There is not much point in learning a new language if you are not going to use it. It's all very well using the Spanish you know to get you by in shops, bars and restaurants; the real challenge comes when you engage with native speakers in a conversation.
On those occasions you don't have the time to compose what you want to say in your head beforehand, you have to think on your feet. The trick of course is to think in the language you are using. Thinking in English and then trying to make a translation just doesn't work.
Of course it helps if the person you are talking to is sympathetic to the fact that you are still at the learning stage. If they understand this, then they will speak slowly using words that you should be familiar with.
Two recent occasions come to mind:
Last week we took Pamela's wool coat to the dry cleaners in Bigastro. We've take a few items there before so the lady in the shop recognised us. The shop attendant is keen to expand her English and was more than happy to have a conversation with us.
I can't say we understood everything she said but we got most of it. To help us out, our new friend was gracious enough to speak slowly and re-phrase anything we didn't understand. She was particularly keen to know about our lives in Bigastro and wanted to know why we had chosen to live here rather than the more usual destinations for English immigrants.
Then, whilst we were waiting outside Hiperber last Tuesday, I had a conversation with Eduardo our teacher. The pair of us covered quite a few different topics ranging from a comparison of shopping in Bigastro with shopping in England to the problems we face with the poor exchange rate. I'd like to think that we both understood each other even if my use of Spanish grammar was a little incorrect.
I think we can fairly say, without appearing immodest, that we are making good progress. We still have a long way to go though!