This week we are launching a new series which interviews individuals who are passionate about all things Spanish!
We delve into the minds of individuals who are not native Spanish-speakers, but whose love of the language has spurred them onto exciting life paths. Up this week is Cat Gaa, originally from Chicago, but happy to call Seville her home, and blogs on Sunshine and Siestas.
1. Can you start off by introducing yourself?
My name is Cat Gaa, and I'm a Chicagoan who turned down a job in radio after college to move abroad for a year. Eight years and a husband later, I live in Seville, Spain, where I am a Jill-of-All-Trades: I write, edit, translate, consult and blog, in addition to paying the bills with a job as an English teacher.
People often call me the sevillamerciana for my strange mix of Andalusian and Midwestern charactheristics.
2. When did you move to Spain and what motivated you?
I moved to Seville immediately after graduating college, in September of 2007. Two years earlier, I spent a summer session studying in Valladolid, Spain, and didn't feel like it was enough time to really learn Spanish. Before settling down, I was keen to live abroad for a year, become fluent in a language and travel. So, maté tres pájaros con un tiro: I applied for a grant to teach English with the Spanish government, was given a post in a rural high school not far from Seville, and packed my bags.
3. Did you learn Spanish before moving there?
Spanish was always my best subject in high school, so I wanted to continue learning it in college. I hold a minor in Spanish Language and Composition and completed a six-week study abroad course in the cradle of the Castillian language.
That did nothing for me when I moved to the south, where I was told locals ate their words, talked with strange refranes, or idioms, and exaggerated. They weren't wrong, and even though I was proficient, my first year in Spain was frustrating at times. But I knew it would be a process and, after three months struggling (imagine the embarrassment when I couldn't even read a menu for my parents!), finally got serious about learning Spanish.
4. Name three things which helped you learn the langauge?
First off, having a boyfriend! The man who is now my husband was very patient with me, and having a permanent conversation partner had me improving quickly. I was also the crazy person in a coffee shop talking to anyone who would listen, and often struck up friendships this way. Finally, a good Spanish grammar book helped me understand the mechanics of the language I'd learned on the street.
5. Tell us about your blog and how it helps to inform readers about Spain?
I began my blog, Sunshine and Siestas, to track my adjustment into Spanish life and remind my parents of why I was taking a gap year. SandS has morphed into a resource for expats moving abroad or travelling within Spain, and I cover everything from how to find an apartment to how to learn the language and act like a local.
6. What is your favourite Spanish word and why?
For ages, my favourite word was cacahuete, which is the word for peanut. Nowadays, I pepper my speech with typical interjections like hombre, quillo, ea...and all of the strange Andalusian idioms! Even my host family in Valladolid can't always understand me!
7. Do you have any funny stories linked to you learning Spanish that you would like to share?
At one of my first weddings in Spain, my boyfriend and I sat down to dinner with his work colleagues, many of whom I hadn't previously met. They were chatty and curious about how I'd ended up in Spain, but the conversation turned quickly to my family. I spoke about my parents, my sister and Chicago, mentioning that my mom really loved horses.
I heard forks clink onto plates as my boyfriend nearly chocked on his steak - because of a problem with an article, I had essentially said that my mother was a junkie!