Archive | April 2014

THE KEY TO SUCCESS: IT IS TIME TO SPEAK SPANISH

“When one starts to speak Spanish, it is the result of the former months invested taking in comprehensible input “

It seems it turned up automatically, it seems it occured from night to day, one is not even self -conscious of how and why did it developed, but I will tell you something: the ability to speak fluently arises as a result of all the months we were doing active listening. This explains how trying to force ourselves to speak before our brain have processed at least the basics of the language is quite useless. It is like going into a swimming competition without being able to swim or trying to move a car without engine or oil.

I hear most people saying over and over again that the most important thing to learn to speak a language is to practice by speaking it. I agree with it to a certain extent, I would like to highlight that speaking is an automatic and natural outcome of listening and understanding since the first can´t develop without the second. It is a very simple equation : listening + understanding = speaking. They go together inextricably and one is the result of the other.

Imagine that I moved to Russia and I can´t speak russian. I live in Moscow surrounded by friendly native speakers and completely immersed in the language. I am in the perfect environment to learn speacially since I need it to survive. Do you think I would be able to speak the first, second or thirld month? It seems reasonable to assume that probably I would need to stay for a while before I start to pick up the basics of russian language, no matter how much I force myself to practice since day 1. After so much exposure to russian, I would learn it for sure.

Now imagine a second scenario: I move to Moscow but I live in a Spanish speaking environment with very little contact with russian natives. Would I manage to learn to speak it ? The anwer is not, I can spend 20 years in Russia and still only be able to utter basic sentences, as the exposure to russian language will be so little that it will not allow me to absorb the real language, to speaking it fluently.

I know this must sound so obvious to you, doesn´t it ?

10335678_728075747214844_2063184116_n

THE KEY TO SUCCESS: THE MUTE PERIOD

” The best methods are the ones that do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are ‘ready’, recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.” (Stephen Krashen)

The mute period is a silent period where one will be taking comprehensible input but still one won´t be able to speak fluent Spanish. This period varies in length, depending on many factors and it can last in avarage from 3 to 6 months, 1 year or longer.

First of all, understanding skills will be increasing gradually. This is a great moment to measure signs of improvement in comprehension. It will keep us incentivated and brighten up to be self- conscious of how we actually are moving forward.

A few days ago I was watching the news when Hollande, the current president of the French Republic, made a speech on the public tv declaring that ´he understood the message of the unhappy voters in the last elections´. I jumped from the couch in such joy, that my father was astonished to see that the disastrous election results by Hollande in our neighbour country could make me so euphoric. –« Dad, it has nothing to do with Hollande. It just so happens that I could understand his whole speech » – I exclaimed delighted- . This is the sign that makes me realize I am getting closer to accomplishing my mission :to speak French with francophones.

Nevertheless, after these sweet and euphoric momments, it does not mean that I have completely reached my goal.

We have to keep on doing active listening, listening and listening some more during this phase of language learning. Even so, nothing happens, nothing happens and nothing happens, in the sense that fluency is still not attained, and then suddenly, one day…SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS :¡¡¡words come easily and you can speak effortlessly!!!

THE KEY TO SUCCESS: THE HABIT OF LISTENING

«Get into the habit of listening to Spanish everyday until it is something that you need to do and becomes a passion»

This is one of the most essential keys to success.

Our lives are full with daily habits that we get so used to that we end up having to do them. Think about all the things that you decided to start doing at a certain point of your life and make a habit of them: maybe eating healthier, playing a sport, giving a walk with your dog, playing an instrument, reading a book.

Are they habits that turned into passions or passions made into habits? I think it is both of them together. It is the perfect equation for success : «I do it because I love it and because I love it I need to do it daily. It makes me feel good and it also contributes to my health or intellectual well- being».

In the beginning It takes commitment and determination to change old habits and introduce new ones, but over time, habits become passions and passions become habits when we do them happily and enjoy the activity.

Imagine making Spanish listening part of your daily life for 30 minutes or 1 hour. And imagine you can also have the flexibility to do it whenever you find the time in this hectic life and wherever you want (while lying on the couch, running, going for a walk in the forest or during any idle time).

Which are your passions or hobbies ? Is learning Spanish a passion for you or a chore ? Leave us your opinion.

THE KEY TO SUCCESS: LISTEN TO INTERESTING MATERIAL

“Learn Spanish with a real, comprehensive and effective material which is seductive enough to keep you motivated”

I recall trying to learn languages by listening to audio tapes and CD´s, songs, movies, watching the news and all kind of material that was available in the market . I tested it all :

– Track 1- Listen and repeat «Excuse me Sir»- Me : «Excuse me Sir

o The tape – «Excuse me Sir»

o Me – «Excuse me Sir, excuse me Sir»

o The tape again, repeat – «Excuse me Sir »

o Me- «Excuse me Sir »- (but I am going insane).

After some minutes being all ears to a tedious mechanic and robot- like voice, ordering me to listen and repeat the same short and single sentence, I would soon become bored to death and increase my anxiety levels.

Next I would go to the other extreme and try with too difficult material for me, like decipher the meaning of metaphoric song lyrics or switch on the tv to listen to the structural adjustment package of the International Monetary Fund in Asia. None of this worked out, neither the basic audio tapes nor the metaphoric songs or the economic situation in Asia trapped my attention for a long time. I would lose my enthusiasm quickly and worst of all, I would blame myself for giving up and not attaching to those herculean efforts : -Maybe I should try harder- I thought.

Many years have past since my first experiences in learning a foreign language. I have tried to find the reason why failed in all these frustrated attempts. First I was not interested enough in the topic I was listening to. Second the material and methodology I was using was not suitable for my intermediate level and third I had no clear goals to achieve.

Now I know I shouldn´t have tried harder but find a more simple path instead. That is how I learn now. I listen to engaging material in my mp3 device. It is definitely working as I keep on being in high spirits with my progress, and I keep on going. I have learnt that simple solutions in life are always the best !!!

Did you ever have similar experiences? Which ways have you used to learn Spanish and how did it work for you ?

THE KEY TO SUCCESS: SELF-MOTIVATION

«We acquire language in one way, and only one way, when we get comprehensible input in a low anxiety environment»- Dr. Stephen Krashen says, a famous linguistic specialized in the field of second language acquisition and bilinguism.

Being an innate human capacity, because we all posses a brain, two ears and eyes to assimilate a second language, there are 2 main barriers that interfere blocking the process of taking in Spanish:

1- Attaching to unefficient methods :

Old methods based on grasping at grammar, memorize long lists of vocabulary and filling in exercise books don´t make us fluent speakers. Instead, listening should be the core of learning.

2- One self´s emotions :

Perception of difficulty, anxiety, boredom and unclear goals are the perfect equation to drop before succeeding. By controlling these negative emotions and turning them into positive reinforcements, assuming that WE WILL SUCCEED, we will feel happier and gain self-confidence, getting the energy and motivation to take many smalls steps day by day.

The many small steps are the ones that make a huge difference in the medium term.