Learning English With profile: 23 years-old Paul Iano comes from Seattle (US) and lives in Vitoria Gasteiz. He works as an English assistant at The Official School of Languages in Pío Baroja.
- How did you learn Spanish? Did you go to an Official School of Languages? Did you go to a Private Academy? By yourself?
I learned Spanish during about two years that I lived in Central America, mostly Guatemala. I moved there immediately after high school with about three sentences of Spanish, and was living in an area where no one spoke English. So I had to learn. I learned basically by talking to people as much as possible and carrying around a pocket dictionary. I’ve never learned a language from classes, and to be honest I have no idea how people can do it. I have to be using it and talking to people, or it never sticks in my head.
- What would you recommend somebody who´s learning English?
Speak in English! If you can, move to a country where they speak only English. It’ll be really hard for the first few months, but then you will get much better, very quickly. But then again, that’s how I learned. Everyone has a different way of learning. If you think that classes work for you, then do that. But whatever you are doing, make sure to challenge yourself a lot. That moment when your brain feels tired, that’s when you are really learning something.
- How was the first time you talked in English with a Spanish person? Was it difficult or easy?
The first time I talked with a Spaniard in English was at my university, and so it was pretty normal. He was just another guy in my class. The one thing that surprised me was when I arrived in Euskal Herria and heard people speaking English kind of with an accent from the United Kingdom. I knew there was a lot of historical connection between the two areas, but I didn’t think it would be so strong that even the accent would exist here.
- Which other languages can you speak?
Italian, relatively well.
- Which other languages would you like to speak?
I’m learning Basque and Arabic at the moment.
- Is the US accent very difficult to understand?
Well, not for me. Also we have so many accents in the USA, so it’s hard to say. Talking to someone from the swamps in Georgia isn’t easy. But accents are only hard because you haven’t heard them, no accent is easier to understand, or more correct.
- If I travel to your city (Seattle), what would you recommend that I visit?
That depends on what you are interested in of course. I find the city kind of boring these days, especially since I don’t really enjoy a lot of the events you have to pay to get into. There aren’t places like the Gaztetxe or cheap, good bars like there are here in Vitoria Gasteiz. Any decent music is really expensive, and the atmosphere of the place will suck. So I don’t know, weed is legal, we have really nice mountains and parks, and really good local beer, as well as a good fringe (not mainstream) theater scene.
- Is Seattle an expensive city comparing to Vitoria?
Yes. Renting in the city for a one room apartment costs a minimum of $1,700 a month these days.
- Are US people open-minded or shy?
Well, neither. They aren’t exactly what I would call open-minded. Everyone lives in a little bubble. We are a very segregated country, and city. So people have a hard time imagining other ways of life, in any other way than exotic. And people aren’t really shy. But in Seattle people are very passive-aggressive, which means they don’t say what they mean very often. A lot goes unsaid, and you have to know how to interpret things, it’s called “the Seattle freeze”
- Was it difficult adapting yourself to the Vitoria Gasteiz (Basque) way of life? For example: We usually have lunch or dinner earlier than in the US.
- What do you miss from Seattle? The family, the food? The friends?
There is one local burger shop that I miss. And a variety of types of beer. That’s about it though.
- Would you like to live in another country? Why?
Not really. I’ve traveled a lot in the last 6 years. I’m ready to stick around here for a while.
- Do you know somebody that we should interview for this section?
There are other people here who have the same job as me, or maybe my brother who learned some Spanish and was in Cuba and Spain for a little while.
- Anything else you’d like to add…
Yeah, everyone keeps telling me that they think Basques are cold, or hard to get to know. I think that’s ridiculous. Maybe I come from a place that is kind of cold already, but in general I think Basques just have real communities and real friends, which makes it difficult for an outsider to become involved. But that’s how it should be. There is a difference between being cold and having a real culture and community, and I’ve found people to be very friendly given that context.
Thank you very much Paul Lano!