Learning a New Language… Again
When I was in high school and university, I studied Spanish. During my second year, I mixed up courses and didn’t have the right credits to continue with Spanish, and didn’t need more language credits to graduate, so I stopped. One of my regrets today was not continuing to take Spanish.
However, in regards to second languages I know, my Spanish proficiency is definitely better than the Turkish I learned during my two years in Ankara. I have been trying to re-learn Spanish over the past year because, simply, I love the language. I am hoping to join a language exchange in the Fall, and have been using the Memrise app, but, the best experience so far was my recent holiday in Mexico. A week later, I feel like my understanding of Spanish improved. I started to remember vocabulary and grammar I have not thought about in a long time. Reflecting on some moderate success over the past week, these are my tips for re-learning a language (from easy to challenging).
**I have written about my experiences with English and Spanish, but I believe this could be applied to language learning in general:
Easy: Watching a movie in English with Spanish subtitles – this allows you to see the correlation between English and Spanish words.
Moderate: Watching a movie in Spanish with English subtitles – this allows you to hear the word spoken more naturally in Spanish, with the English translation for back up.
Challenging: Watching a movie or television show you already know well, but in Spanish, is a great way to practice listening. Are there any words you can pull out that you understand? (Because the weather was exceedingly hot, we spent a lot of time indoors watching all three types of television.)
Easy: Google Translate is available on your phone, and can be downloaded as an app. If you download the app, you don’t need to use data and can translate directly from English into Spanish. This opens up the possibility of just showing your phone screen to people to communicate (but where is the fun in that ?)
Moderate: Translate from English into Spanish, listen to the translation, and memorize phrases to use at specific times. My phrases for the week included, Estoy bien (I’m fine), ¿cómo se dice? (how do you say), abre la puerta! (open the door – because we were stuck on a bus a few times).
Challenging: Remember verbs that are used a lot – Poder (can) and Estar (to be), and how to conjugate and use them in sentences. I discovered you could use poder a lot. Something I’m sure my high school Spanish teacher told me, but I had promptly forgotten:
Puedo hablar un poco español (I can speak a little Spanish), ¿puedes hablar español ? (Can you speak Spanish?) ¿puedo tener una bottella de agua? (Can I have a bottle of water ?)
This leads to attempting to use object pronouns as well ¿me puedes dar una cerveza? (Can you give me a beer ? )
Easy: If you are using Google Translate, there is a function where you can star words and phrases and create your own phrasebook. This makes it easy to review phrases and words you’ve already looked up.
Moderate: Write down new words from subtitles, print, books, signs – and review both them and their translations.
Challenging: Ask people that speak both English and Spanish for their translations, by using Spanish (¿cómo se dice…?). This was when I asked an 8 year old girl how to say tasty in Spanish (sabroso). I felt very successful afterwards. The key is to remember and then review, by using the word as much as you can.
Easy: Memorizing and reviewing vocabulary and phrases you’ve learned in Spanish. You can use flashcards or an app.
Moderate: Translating English words and phrases into Spanish – easy to do with a cue card, one side English, the other Spanish, or an app.
Challenging: Using the language with people that speak the language. Not everyone you speak to will understand what you are saying, or be patient with the process. However, this is also a powerful tool because you are getting instant, expert feedback. It is also very gratifying to have a successful conversation, even if it is short and only involved giving directions to a cab driver. Small successes eventually lead to more success !
Until next time, ¡hasta luego!