One of the major things I wanted to work on this semester was becoming a fluent Spanish speaker. Now that I’m almost done, I can’t help but wonder if I actually made it there. I started my Spanish journey in my early teens, and I don’t think that I’ll ever be mistaken for a native speaker. Honestly, it’s exciting when anyone guesses my native language as anything other than English. No one in Ecuador ever thinks I’m from here and they sometimes try to guess where I’m from or what my native language is. Once, I got French which was really exciting because it meant my accent was foreign, but ambiguous enough that it wasn’t necessarily American. Other people have told me I speak Spanish like an American so I guess it depends on who you ask.
I’m sure I’ll always hold on to a little bit of my American accent, and my grammar will never be perfect. Then again, I’ve heard at least three very creative conjugations of decir (to say) in the past tense from native speakers so I don’t feel so bad about it. And, my host mom told me yesterday that she thinks I’ve picked up a bit of the quiteña accent, which I was very excited to hear!
I think the answer probably depends on what you mean by fluency. I’m certainly not at the level of a native speaker. When people surprise me with Spanish, it still takes me a minute to readjust and process what’s happening. Certain accents also give me some trouble, especially when they include not actually enunciating the whole word. However, understanding what’s going on around me isn’t a struggle and I can hold whole conversations, tell stories, and joke around with my host family in Spanish, which I feel like that is an accomplishment.
It’s easy to feel like I haven’t made progress, even though I know that I have. I don’t know if I’d say that I’m fluent, but I certainly feel pretty competent.