Spanish in Quito, Ecuador
I love my host family to death. They’re all such fantastic people and they have made absolutely every effort to make me feel at home while I am here. Before coming to Ecuador, one of my more minor concerns was whether or not I would like and get along well with my host family and vice versa. I was also a bit concerned that communication would be really difficult at first, as I was told that they likely wouldn’t speak any English and my Spanish before coming to Ecuador left something to be desired.I have a little host that is 14 years old, a host sister that is 17 years old, and a host mother and father that would only say that they are “older than 20”. I explicitly asked for a host family that had children around my age, and I absolutely do not regret I was greeted at the airport when I arrived in Quito by an eager man and his son that were to become two of the members of my host family. These two had never even seen so much as a picture of me before that moment, but for some reason my host dad was able to immediately pick me out of the crowd of the other students that were trying to find their host families. He just walked right up to me holding a sign with my name on it, completely positive he had found the right person. I told him that was me, said goodbye to the rest of the group, and was whisked away to my new home.
Luckily, everyone in my host family speaks at least a little bit of English. Talking to my host dad and host brother on the car ride home was a bit difficult at first, but it became more and more easy as the ride progressed. We all knew enough of both languages to work around words that one of us didn’t understand. After the first couple days, I was able to fairly effectively communicate in Spanish and they were able to effectively communicate in English. At all of the schools in Ecuador, every student is taught a minimum of two languages. Commonly these languages are English and Spanish, and many private schools also require German.
The only time that I ever experienced any real major problem with communication was when I tried to explain that I had already eaten dinner and didn’t need to eat again one night when I came back from a bar that I went to with my friends. I’m pretty sure I explained it correctly in both English and Spanish, but every time I said that I had already eaten, my host mom was just like “You want to eat? OK. I’ll make you something.” I ended up just eating twice.
My host family always asks if I had a good day, what fun stuff I did, etc. every time I come back home, and they ask because they genuinely care. Just the generic answer of “good” to the question “How was your day?” is not a simple answer / conversation-ender like it is in the states. They want to know all of the details, and will continue asking more and more specific questions until they get them. I have spent much of my life simply responding with “good”, so this was a bit of an adjustment for me.
Within a week, I felt as comfortable in my Ecuadorian home as I did in my home back in the US. My host brother plays guitar really well, but he doesn’t really like to sing, so I offered to sing while he practiced playing guitar for one of his band’s concerts. Soon my whole host family was gathered around listening as we played several songs ranging from classic rock to modern pop. We played songs in both English and a couple in Spanish that I was surprisingly able to sing. Good times were had all around.
I also help my host brother with his math and English homework regularly. Often times when we talk to one another, I will talk to him in Spanish to work on my Spanish, and he will respond to me in English to work on his English. It’s really quite interesting, and I have found it is very beneficial to the both of us. One time, after I had tutored him for a little while in math, he responded to a question his math teacher asked in class in English instead of Spanish because that was what he was used to doing while talking to me.
Another great family bonding moment was when I made pizza for my host family. I love to cook, and I spent a year perfecting on my recipe for pizza dough, so one night I offered to make pizza. My host mom was very eager to learn how to make pizza from scratch, so she helped me in every step of the process. Briefly after we started my host dad told me to wait for a moment. He came back with his chef’s hat and apron. With a smile, he told me that today I was the chef and handed me his hat and apron. While preparing the pizza, I was describing what I was doing in spanish. Any time I couldn’t think of the name of an ingredient in Spanish, my host mom told me what it was called. We ended up making two pizzas with pepperoni, ham, olives, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. They were quite delicious, and I got applause from everyone present. We spent the next hour or so eating, chatting, and just having a good time.