I Say Tomato, You Say Tomate

Laura Stiers is a third year English major studying abroad in London this quarter. In Dispatches from London, she blogs about books, curious Anglicisms, and literary culture in one of Europe’s most literary cities.

“Well, at least you don’t have to learn a new language!” everyone said to me. It felt like I was cheating, in a way. Sneakily avoiding the true study abroad experience. All my friends learned Greek or French or Hindi. I just had to remember to say “loo” instead of “bathroom.” Not very impressive.

But then along came Sara. A student from Madrid, she shares a kitchen with me and my roommate, and she is perhaps the first person I’ve ever known who lacks a solid command of English.

It’s an utterly novel experience. Somehow, in seven years of studying Spanish, I never once felt like I was actually using it to communicate. Speaking Spanish in class or to order food at a restaurant in Pilsen just felt like a sort of abstract game. With Sara, it’s a necessity. She literally cannot understand me any other way. It’s a surprisingly exhilarating experience, to be able to actually use something I’ve studied. It’s definitely not something I was expecting to get to do here, and I feel strangely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, even though I’ve told her that Shout stain remover “no es para lavar los platos. Es solamente para lavar la ropa,” she remains unconvinced. I guess my Spanish isn’t as good as I’d like to think.

But hey. That’s why I’m studying abroad in England, right?