Now and then, I recall pretty awkward moments at work back in Belgium. I used to work in a hotel and next to English and Dutch, I can speak some French and German. However, this did not help the hoards of Spanish tourists making their way to Ghent each year. Some of them would speak English just fine, but the older generations tend not to. And if they do, they would prefer to speak in Spanish anyway. I would always ask help from my Mexican colleague, who was the hotel cook. If he was not there, I would very unprofessionally consult Google translate combined with some improvised sign language.
Your reason might not be professional. It might just be out of a cultural interest or the fact that it is a world language and worth knowing. Perhaps it is the beauty or the passion it carries or the positive effects it can have mentally. There are plenty of reasons and most people are bound to secretly possess at least one of them.
For me the reasons are mainly practical but definitely has a social aspect to it as well. Most people assume everyone just speaks English anyway, or should, and that is that. But whether they do or not, certain things might literally get lost in translation. Subtle things, mind, but important nonetheless. A language is more than just words. In some cultures, you move your body differently. You use different gestures. Some of our usual movements might mean the exact opposite elsewhere. In being open to these, you will learn to connect more with everyone around you as well as understand that language is the very essence of a culture.
For a language as important versatile as Spanish, it is fun to discover the differences between the different Spanish speaking countries. I will be visiting quite a few and know that with each interaction, I might encounter something that makes them different. Something that makes them unique.
This blog was contributed by Mieke, from Belgium, who is an intern and Spanish student at Instituto Estelar Bilingüe in Liberia, Costa Rica.