” Patiente is a tree of bitter roots and sweeter fruits”
There is a Spanish saying from the olden times ´ La letra con sangre entra´( It is also a famous painting by Francisco de Goya, a Spanish painter of the 18th- 19th century). In English the translation would be the softer and ultimaltely less strict ´No pain, no gain´.
In my opinion, I don´t feel that we must suffer in order to learn, specially when the task at hand relies on something as human and natural as the spoken word.
It is clear that everyone learns better and much more deeply when they enjoy what they are doing and end up doing it with more enthusiasm, optimism and creativity as a result.
That being said, I definitely believe in persistence, enthusiasm and creativity during the learning process. It certainly is a given that despite the fact we have to give an effort and challenge ourselves to comprehend, to listen, speak and be understod, that effort should be a pleasent one. A positive experience will be arguable more of a benefit in the future so long as one perseveres and enjoys the views along the way.
Not long ago I was having dinner with a friend and he asked my opinion about a program that ensured that one could ´ Learn Spanish in 10 days ´ under hypnosis no less. In my experience( wheter it be in Spanish or any other language), I have never witnessed any learning program, whether it be hypnosis or sleep training that could allow anyone to become proficient in anything at all, least of all 1 or 2 weeks. In truth I think the reality lies somewhere in the middle.
That being said if anyone knows an app or program that makes one fluent in so short a time, please do let me know, I would be more than happy to try it 🙂
” If you talk a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head, if you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” (Nelson Mandela)
Once we have assimilated the language by listening, it is time to practice, practice and practice preferably with Spanish native speakers without being afraid of detecting mistakes. It is not neccesary to be a perfectionist and wait until you can make perfect sentences. Jump into the pool and swim because you can already swim!!!
Most natives think it is neat to listen to a foreigner making the effort to speak their language and not only they will be helpful and understanding, but also they will simply love you. There is no better way to build strong bounds with other human beings than trying to speak to them in their language no matter how.
I personally love to practice with elder people. They tend to speak more slowyly and use less slang. They are also good at asking questions and telling interesting stories about their lifes to whoever wants to listen. They will love to interact with you with patience, love and care. So if you have and elderly neighbour in your community who speaks Spanish, he or she will be more than happy to speak with you.
How long will I need to practice ? Honestly, I am of the opinion that learning a language is like a marriage, once there is a solid base one has to listen and speak, mantain the mutual communication as a husband- wife to keep it up. It is a relationship that will last for the rest of one´s life. The excellent news is that there are many enjoyable ways to mantain and dive deep into the language, but we will talk about this topic in the next posts 🙂
” 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!!!
«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.
“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:
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!!!
“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:
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!
“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.
Before starting the «Learn Real Spanish» project, the following questions were making our heads spin:
Why children learn to speak before studying grammar?
Do children have a special and magical power to acquire a language without effort?
Why are adults not fluent speakers after years of «studying» a language?
Is it necessary to learn all Spanish verb tenses and vocabulary by heart?
Which methods are more efficient to learn Spanish or any other language?
What makes it so difficult to pronounce and repeat new patterns of sounds?
Why is the proccess of learning with grammar so long and boring?
How do I get to the point of no longer needing a teacher? How can I become a self-directed learner?
How can I learn Spanish if I don´t have time for it?
What inspires me to learn? What is my main motivation to learn Spanish?
The answer to all of the above questions is so simple, so factual, so real and so logical that it opened our minds to a different approach to language learning.
“Learn Real Spanish” started with the idea of sharing an original and effective method to learn how to speak Spanish in 6 months, without studying textbooks and grammar rules”
Based on our own personal experience learning several languages, we are aware of how difficult is it to learn a language by studying an enormous amount of grammar rules.
After years of attending regular classes, it is quite frustrating to realize you just acquired basic writing and reading skills but are unable to speak the language.
Who hasn´t experienced the frustration of studying a language and not being able to communicate with native speakers in real life situations?
Verb tenses, vocabulary, prepositions, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs: I know them or at least I think I know them, I have learned them for years, I have studied how to put all these words together, but I can´t use them.
I realize I have no idea of how to speak the exact moment I need to communicate effectively! I become tongue- tied and as thoughtful as a philosopher, words don´t seem to come easily from my mouth.
I have encountered several times the following situation at the train station:
Ticket seller – May I help you?
Answer – «Yesss,meee »( followed by a pause, thinking what I am going to say next)… «To change» (Great ! I have figured out the right verb tense. Pause and thinking again)…«Mmm… Ticket» (oh, how do I say «train»? Dammit, I can´t remember the word…and how do I say I would also need to change the destination…mmmm… mmmm…I lift up my eyes, trying to find a sort of inspiration from the clouds)
« Me to change ticket»
I feel like Tarzan, the only human being able to talk as an ape.
I personally don´t mind making mistakes when trying to speak, I have been involved in many comical situations resulting in one of the most hilarious moments in my life. Making mistakes is a necessary part of the learning adventure.
But it is very discouraging to become conscious of the main handicap: I have studied the language for 1, 2, 3 years, maybe even longer, and I’m unable to engage in the most simple conversation.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Did you ever find it difficult to speak Spanish after years of study? I would love to hear your story.
Spanish is my mother tongue. I’ve never become fluent in a second, third or fourth language by studying grammar rules. Never.