Thinking back…

Was there anything more uncomfortable than sitting in a classroom when you were 13?

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Schoolroom chairs ready to be discarded. Photo Credit

My heart goes out to some of my adult students… learning either English or Spanish.

I can see, no…I can feel, how uncomfortable they are, squeezing into those tiny chair/desk affairs that have been popular in schools in Spain for the last twenty years.

Teaching in private language academies in Spain, I have had to watch all stratas of society deal with the ‘classroom furniture ‘ provided by the Director of the School, who had never had to actually sit in this furniture herself  for a whole hour, EVER!

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Hybrid chair/desks Photo credit

I have seen grown men with beer guts trying to manouevre themselves self-consciously into these contraptions. I had to look away.

I have seen pregnant women discreetly attempting  not to harm their unborn baby, all in the name of linguistic excellence which comes via an uncomfortable, painful language lesson.

Worst of all I have to watch them extricate themselves from these traps at the end of the lesson.

It’s not pleasant.

 

The fact is that if your uncomfortable with a sore posterior on a hard chair, or  worrying about how you are going to elegantly escape the hold of a hybrid desk/chair (chair/desk), you’re not going to be paying much attention to your language coach, training your ear in the intricacies of Spanish accents or inviting you to grasp the concept of the Pluperfect subjunctive.

We all have different attention spans, I’ve found..

 

Then there are the dreaded flashbacks

There are some things you just can’t forget and flashbacks to these moments can be very scary.

Some of my adult students have mentioned that, for them, sitting in a classroom after 10, 20 or even 30 years triggers  memories of when they were 13 years old in Mr.Coleman’s Latin lessons.

Did I say Mr. Coleman? Oh yes; That was  ME.

Mr. Coleman

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This is NOT Mr. Coleman

Mr. Coleman was, (how would you say?), a typical “old-school” -pardon the pun- Maths  teacher (apologies to all lovely, sensitive, understanding  teachers of mathematics).

When I was thirteen in Mr. Coleman’s maths lesson, I spent the whole time with my head down, pretending I was jotting down what he was saying.

 

I wasn’t the only one.

All my classmates knew that if he caught your eye, even just slightly, there would be a 99.99% chance that he would, …drum roll…, ask you a question. GASP!

So if your mind flashes back to that type of scenario when now, as a mature adult you find yourself in a kind of parrallel universe, sitting in a tiny cramped desk in a language class, trying to maintain some of your lost dignity, you have my deepest sympathies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The strange thing is you can  revert back to when you were a shy thirteen-year- old and try and avoid eye-contact with your delightful language teacher.

She might just catch your eye and ask you to speak! GASP!

It’s a curious phenomenon. You have probably signed up in order to speak, understand, read and write your new language.

You may have even paid quite a bit of money in order to do just that in that very classroom, but at times there’s almost something like a time warp that settles over a language classroom and whisks you back to that scary feeling when you were thirteen and Mr. Coleman caught … Did I just say Mr. Coleman again?

And then there’s the chalkboard. Although this fortunately is becoming a thing of the distant past, and is being replaced by the white marker board.

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Photo Credit This is NOT Mr. Coleman

The chalk board was horrible. Squeaky, scratchy, dirty, chalky.

The only advantage was that often Mr. Coleman would spend five or ten minutes searching for chalk as there was never enough for him.

Oh, I was so envious of the classmate he chose to leave the class and go to find more chalk.

He only ever asked his ‘favourites’ to do that (and that was never me), but at least it gave us all a few minutes respite, him included.

He would go back to his desk and sit, ceremoniously waiting for the chalk to appear, eyeing up his next victim; I mean deciding who to challenge next with an interesting mathematical enigma.

We all sat in silent terror with our heads down. (Remember the eye-contact issue?)

Oh dear!

What’s this got to do with language learning?

It’s so hard to throw off shyness and embarrassment when attempting to speak another language in front of others. Just like it was so embarrassing to speak in front of the class when you were thirteen.

I get it because I’ve been through it.

But even if your only option at the moment for your language learning is to attend a ‘traditional classroom’, in front of other language learners who you think are better than you, embrace it with all your might!

How to get over shyness and embarrassment in a language classroom

  • Be prepared

Do the tasks, if any,  that have been asked of you by the teacher so you have a head start for the language session.

  • Practise as much as you can OUT LOUD

Practise speaking out loud as much as you can. Take the homework or the text you know you will be working on in the next language session and PRACTISE some of the items  OUT LOUD  to yourself.

This is so helpful for your language development, because your brain gets used to hearing yourself saying those strange sounds (i.e. new language) and your embarrassment will be automatically reduced.

See previous post about the benefits at Repeat, repeat, repeat…

  • Remember why you are there anyway

This is about motivation. Keeping in mind why you are learning, what you want to achieve and believing that you will reach your goals no matter what are all great motivational mantras to internalise.

  • Make realistic goals. Remember you do not need native fluency EVER!

Now go for it, try out your new language, have fun with it and forget the worry about how it might not sound exactly right!

It’s NEVER going to sound exactly right, if what you are aiming for is native fluency.

Instead aim for second language conversational fluency; enough to get by on, enough to  make yourself understood and understand, up to a certain level in your new language.

Would that not be wonderful? YES

Would that not be attainable? YES

 

I hope that helps.

Do YOU feel or have you felt shy and embarrassed in language classroom situation?

Let me know if this resonates with you and if a classroom environment is uncomfortable for you in your language learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Only one basket? How different styles in your language learning can help you reach your goals.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

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Too many eggs in one basket!

I know Easter has just passed and it would have been more sensible to use that metaphor during the Easter weekend, but hey…I’m late!

Starting to learn a new language is an exciting time. Everything is shiny new and squeaky clean and you want to get everything right.

You imagine it’s going to be a straight run, with progress being made after every learning session you undertake….

(See a previous post about how motivation drives your language learning: How learning a language is like learning to drive. )

You head straight for the Internet to find the exact route you should take. A simple phrase like  “how to learn a language” into the search engine will result in hundreds, nay,  thousands of suggestions for language learning.

Unbelievably easy.

We are really living the Golden Age of language learning at the moment, as there are bucketfuls of useful resources on line that can help you in your learning process.

Wonderful.

 What was that about the eggs in the basket?

The idea behind the expression (for those readers not so familiar with English expressions) is that if you are collecting eggs ever (!)  and you put them all in one basket, if anything happens to that basket, such as your tripping over an angry hen on the way back to the kitchen, all the eggs will end up broken and resulting in NO eggs, and an even more furious hen.

L0049524 Angry hen from Darwin's Expression of Emotions....

This is an angry hen! Photo Credit

The inference is that it would be wiser to put the eggs you collected into several baskets, in order to minimise the risk of breaking all the eggs.

This expression is widely used in English, often in reference to financial matters.

The point I’m trying to make in regard to language learning is that if you put all your eggs, i.e. All your efforts to learn, into one basket, i.e. ONE particular method or Language ‘Application’ then you might be limiting your learning process to the small screen.

The language learning process might be summarised as acquiring the sound and visual system to communicate with others by listening,  speaking, reading and writing.

That just goes to show there are an awful lot of boxes to be ticked in order to reach some level of competency in a new language.

19 things you might want to do if you are learning a foreign language

When someone wants to learn a new language, as an adult, they could really  mean anything between 1 to 16 of the following:

1) I want to be able to understand what the native speakers says to me.

2) I want to be able to reply to what has been said in the target language.

3) I want to be able to understand a television programme in the target. language

5) I want to be able to understand a radio programme in the target language.

6) I want to be able to read a newspaper in the target language.

7) I want to be able to read a book in the target language.

8) I want to be able to read informative brochures and pamphlets.

9) I want to be able to read the letters I receive in the target language.

10) I want to be able to understand songs being sung in the target language.

11) I want to be able to talk about myself in the target language.

12) I want to be able to ask about the other person in their native language.

13) I want to be able to talk about other people and things to that person in their native language.

14) I want to be able to say something funny in the target language.

15) I want to be able to write a note to my neighbour in their native language.

16) I want to be able to talk about my business matters in the target  language.

17) I want to be able to understand what is going on around me in the target language.

18) I want to be able to talk on the phone in the target language.

19) I want to be able to understand what a native speaker says on the phone.

One method alone cannot prepare you entirely for those 19 reasons you may want to learn a second language….

So how do you really navigate through to the short-cut to tick the boxes you need to tick, in order to achieve the success you’re looking for in your language learning journey?

4 STEPS TO MAKING REALISTIC LANGUAGE LEARNING GOALS

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I know there are over 4 steps in this picture, just to prove langauge learning is flexible Photo Credit

  1. STEP ONE: IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS
  2. STEP TWO: CHOOSE YOUR WEAPONS (MAKE ACTION PLAN) TO MAKE THINGS PERSONAL
  3. STEP THREE: TAKE ACTION AND INTO BATTLE
  4. STEP FOUR: RE-ASSESS SITUATION AND ADJUST PLAN OF ACTION TO SUIT.

Let’s look back at the road map above to focus on each point.

  • STEP ONE. 

It’s important to identify your specific goals in your language learning process. Look over the 19 skills you may want to work on and make a specific note.

It’s too flimsy,  vague and TOO BIG to think “I want to learn …(e.g.) Spanish!”

Be more specific and think ” I want to be able to talk about myself in Spanish to a native speaker in….(e.g.) 12 weeks.” 

  • STEP TWO

Now, according to your specific goal from STEP ONE, look at what your options are, specifically focusing on the skills your require.

In the example I chose; ” I want to be able to talk about myself in Spanish to a native speaker in….(e.g.) 12 weeks.”, you could look for specific programmes dealing with that subject area using  personal themes.

Why learn vocabulary and expressions about Juan working in an office in Guatemala when you are Shirley from Hartlepool wanting to talk about yourself and your teenage daughters?

Make it personal! Focus on vocabulary and expressions that are true to YOU and YOUR life. Don’t waste time on Juan in Guatemala …YET!

  • STEP THREE

Now’s the time for committment.

You said 12 weeks so it’s 12 weeks.

Commit on a daily basis to doing  something about this language thing you have signed up for and that you would really love to achieve!

Get the ‘APP’. Buy the books. Research more words. Use on-line resources to their maximum. Listen to native speakers as much as possible. Find language buddies on line who can help amazingly.

See how far you can go, with committment.

Prove to yourself you can do it.

  • STEP FOUR

This is a very important step, not to be taken lightly! (Pun intended; sorry!)

Half-way through your designated time-scale, stop and take a look backwards and forwards.

Ask the question: Has the approach, method, ‘Application’ you have been using lived up to your expectations?

Will you be able to meet your short-term goal, as in the example above, of being able to “talk about yourself in Spanish to a native speaker in….(e.g.) 12 weeks.”?

If so then you’re on the right track. Keep steaming ahead and reach your goal. Give yourself a treat in celebration.

Show the world how you have reached the target you set out to reach.

Fantastic.

Well Done!

HOWEVER,

if you feel you aren’t quite where you thought you would be after setting realistic goals, then think about how to turn things round before you get to the point of failure and demotivation.

It’s not you who’s failing but it may be the approach, method, etc.

There are so many different factors that enter into second language acquisition for adults that there may be several things you could change if you feel you’re getting nowhere fast.

If you feel you aren’t getting where you want to be, then if you stop and re-assess your situation NOW, you’ll be in plenty of time to  get back on track and reach your goal.

You may need more time committment. You might be a more visual learner and need to WATCH the language being used in films, on television, podcasts, or something similar.

(E.g., you may even need to re-assess your time-scale and extend the goal for another 4 weeks.)

The important thing is to keep the goal in sight and strive towards it.

So this is where we get back to those eggs in that basket….

    Don’t rely on ONE sole method to enable you to reach your language goals

Diversify, try different ways, styles, approaches and see what works best for you. In the end it’s all about YOUR committment, YOUR motivation, YOUR goal, and  how YOU learn.

Most importantly, don’t give up!

Let me know what your short-term goals are for your language learning in the next few months. Make a comment in the box below and let me help you make realistic goals for you.

I hope this helps.