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.

SPEAKING STRATEGIES: LEARN “REAL” SPANISH

“When we learn Spanish in a class using textbooks, we are generally taught a too formal language. It is not the one spoken in real life by native speakers. It is a written and formal language”

Similarly, Spanish courses on CD’s and mp3 files do not sound real and natural. Many times the audio files are not recorded by native speakers either. Spanish natives use common expressions which general didactic materials do not teach.

In a real life situation in Spain, we would rarely use expressions such as:

-I beg your pardon Madam- like addressing the Queen of England.

We would just say a plain:

– Excuse me – Sorry

As a result of this, It is very puzzling to later travel to a Spanish speaking country and realize the language spoken in conversations differs so much from the language learned in textbooks, audio files and Cd´s :

– “Oh, I don´t understand, they speak too fast, I am lost” -. It is a common thought.

My aunt from the Unites States told me once that the first time she visited Spain, it reminded her of listening to a vinyl disc being played at 1000 revolutions per minute.

Have you ever experienced that situation? How was your first impression and contact with real Spanish language spoken by natives?

SPEAKING STRATEGIES: USE REAL MATERIAL

-“In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.” – Stephen Krashen-

By clicking the link below you will have access to a real conversation in Spanish. Kike met Carmen in the street and started to chat about Kike´s dog named Txomin.

They ended up discussing about animals in general. You also have the correspondent pdf text to follow the conversation:

3.MASCOTAS. CONVERSACION

Try listening to it once a day during a week and don´t panic if the first time you can´t understand 100%, it is normal. Do you think they speak too fast? It´s just a normal speaking rate, and if you travel to Spain you will hear much faster conversations than this one .It always happens that when we are learning a new language, we think that natives speak too fast.

Now, after one week of listening to this conversation, have you changed your impression? Do you still find It is too fast or can you understand the whole conversation without effort? Isn´t it great to understand what was just a jumble of words at first?

SPEAKING STRATEGIES: LEARN GRAMMAR BY LISTENING

Listening is the most effective way to learn grammar and to be able to use it correctly later”

At this stage you will probably wonder how can you manage to learn Spanish without studying grammar. How can that be possible? Yes, in fact, It is not only possible, but listening is a faster, easier and more effective way of learning than studying grammar.

Let´s practice how to learn grammar by listening. Are you ready? By clicking on the link below, you will gain access to an audio in Spanish called “Point of view “section:

 

 

2.MASCOTAS. PUNTOS DE VISTA. PDF

The Point of View section is the same story that you already have listened to in the Mini Story section but this time, instead of making many questions and answers, the story is told in present, past and future verb tenses. You will also notice that the story is told not only in different verb tenses but It also changes the main character who is telling the story.

All you need to do is relax and listen to it many times without memorizing, and pay attention to the changes made each time. Did you notice the difference? If you did, congratulations, you are learning grammar!!!

SPEAKING STRATEGIES: ACTIVE LISTENING

“Active listening is a powerful technique, which makes the listener absorb the language intuitively by listening time and time again to the same structures and sentences”.

Studies have shown that to attain fluency in a language, you need to listen to the same structures and sentences between 50 and 100 times. Here you can find a practical trial to assess the benefits of active listening.

By clicking on the link below, you will have access to a 27 minutes length audio in Spanish, a Mini -Story with its PDF transcript:

1.MASCOTAS. MINI HISTORIA PDF

In this Mini -Story, Kike tells us a true story about a beautiful dog called « Txomin». The audio file contains many questions and answers made in an infinite variety of ways, and as you will notice they are all different from each other.

Now listen to the Mini- Story for the first time. Did you understand the point to this story? Perhaps you were able to get the main idea although you didn’t understand every single word or sentence. Don’t despair; this is normal.

Relax and give it another chance to familiarise yourself with Txomin by taking as much time as you need. I would suggest you listen to it, once a day for a week, and review the daily improvements that will come from listening to it more and more times.

The first time you listened to it maybe you understood only the main idea, or perhaps 50 or 80% of the story. However, by the end of the week, you may be able to understand the full story.

Have you noticed how some of the sentences in Spanish have stuck to your head and you feel like saying them out loud? If your answer is yes, congratulations! It means you are learning Spanish. Keep on working!

Otherwise, don’t give up and continue listening to the audio. But, if after a while you still find it really difficult, perhaps it would be convenient to try an easier material for you.     Free Audio Lesson. Txomin.

SPEAKING STRATEGIES: INTENSIVE LISTENING

“When learning Spanish, around 80% of the effort must be focused on intensive listening to real life conversations, recorded or spoken, by native speakers”.

Intensive listening is the keyword to learn how to speak Spanish effectively and successfully. What is the reason for this? It is the best possible way to acquire a language naturally, and to achieve the final goal of speaking fluently without thinking.

By listening, you will start to learn new sounds and the correct pronunciation of words, and you will be able to identify and use them in different contexts. The key to success is to listen to the same piece as a unit repetitively. It is faster and more efficient to learn sentences as a whole, rather than learning single words individually.

In the video below, Kike gives a great explanation  about the importance of the listening process:

Were you able to understand the main idea of the message he is trying to transmit?

If you did, congratulations, keep going with the good work and never give up!!

UNLEARN WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNT

“I believe that, by using the appropriate methods to learn a language, you become a curious and free thinker, setting personal learning goals and gaining autonomy”.

This process means changing old habits and creating new ones, unlearning things we already were taught at school, to get to know them in a different way, and approaching them with different eyes.

Research has shown that independent language learners are most likely to succeed in the long term. Do you agree with this statement? soy toda oidos

LANGUAGE SKILLS

To command a language means to possess the following 4 skills:

1-   Listen and understanding

2 – Speaking

3 – Reading 

4-  Writing

You can evaluate your personal strengths and weaknesses in Spanish, based on the above four skills. Which one of the four do you need to work on the most? Is it speaking? When learning a language in class, listening skills are quite often overlooked and consequently, speaking and understanding that language becomes the real challenge to achieve.

It is at this point, when it is necessary to become an independent language learner. On a personal note, it is quite a weird situation when someone asks me – Can you speak French? My answer is – Well, not exactly. I can’t speak it, but I manage well to read and write, so we can have written correspondence.

I wish I had spoken French before reading and writing, because that would have been much more practical for me, but I am determined to learn it. I hope you are determined too to learn Spanish. Yes we can!!!

IS THE SPANISH LANGUAGE DIFFICULT TO LEARN?

“Spanish is not a difficult language to learn, but the grammar can be quite challenging”.

This is the answer most Spanish learners give when asked about the difficulties they face.

The following are the most recurring issues:

–  The use of prepositions (“para” and “por” seem to be the most difficult)

–  A very high number of different verb forms (with the subjunctive tense being the hardest to understand)

–  The distinction in the use of gender (this is particularly challenging with languages, such as English, where there is no distinction between  masculine and feminine)

–  The use of articles

–  The use of pronouns

–  Where to place the accents.

All of the above take many years of learning for a native Spanish speaker too. It is not easy for us to learn all the rules by heart either.

The good news is that learning the correct use of grammar becomes much easier by being able to first understand and speak a language fluently.

LEARN SPANISH BY LISTENING

“What makes it so difficult for adults to learn a foreign language as children do? The answer is very simple: we are not exposed enough to the target  language”

Some years ago I read an extremely interesting article about Dr. Paul Sulzberger, a researcher from Victoria University in New Zealand.

Dr. Sulzberger started his PhD research after he saw many students drop out of his Russian language classes because they were not making significant progress. He was interested to know what makes it so difficult to learn a foreign language when we are constantly learning new words in our native tongue.

He found the answer in the way the brain develops the appropiated neural tissue to learn new patterns of sounds:

–  Children learn a language without conscious study since they are babies, they learn how to speak by  listening to the sound of mother talking.  

–  Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language, which is how babies learn their first language. -He says-.

Dr. Sulzberger searched for ways to make the learning process easier for students, giving the following advices:  

– To learn a language, you have to grow the appropiate brain tissue, and you get this by doing lots of listening. Frequently listening to Spanish language will dramatically boost your ability to pick up the language.   

One hour a day  of studying Spanish text in a classroom is not enough, but an extra hour of listening to Spanish  on an Ipod will make a  huge difference-.

It may sound crazy, but the simply exposure to the language will not only help you progress. You can really learn Spanish by just listening.

Many language teachers will not agree with his revealing research and conclusions, but they are based on facts. No, It does not sound crazy at all Dr. Sulzberger. We all need to rethink from top to bottom the way languages are being taught. Our rigid system of teaching languages does not help much. The power of listening.