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How I used Tinder to teach me how to speak Spanish

Not being a person who has ever taken dating apps like Tinder or Bumble seriously, I thought, what better, budget-friendly way to improve my español and spice up my WhatsApp group chats, than with some Tinder dates? What could possibly go wrong?

No one wants their date night to resemble a Liam Neeson action thriller, so make sure you take certain precautions before going on a date.

I made my account and wrote in Spanish in my bio, ‘New in the city and looking for a guide’, inwardly cringing at myself. However, my ego sharply grew as the novelty of being a blonde girl in the city earnt me popularity. I can do this, I thought, frantically switching from Google Translate to my matches, in an attempt to work out the pick-up lines and prove I was equally as funny in Spanish.

In retrospect, ‘date’ number one should have put me off for life, but the hilarity of the story made me stick at it. I was extremely indiscriminate with my first date and decided to meet up with an Argentinian hairdresser. In my experience, Argentinian accents are the Glaswegian accent-equivalent in the Spanish speaking world, so I really was throwing myself in at the deep end with this language lesson. Upon arrival, he was shorter than he looked in his pictures—much shorter than me—and I’m not even tall. However, I remembered that thankfully this crucial exercise was not to acquire a boyfriend, but only to improve my Spanish. As his English was limited, we were obligated to speak in Spanish.

My lesson was off to a flying start: free wine and tapas. However, it all went downhill one hour in, after he felt it was acceptable to say quiero besarte ahorita…. aka ‘I want to kiss you right now’! After noticing a change in his temperament, I made up some spiel about needing to leave and made a bee-line for the metro, but before I could leave he tried to kiss me (again!), so a convenient phone call and a white lie allowed a swift exit.

Sometimes it may not be that easy, so make sure that whenever you are on a date with someone who is technically a stranger you have to have some backup plans.

1) Have an exit plan. Life is too short to be on a bad date, but take your safety seriously have a friend you can call or a safe place where you can retreat to if you need to get away
2) Partying is fun, but be careful you’re in a foreign country, where you may not speak the language. Drinks are usually stronger than home and avoid relying on your date for directions or help home
3) Keep an eye on your drinks in case they get spiked
4) Listen to your instincts, if at any point you feel uncomfortable. Say your goodbyes and leave

Still determined and not discouraged, I headed out for ‘Tinder date’ number two in one of my favourite bars. It was a success; Colombian Carlos, an architect and a photographer, told me that I was fluent in Spanish (however this could be just because he was Colombian and they are infamous romancers). We drank beer, discussed our families, places we had travelled and he walked me to the metro stop despite it being very out of his way. It was a very pleasant experience and a solid three hours of Spanish practice.

Even if your ‘date’ is pleasant still exercise caution make sure to tell someone where you are going. Your date probably knows the city much better than you do if they are local, so make sure to arrange a location you know well, that is busy and well-lit. If they are walking you to the metro, take the busy route and be cautious when your ‘date’ offers to take a short cut they know.

A few more ‘Tinder dates’ rolled by and I saw all that Spanish Tinder had to offer me; from the rebellious bad boys who thought doing a sin pagar (doing a runner and not paying) was an interesting personality trait, to an outlandishly confident theatre kid who I suspect only went on a date with me to invite me to all of his future plays, which he did so by sending four-minute-long voice notes. Not forgetting the straight-up chicos guapos who now loyally support my Instagram and send me random videos of DJ sets. But with a host of friends who I could quickly claim to bump into if the date went south...it became a fun past time of my year abroad and never a waste of time, as far as my Spanish was concerned.

So now going on ‘Tindr dates’ had become part of my weekly schedule, I was finding that ‘dating’ was helping not only my Spanish skills but my confidence to speak to new people. One evening I had a ‘date’ with a med student who my housemates and I referred to him as el pijo, or ‘posh boy’. He drove an Audi, exclusively wore beige chinos, had a country house and a yacht. Do you see the attraction from someone undertaking an unpaid internship?

What followed was a brief and short-lived dramatic fling, which usually involved us meeting when I was hungry. For example, our third date was him delivering pizza to me and my friends? Weird flex, I know. We went to restaurants, drank cañas, had arguments over our miscommunication issues, hung out at the beach, went to a funfair? He even made me pasta from scratch. We were awkwardly dating, with language confusing everything. However, I learnt a lot and got a fair amount of food out of it!

Looking back now, Tinder was a lot of fun and gave me an ego boost, my Spanish really did improve and I now have a group of loyal supporters on Instagram, who also help me out with my Spanish homework.

But you should always take internet dating abroad with caution. Remember you are in unfamiliar surroundings and you are learning the language. So when you are arranging to meet someone you don’t really know make sure you always think about your safety first.

Featured image: Alex Ruhl / Shutterstock.com