My first venture in 30 Days of Learning is taking on Spanish. Considering the fact that I am a native Texan and have, for the most part, lived here all my life, I know very little Spanish. Food items, of course, and the basic “Spanglish” you hear around you every day, but that’s about it. I am a bad Texan.
I took French in college, mostly because I growing up around so much Spanish and Latino culture, that seemed a little everyday and boring to me. I wanted to learn a more exotic, exciting language. Never mind what was practical, what I could actually use, and more importantly what I would have many more opportunities to practice where I live.
So French it was….two years worth, but then what happened? Besides the occasional travel to France, Morocco, Montreal and certain places in the Caribbean, there was no opportunity to speak it. Not only that, but the classes I took (like so many classroom language programs) were highly focused on grammar, conjugation, reading and writing. I even took a few local Alliance Française conversation classes here in Austin, but I still am not very conversational in French. I can hold a basic conversation, but I’m totally lost if someone speaks very fast. I can read French far better than I can understand it spoken.
Aaron agrees with everything I said in my description of learning French, and in fact his own similar journeys (with German and Spanish) are shared at the very beginning of his Everyday Language Learner’s Guide. The problem lies in how we go about learning a language, and in classrooms the learning is controlled and directed by the teacher, not yourself. Plus of course you have the challenges of learning to speak and understand, versus grammar and writing, and the possible lack of opportunity to practice with native speakers very often.
I started right off with Aaron’s guide, going through the introductory portion that explains how the most important part of learning a language isn’t the instruction, but your own motivation and setting up your own, personalized learning path. When Aaron moved to Turkey and began to learn Turkish, his whole way of going about it changed.
I had the privilege of joining a host of other expats on the journey and it offered me a rare insight into the life of a language learner. My ESL background and my teacher instincts kicked in and I began to work to help others on the journey to learn Turkish.
The last ten years have seen a revolutionary change in the world of language learning. A paradigm shift has occurred. The Internet has ushered in the information age and now for the first time in the history of the world, language learners have access to every major language.
And herein lies the problem. While the playing field has changed astronomically, the way we play has not. A new day has dawned in language learning and it is the day of the self-directed, independent language learner. With the ushering in of this new day in language learning however, a shift will need to take place in the beliefs and strategies of language learners everywhere.
The missing piece of the equation is the knowledge of what it takes to be a self-directed language learner.
Hopefully with Aaron’s guide and online resources that he recommends such as Live Mocha, I will be able to start to get a grasp of Spanish. One thing that he says in the guide really hit home for me, and that is how we learn our first language as children. He says he picked up a great deal of Turkish when he started, through watching children’s television shows like Dora the Explorer with his kids.
The first language I learned was English and the method I used was really quite complicated. First of course, I had to be born. This didn’t require much of me personally, but it was the beginning. After being born I had to listen for nearly five years. It occupied every moment of my time as I interacted with my family and their friends and eventually with my friends. It was tough too, because when I didn’t understand something, which was most of the time at first, I had no way of clarifying what anyone was saying or even letting them know I didn’t understand. They just kept talking and I kept listening.
Pretty soon I got it. I don’t know how I got it, but I did. By the time I was five years old I could pretty much use the English language without ever messing up any grammar forms or mispronouncing any words – except that I had a slight problem saying the “S” sound after my big teeth came in crooked, but I figured that one out too.
This gave me a light-bulb moment. We don’t ever learn anything about reading and writing until after we’ve been immersed for five years and we can actually talk. Maybe I should try to learn more like I learned English as a child. Through basic TV shows for kids in Spanish (Sesame Street!), flash cards, and the visual/audio connections that Live Mocha makes in its lessons.
The Everyday Language Learner’s Guide will:
- Help you understand how we all learn languages naturally.
- Introduce you to three concepts that will empower you to learn.
- Begin a revolution in the way you think about learning another language.
- Help you to evaluate language learning opportunities.
- Give you the practical tools to get started and keep going.
- Introduce you to many great resources that are free for all to use.
- Empower you to access and capitalize on learning opportunities all around you.
- Help motivate you to be successful.