Lugano, Italy

Lugano, Italy

About A Thing For Wor(l)ds

We travel with our five senses, and language is the auditory journey. Italian or Polish do for our ears what fresh pasta or pierogi do for our tongues. Language provides an exceptional peephole into the places we visit, highlighting the most current, the perfect present—a slice of a world you don’t get from museums or Baroque churches. Individual words may come and go, but language will always be in vogue.

I created A Thing For Wor(l)ds to document this intersection of language and culture. There is plenty of food porn on travel blogs; plenty of hotel reviews, airline tips, and the 5 Best Places to Drink in Thailand. But we’re not hearing enough about language, despite the fact that it’s all we hear in everyday life. Thus enters A Thing For Wor(l)ds, a place where language, culture, and travel are not mutually exclusive, but inextricably linked.

About Jenny

I graduated from UC Santa Barbara in June 2013 with a degree in Language, Culture and Society, which is a subset of Linguistics. I initially entered as a Global Studies major, but learned that studying world languages was slightly less depressing than studying global economy and political ideologies, and soon made the switch. I loved LCS because I was still able to examine world cultures, but through a fascinating lens of grammar (not being sarcastic there), contextual meaning, and word choice. That’s what language allows for, and linguists are really just anthropologists armed with dictionaries.

I wrote my first blog when I was living and studying abroad during my junior year in Granada, Spain, from 2011-2012. It was chalk full of exciting posts about the thrill of Europe’s drinking age and Andalucia’s free tapas tradition—you know, what everyone who’s not directly related to you cares so much about. But keeping up with that blog allowed me to discover a passion for writing and create an outlet that didn’t require landing a book deal with Random House at age 20.
Soup addict in Poland.

Soup addict in Poland.

What I’m Doing Now

After finishing college, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to move back to Spain and continue writing about the struggles and triumphs of expat life and cultural (mis)translations. Plus, a mid-day siesta most days doesn’t hurt! I taught English for nine months at a middle/high school in rainy (but lovely!) Bilbao, through the North American Language and Culture Assistants program run by the Spanish government (Auxiliares de Conversación, click here for the official website). I continued to improve my Spanish, pick up words here or there in the local language, Euskera, and throw myself headfirst into A Thing For Wor(l)ds. In August 2014 I returned to Spain. This time, to the envy of expats everywhere, I landed in the sunny and cosmopolitan Barcelona.


I try to make my writing less generic than my name. Everyone lucky enough to be named Jenny Marshall needs to find a way to stand out a wee bit, and I try to do that with words. Some of my favorite and most popular posts in general have been:

How I Live Legally in Barcelona as an American, because we can’t all marry Europeans for the visa.

Can You Afford Barcelona on a Part-Time Teaching Salary? Spoiler alert: You can.

Making Friends Abroad: The Lonely Expat’s Guide. You may think you’re a social creature, until you’re thrown headfirst—for the third time—into a city knowing no one.

WanderLust: Dating in Spain, about selling my soul to Tinder and discovering the pervasiveness of the Basque rattail.

A Californian’s Guide to Staving off Seasonal Affect Disorder, about trying to survive in rainy Basque Country.

My Future Looks Dim. When this whole writing thing doesn’t pan out, here are my back-up options.

If you’re interested in the language side of things, you may like my series Lost in Translation. These posts started as a way to document my many missteps while learning Spanish studying abroad, and have grown to incorporate written translation errors, cultural mistranslations, and aspects of world languages that cannot be translated into English. To get you started, I recommend:

False Friends

Foreign Words for Familiar Concepts

Harry Potter

On the more technical side of language learning, check out the Let’s Talk series. Here, 13 brave language learners share their experiences picking up Malagasy, Turkish, and Xhosa, to name a few.

And although my teaching salary is nothing to complain about, I can’t (thus far) travel to all reaches of the globe. So I’ve asked some 20-something females about their experiences living, working, or studying in countries outside of Europe and the U.S. You can read these entertaining and eye-opening interviews in the In Other Wor(l)ds series.

In addition to teaching English, running this blog, and drinking cheap Spanish wine, I do freelance writing. Please contact me at athingforwords (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested in having me contribute to your travel website, blog, or online magazine.

Thanks for reading, and keep up the good work!

I hope you continue to follow along as I write about the intersection between language and travel, hilarious mistranslations, absurdities my students say, and adventures through Europe during my generous teacher’s vacation time. I’ll put it all here, painting Spanish expat life genuinely as the thrilling and rewarding struggle it has proven to be. You can follow my tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest, and pretty Instagram pics, too. Even better, get posts delivered right to your email!
Cheers . . . with Moroccan mint tea!

Cheers . . . with Moroccan mint tea!