The day before I left for Spain, as I was packing, I listened to a webinar about accents and sounding like a local, wherever that may be. It was very interesting, though I realized it wasn't pertinent to my needs as the target audience was voice-over artists speaking English with seemingly native British/So African/N. Irish/Korean/etc; accents. Still, I found it fascinating and thought that I could perhaps use the techniques to improve my pronunciation as I learned Spanish.
My Grandpa was a polyglot and spoke 5 languages: Turkish, Ladino, Spanish, French & English. He moved to the US when he was 16 without knowing a word of English and was placed into the 3rd grade. He learned and thrived and graduated and ran a successful hand-made shoe company. Yet, despite all of those amazing feats, he felt one of his greatest accomplishments was speaking English without a discernible accent.
My understanding and use of Spanish has grown tremendously over the last 4 weeks. At this point, I am comfortable speaking to some degree and have found strategies to get my meaning across without resorting to pantomime in every conversation. I can think around vocabulary stumbling blocks, and have conversations that branch out slightly from utilitarian. I've found my way through the city without either Google Maps or Translate and managed to find the random bakery that has vegan empanadas (and isn't listed on Happy Cow). I've been asked for directions and been able to give them(!). I can read grocery labels, select the type of milk I want in my cafe con leche, and order in a restaurant.
I've come a long way, baby. However, there is no universe in which anyone would assume that I am a native Spanish speaker.
At this point, I am just reveling in my new skill set. It's still baby steps at this point, and I have the exam to take and pass. However, I haven't taken on doing anything this mentally challenging in a very long while. It's been frustrating, humiliating, exhilarating, and empowering all at once, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be in Valencia with nothing more on my plate than to study and plan for our future.