I went to Costa Rica hoping to practice and to improve my Spanish. I had taken two years of Spanish in university and, in particular, I wanted to strengthen my speaking skills. I was by no means fluent, but I could read some books in Spanish and I understood the fundamentals of the language.
When I arrived at Costa Rica, I became shy. I only spoke some words in the beginning, and I would speak English if I knew the person could speak English. I didn’t want the locals to hear my slow Spanish with its simple grammar. When I watched TV inside the hotel, I would grow impatient with the fast Spanish-speaking of the shows (the accent was different from the one I was accustomed to), and I would switch the channel to an English-speaking movie with Spanish subtitles.
Later on, I began to overcome my fear of judgement and I spoke Spanish with some people. They were very kind and they indulged me. Even though I made the mistake of using “tú” instead of the formal “usted” for some of my conversations; they were understanding. It made me feel good to speak the language with native speakers.
I arrived home from my experience satisfied that I did get to practice some of my Spanish. It’s always useful knowing another language. However, you do have to make an effort to practice and immerse yourself in the second (or third or fourth) language if you want to retain – or advance – your level of fluency.