by Haley Dwyer
Hola a Todos! As my time has been progressing at the Refugee Center, I have had many challenges that I have had to overcome but the greatest one is easily talking on the phone to native Spanish speakers. Talking on the phone in English is hard enough for me but talking on the phone in a foreign language has taken some getting used to. For me, a lot of ability to understand and communicate efficiently in Spanish has to do with body language. When words fail me, I can always rely on the fact that I can point to things and use gestures or facial expressions to get my point across but on the phone this is not possible.
As time has progressed, I have gotten better at talking on the phone in Spanish because I have learned how to communicate better without body language. I have learned that when in doubt it is always best to rephrase what the speaker said in simpler terms so that I know that I fully understand what they are saying. This has taken some practice but I can now successfully say that I can ensure that I understand the speaker completely without sounding like I just started learning Spanish yesterday. Along with this, I have learned that the conversation goes a lot smoother if instead of asking someone to repeat something you simply state that you can’t hear them properly. This way, the speaker does not get frustrated that you cannot understand and instead they simply repeat what they were saying, only slower and louder.
Although these tricks have helped me to master the phone, I still have a difficult time with names. I don’t think that people in general realize how fast they are stating their name so a lot of instances at the Center I have not been able to understand what the client’s name is. Shortly after my first encounter with the phone, I learned how to ask someone to spell their name. This has helped me greatly but people still spell their names incredibly fast so I still have difficulty with this often. I hope to get better at this as time progresses and as I become more familiar with typical Spanish names.
Overall, although using the phone is frustrating, I am glad that I am learning some of these tricks and techniques for talking on the phone now and not when I am in Spain next year. This is one aspect of life in Spain that I did not think of and so this learning experience will come in handy next year when I have to talk on the phone everyday in Spanish.