Squeak (maclyn) wrote in linguaphiles,

Immersing yourself

I'm a Scottish Gaelic student at Glasgow Uni, and just got a last minute offer of a summer job on the island of Islay; the Queen of the Hebrides! The island also has a Gaelic learning centre which is an offshoot of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (Gaelic college on Skye), so I'll be doing two short courses there in order to improve my skills as well as working in a pub.

On top of that, I'll be trying to spend as much time as possible in the company of native and fluent speakers; the learning centre also functions as a social space for Islay people who have Gaelic so  I'll be hanging around there. I've also got some family friends there who have Gaelic, sing in the Gaelic choir and have lots of contact with other Gaelic speakers on the island.

All this is great, except I know I'll be terrified to actually speak to fluent or native speakers! So my question is, have any of you went away somewhere in order to immerse yourself in a second language? How did you get over the nerves about speaking to those who were fluent? Did you tell them you were a learner and ask them to correct your big mistakes? What did you do when you didn't understand; did you slip back into your first language or did you try to divert conversation to a topic you were able to talk about?

I suppose I'm just looking for advice and reassurance from folk who've done this kind of thing; I'm excited but scared! I know it'll be great for my experience. The other plus side is that I'm working in quite a fancy restaurant where people tip well, and the tourists love the Gaelic so hopefully I can bump mine up that way! ;)

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