In a month-or-so time I bought a Spanish-French dictionary and launched myself into reading my first book in Spanish. If you think I opted for something simple and short you are dead wrong. The first book I read in Spanish was Lord of Rings from Tolkien. The whole freaking trilogy! Reason for my choice was not that I felt as confident as to read such a Bible after such a short time of studies, but because I was in love with that book and I already read it in Czech and French. My dad used to read us the adventures of Bilbo the Hobbit before going to sleep; three little bros passing into innocence of childhood sleep with Gandalf and his companions in our dreams (our oldest brother had a separate room by then). Needless to say- this book meant a lot to me. I later read it in English too and still have the book in 4 languages somewhere in the attic of the house of my parents. In the beginning I had to look up every second word in my brand new Spanish-French dictionary but as I progressed reading came with more ease.
After one year and half in France I got my first vacation and Spain was an obvious choice of destination (trip home was still not an option). I met Hugo in front of Rock pub in some unnamed town on Costa Brava. He was from Argentina and he was paid for hauling the tourists in the pub. He was damn good at it. He was able to fill the place in no time, kiss dozen of girls in the process and never fall behind with drinking pints and tequila shots with me. I realized that I could read in Spanish but could not really speak it. When Hugo started to shoot his high-speed chatter with his Argentinean buddies, they might just as well speak Persian and it'd be the same for me. We swore friendship forever to each other and I went back to bust my ass in France. I was 20 by then and Hugo around 25. My reading skills in Spanish were OK and I steadily progressed in my writing skills, but I did not really advanced in speaking it until 8 years later, when I finally visited Hugo in Argentina. I went for a month of paid vacation (I was working for Microsoft in Dublin by then) to much envy and jealousy of my coworkers. Hugo was still a bachelor and he had all the time for me because he lived alone and his little business was run by his incredibly lively and good-hearted mother. Needless to say, we had a hell of a good time day and night.
By the end of my month stay (I made a quick solo trip to Uruguay and Paraguay too) I was able to swear so convincingly that not even a taxi driver dared to over charge me as any other gringo. I could speak too. Well enough to make a new circle of Spanish speaking friends upon my return to Dublin. There was a lot to choose from by the way. Ireland in 2007 was submerged by the flow of Spanish graduates who sought well-paid employment so hard to find in their homeland. Ireland represented tax-saving heaven for great multinational corporations and educated and linguistically talented young crowd was needed. Who could predict that 2 years later this little capitalistic paradise would crash down even faster than it rose from its previous misery? Regardless, when I was a semi-diligent employee of the above named company, there were heaps of chicas to choose from, some of them disturbingly hot too. The fact that my best Czech friend lived with three of them significantly helped the networking. For some reason Spanish just have to party every weekend. I guess fiesta is in their genes same as bitching about politics. Chicas loved my Argentinean accent and slang and I loved them back for that. I even acquired a regular Spanish girlfriend for some time, but I told her adios after couple of months because she smoked too many cigarillos (up to now she still does believe me that was the real reason, but I swear to my long-dead hamster Ferda it was!). Let me tell you- Spanish are truly great crowd to hang out with, but they smoke as naturally as they breathe, meaning you have to breathe it.
If you are as good in counting as me, you figured out that by then I was speaking 4 languages. Czech, English, French and Spanish. I do not count Slovak, because I only speak it when I am utterly drunk and in company of Slovak folks (preferably ladies), which is not that often. I thought that it was enough for some time, but Universe has wicked plans for her wicked children.