I’m French and grew up in a very small village in the French countryside. At home, at school and everywhere around me we spoke only French, and yet I’m fluent in Spanish. The reason: I fell in love with the language when I was 12 years old. My passionate love for Spanish burned for many years and compelled me to leave my own country for Spain.
I still remember my first Spanish lesson. Most of the students were bored, but I experienced something indescribable. From that day Spanish became the most important thing in my life. I was literally in love. I used to think about it every day, to dream about going to Spain and Latin America. I would have done anything and nothing would have stopped me. I always knew that someday that language would be mine, no matter the obstacles. I was totally led by passion. The Spanish world was my El Dorado.
I’m obviously much more realistic now, after living 13 years in Spain and growing up a little bit. But the Spanish universe still fascinates me in many ways, and I’m always happy to share with others its beauties and wonders. Why learn Spanish? Here’s my personal and very subjective point of view.
What really got me under the spell from day one were Spanish sounds. My first teacher had a beautiful and perfect Spanish accent. Spanish is not very rich in phonemes compared to other languages, but I find the “r” and the “s” very intense and beautiful. I’ve always found it amazing how my voice becomes lower, deeper and warmer in Spanish. Pronouncing Spanish has always been a sensual experience for me.
Rhythm, Music and Dancing
I love the rhythm of the Spanish language. Its melody seems to be made for songs and poetry. I used to learn songs and poems by heart even if I couldn’t understand half of them. And of course I fell in love with flamenco. The first time I heard real “cante” flamenco was in Sevilla, in a small bar, and I was so moved that I couldn’t stop crying. It’s so intense, extremely sad and beautiful at the same time.
Of course, you have to see and hear real flamenco. Many shows and concerts for tourists have very little to do with flamenco. Although I really enjoy watching flamenco dancing, I don’t dance it myself. I found my dancing passion across the Ocean, in Latin America. I’m crazy about bachata and salsa.
Art and Architecture
Of course you’ve heard about Velazquez, Goya, Picasso, Dali, Miro, Frida Khalo and Diego de Rivera, very famous and talented artists. If you go to Spain, don’t miss the Prado, where you’ll find many of the greatest paintings from Spanish artists.
Travelling through Spain is also amazing. You’ll find so many vestiges from antiquity. Powerful civilizations conquered the Iberian Peninsula: Romans, Visigoths, Muslims… Extremadura is also a wonderful region to discover, with incredible places like Caceres, Mérida, Guadalupe, places where time seems to have stopped. Hispano-Mauresque architecture is fascinating. Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba are magical places with palaces that seem to come directly from One Thousand and One Nights. And last but not least, in a totally different style: Barcelona. A display of modernist architecture thanks to Gaudi with la Pedrada and Batllo houses, Güell Park and the Sagrada familia.
Several periods of Spanish history have drawn my attention. Spanish Muslim history intrigued me so much that I dedicated two years studying it and I wrote a Master thesis about culture in XIth century Muslim Spain. It even led me to learn some Arabic. Al Andalus was a period of cultural explosion. And although most people don’t know much about it, it lasted for 7 centuries and had a huge impact on Spanish art, language and culture.
The “Descubrimiento” is another fascinating period. I lived in Extremadura, the Spanish Comunidad where the greatest conquistadores, such as Pizarro and Cortes, were from. Although I‘ve never had the chance to go to Latin America, I’ve always been interested in pre-Columbian cultures. Reading Colon’s diary was an extremely striking experience.
Modern history is also interesting and tragic. The independence wars in America, the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship in Spain can’t leave you indifferent. Knowing Spanish recent history helps you understand current Spanish society. It’s hard to believe that the Civil War is still taboo in many ways and that today many Spanish people don’t know what exactly happened then.
Good Food and Good Mood
Spanish food is both simple and delicious. I’ve always wondered how very simple ingredients like eggs and potatoes can create such a succulent Tortilla. Going out to for tapas and drinks is very common, and Spanish people spend a lot of time outside with their friends and family. Enjoying everyday day life is certainly something I’ve learned from Spanish culture. No matter what your problems are, in Spain it seems that nothing is unsolvable and you learn to focus much more on the present and to see the positive aspect of every situation.
Katy Beauvais is native French and she studied Spanish for almost ten years. She’s a Spanish and French teacher and feels passionate about languages. She also speaks English, Portuguese, Italian and she’s always learning new languages. Katy runs the website katyslanguages.net.