How much Spanish do I really have to know before coming to Cosanga?

Okay, so if you’ve already checked out our volunteer section then you’ll have seen that the Spanish requirements for working here are like this: long-term volunteers should have an ‘intermediate’ level, while short-term volunteers don’t need to know any. In my opinion, the main thing you should take away from this is that having a knowledge of the language isn’t so important, but being willing to learn really is. I can’t stress that enough.

I’m going to go ahead and use myself as an example. I study languages (French and Spanish) at university in England, so I already had some knowledge as I’d been studying Spanish for about 2 years. I could tell you how to conjugate a bunch of different verbs, how to structure a Spanish CV, which Spanish phrases are followed by the subjunctive…

You know what I couldn’t do? Hold a casual conversation.

It sounds ridiculous, but this just wasn’t something I’d been taught. Furthermore, I’d never lived in a Spanish-speaking country before so I’d never learned. For anyone who may have lived in Spain before, be prepared to learn a bunch of new vocab.

I’m not going to lie, it was tough at first. Being in a big group of people who were all talking Spanish…that was pretty overwhelming. Especially when someone actually asked me a question and I had to ask them to repeat 3 times.

However, here’s the good news: it’s been almost a month now, and I already feel like I’ve made so much progress. It’s true that immersing yourself in a language is the best way to learn. Oh, and making mistakes. Lots of mistakes.

My point is, for anyone thinking of coming here as a short-term volunteer, it’s true that you don’t really need to know any Spanish. If you’re willing to dive in and make the effort, you’ll learn so much so quickly and it will enhance the experience beyond measure. Ecuadorians are so friendly and love to chat, so you’ll have no trouble finding someone to practice with.

Of course, it can’t hurt to try and learn a little before coming here. I always recommend Duolingo and Memrise as they’re a useful way to practice a little bit every day. And of course there are plenty of other resources out there (the Internet is a beautiful thing).

A brief list to get you started:

• Chevere – cool
• Wawa/guagua – very young kid
• Chuchaqui – hungover/hangover (not that you’ll need this one…ahem)
• ¿Cachas? – Got it/do you understand?
• Simón – yes/sure thing
• Farra – party

¡Buena suerte!

Posted by ryanlynch