I studied Spanish from seventh grade through my sophomore year of college. By the end of those studies, I had aced an exam that covered two thousand vocabulary words, and I had read novels in Spanish and discussed them in class. I felt proficient and confident in my skills.
When I arrived in Madrid for my junior year abroad and was faced with the prospect of asking a regular person on the street where I could buy stamps for my postcards, my chest started thumping and my palms got sweaty. I stuttered my way through that first exchange.
By the time a couple of weeks had passed, my nerves had calmed and my language skills were improving every day. Looking back on my year in Spain, it was one of the best investments I have made in my learning, for the both language and the culture. There is nothing like immersion for truly learning a language.
There are more than 500 million Spanish speakers across the globe, making it the second most widely-spoken language in the world, one that opens many doors. As the official language of 20 countries, you might wonder how learning Spanish differs between each one. Here are a few cultural facts and linguistic idiosyncrasies that can help you choose a country in which to study Spanish.