before I signed on the dotted line, I wanted to check one final thing out. The original architect’s report..drawn up in 2000..which was by chance in the middle of the riddled Celtic Tiger. I wanted to see if he had approved the build. But he didn’t. He denied liability, as there were no fire breaks in the walls. The words “Priory Hall” jumped into my mind and I ran from that sale as fast as I could. I’m delighted I didn’t sign as I would never be able to sell in the future. I have pity on the current owners, they will have a tough time trying to sell it. Imagine if there was a fire there…actually no, don’t! So I am back to square one and I’ve decided to wait until the new year to start looking again.

I have decided to go back to Spain to finish the remainder of the Camino, but not until September. I have gotten used to the May / June time slot, and I wonder what it will be like in September. I reckon 10 days will be enough and I will have it completed. I may leave it a few years after that and walk the full stretch…for my 40th! Who knows? I am meeting some folks I met in Burgos in May before Christmas. It will be great to see them again. And I hope to see a few others who plan to visit Ireland from Canada and France respectively. I’m actually looking forward to walking the first few stages, they aren’t busy and there are no day trippers, unlike in Galicia.

He terminado mi clase de español para el año, pero no sé qué hacer ahora. Creo que necesito más prácticas de conversación! You might need to use Google Translate to figure out what I said there, but it’s about learning Spanish 🙂 Oh..if you are planning on learning the language, you shouldn’t pay a dime..you should 1) visit duolingo.com 2) read El Pais online and 3) watch a Spanish speaking channel. You will pick it up very easily. And practice makes perfect. Surrounding yourself with like minded individuals helps too. That goes for any language. Rosetta Stone..ripp off, more like!!

Well I think that’s about it from here. I have a few e-mails to write and an episode of Breaking Bad to watch. Yes, yes, I know it is finished but I am still catching up. I’ve avoided spoilers for a while so I’m doing well!!

I understand but, I can´t speak

From reading my blogs over the last few months, you might have noticed I have an interest in Spain and it’s language. It’s true. It’s an interest and whether it is unhealthy or not, I’ll leave it you to decide that. The language itself is one I want to be fluent in and hopefully I will be someday. I got the ball rolling in February of this year, I started a beginners course in Spanish and I learnt a lot from it. I felt confident in what I knew and added to that by listening to some podcasts, and by writing to Spanish speakers in their native language. I did my level best to speak some few lines during my time in Spain.  So I had planned. 

What I found out was how little I knew. Yes, I could order a drink and ask for directions, and yes, I could talk about the weather and how bad or good it was but my knowledge was limited. I didn’t know much else. It didn’t help either by meeting people from non-Spanish speaking countries. I could have gone out of my way to meet some Spanish people, but it’s in the past now!

Anyway..ten weeks of beginners Spanish doesn’t really help but it does give you a taster. Since then I have done more reading, listened to more podcasts and written more emails to some friends abroad. That’s all fine and well and anything that makes me understand the language is great. To reciprocate is another thing.

I started back last Monday to an improvers class at the same college. Another ten weeks would help me improve I thought..why not give it a go?! I met some people I knew from the first course and some had kept their learning up. Others had joined in with sufficient knowledge that they didn’t need a beginners course. This class would be all in Spanish I was told. Ok, I find it hard speaking in English to a group, but in Spanish? The nerves kicked in. Next we were told we needed to talk about ourselves for a while. Fair enough..that can’t be too bad?! I started off and after about a minute or so, the dreaded “umms and ehhs” kicked in. Next, one of the better members of the class stepped up. She had brilliant Spanish and I was left wondering why she needed to take this course?! Even though she sat a metre from me, you could see the gulf from a mile. 

I really did think about dropping from the course after that class. But if I do that, I won’t get any better.
I read this recently about learning any language:
“Most students would say “I understand but, I can´t speak”. I believe this is just fear of being criticised by other people. A high-dose of inhibition is needed!!”

An interesting way to take in Spanish

I’ve been looking for ways how to improve on my Spanish language. It’s nearly a year since I started taking the language seriously and going to classes. There are may tips and tricks on how to improve including this and this.

However, this guy has taken learning a language to a new level. He moved to Germany for a year without a word of German and came home fluent. Have a look at this short clip.

More information can be found at fourththing.wordpress.com/the-lernen-to-talk-show

I’d love to do the same to aid my Spanish.