Do you have friends that speak Spanish? Or are you in a new relationship with a Spanish-speaking boyfriend or girlfriend?
During the holidays, you may find yourself invited to your first Spanish family dinner, holiday party, or social event.
When two or more people relate to one another, you have to battle differing opinions, habits, personality traits and ways of doing things.
Add a pinch of cultural differences and a splash of Spanish and you’ve got a recipe for potential misunderstandings, awkwardness, and anxiety.
Whether your Spanish speaking family members are in-laws, a boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. here are some ways to help you master the challenge:
✔ Embrace the challenge
Don’t let language or cultural barriers hinder you from accepting an invitation to a holiday party or family gathering.
Having a meaningful relationship with a Spanish speaker is the best language learning motivation out there. You have an instant conversation partner and someone you actually want to talk to and get to know.
You will be amazed at how quickly your ability to speak and understand Spanish improves.
✔ Keep an open mind
Language and culture go hand in hand. With a different culture come different traditions, ideals, and foods
You have to be willing to try new things, take part in new traditions, and listen to new ideas. For the sake of your relationship or friendships, you are better off just embracing the differences.
You don’t have to agree with or like everything. Just be willing to try new things and entertain new ideas.
✔ Use body language
Even if you cannot participate in the conversation as much as you would like, a smile or nod speaks volumes.
Relax and stay positive.
Your mannerisms and interactions will reflect your positivity, and without saying a word, you will be letting your new friends or family members know you are grateful to be there.
✔ Go with the flow
There’s a saying: when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Well, when at a Spanish social gathering, you do as the Latinos do.
If everyone greets with a kiss on the cheek, you do too. If everyone cleans their plate, you do too. Be observant and try your best to blend in.
✔ Try your best
You may not be able to jump into a full fledged debate over dinner. That’s OK.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to throw in a few appropriate words or phrases in Spanish.
The other guests will be honored by your effort, knowing that you care enough about them to desire to speak their language.
There is nothing wrong with doing your homework to know a little about the culture or background of the people you will be mingling with.
Just don’t assume that everyone is the same.
Just because you read that Mexicans are generally Catholic and have big families doesn’t mean that everyone fits this stereotype.
Get to know your people as individuals by talking to them one-on-one before entering into potentially offensive topics of conversation or judging their culture and values.
✖Freak yourself out
Your new acquaintance, friends, or in-laws are just as nervous as you are to meet them.
Take a deep breath.
You will be fine.
Nervousness makes it harder to speak and understand a second language, so whatever you need to do to chill out beforehand, do it.
Don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself to be perfect, speak fluent Spanish, and wow them with your wit and native-sounding accent.
For your first few interactions, just concentrate on not looking constipated and you’ll be good.
Relax and the conversation will flow naturally.
✖ Force it
It is natural to be excited and want to practice your Spanish with new people, but everyone you meet will not have the patience or interest in speaking with a non-native Spanish speaker or someone perceived as an outsider.
If they feel more comfortable speaking to you in English don’t get upset or be offended. It is nothing personal.
People tend to associate different languages with different people and it is hard to change that pattern.
Focus on building a good relationship, no matter what language it is in. If you really want a language partner out of the deal, invite them to do something with you or invite them to your next family or social gathering. Over time, you can build up to some informal Spanish practice.
In short, having Spanish-speaking friends and family members is an adventure but it is worth it.
You will have the opportunity to experience language, culture, and social life in a whole new way.
Remember, each family, group of friends, and situation is different.
Trust your instincts and be yourself.
Allow your life to be enriched and changed as result of your new relationships and enjoy the journey.