Thinking back…

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

pupitres_y_sillas_si_uso

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!

student_desk

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

monastery_school

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.

chalkboard_color

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

How learning a language is like learning to drive. Get your ‘L’ plates now.

 

We all know learning to drive takes time.

You have to be realistic…

You’re not going to learn to drive in one or two days.

 

 

l_plate_in_singapore

Learner Driver = Learner speaker?           Photo Credit

 

When I learned to drive, a long time ago, I had to sign up for a package of 12 lessons. The lady in the office told me that 12 lessons was the average number of lessons it took a ‘normal person’ (What on earth is a ‘normal person’?) to pass their driving test.

“What if it takes me longer?” I asked. She gave me that look that only  older ladies on front desks  can give when they’re thinking, “Ah! Here’s a smart Alec.”

(My name’s Marie, but I know she thought I was going to turn out to be smart Alec.)

“No problem.” she replied, with a sort of twisted grin. “When you FAIL the test, you just sign up for another 12 lessons.”

angry_woman

Receptionist at driving school? No, but something like that. PhotoCredit

“That wasn’t very encouraging”, I thought.

I was about to enter into the fact that I thought it was slightly unfair, because if I failed the driving test, I may not need another 12 lessons and maybe 3 or even 6 would do the job. But when I remembered Alec, I readjusted my speech pattern, thanked her politely and dutifully signed up for my first 12 lessons.

I sailed through on 12, by the way, much to her annoyance!


 

Ah yes, the point being…

Language learning could be compared to learning to drive.

 

  • a) Walking is a skill we learn in order to get around and survive.

b) Driving is a skill we learn in order to get around faster and more efficiently.

kleinkind_beim_laufen

Learning to walk …Photo credit

 

  • a) Language is a skill we learn in order to communicate with others more efficiently.

b) Second language learning is a skill we learn in order to communicate with more people and get around more efficiently.

 

 

 

5 ways learning another language could be compared to learning to drive

 

  1. You have to really want/need to learn a language /drive

 

  1. You have to make an important time commitment to learn a language or drive.

 

  1. You have to make use of as many resources as you have at your disposal to expedite the process of learning a language or driving.

 

  1. You have to have as many lessons or practice in a consecutive time frame in order to maximise learning process to learn a language or drive

 

  1. You have to invest some finance, even to a small degree, to achieve your goal of learning to communicate in a language or driving.

 

I’m not suggesting you could ‘speak a second language’ after 12 lessons, in the same way you might be able to pass a driving test after 12 driving lessons.  I’m pointing out some of similarities in the mental process of learning a language to learning how to drive a car. 

 

Looking back at those bullet points we could take each one and see the reasoning behind each one.

sc06_2006_rolls-royce_phantom

MOTORvation? Photo Credit

 

First point: MOTIVATION 

You have to really want or really need to learn a language  or drive a car.

 This point is all about MOTIVATION .  Motivation is the key to our learning capacity. There is nothing stronger than motivation. As the word suggests, it’s what makes us MOVE and TAKE ACTION, all rolled into one! Easy to see, right?

MO-T-A-TION’

Tell me it’s easy to see this sentence  is the very essence of MOTIVATION?

There is no doubt that the more highly you are motivated to learn ANY skill, the more likely the success rate in terms of achievement will be.

Make your motivation tangible and real by answering the following questions.

 

  • Do you really want to learn a second language? Then WHY?

Answer here………..

  • Do you really need to learn a second language? Then WHY?

Answer here……….

 

The Clock face on the Tower at the Palace of Westminster.

Parliament Clock at Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.        Photo Credit

Second point: TIME COMMITMENT

You have to make an important time commitment to learn a language or drive a car.

 You sign up for a certain amount of time to learn to drive a car. Then the same thing should happen for learning a language. The going will get tough and you will get discouraged, but the fact you’ve paid up-front and turn into a great motivator!

Just as in learning to drive and you made a commitment, you should take the same attitude with learning another skill: learning a second language.

 

IMG_2303

My first Spanish -English Dictionary

Third point: RESOURCES

 

You have to make use of as many resources as you have at your disposal to expedite the process of learning a language or driving.

 Just as in learning to drive you would make use of all resources available such as, The Highway Code in the UK, on-line simulated driving tests, outings with family members (in fact anything and everything at your disposal) so you should too, and in a similar way, in order to reach your goals for your language learning.

Internet is heaving with on-line resources for language learning. (This will be the subject of another post, in the near future.)

But if you’re not an Internet nerd, you can always find a way to; find classes run by your local authority, watch DVDs switched to your target language, find newspapers or  books at your local library, listen to music in your target language on CDs or cassettes, etc., etc., etc.

 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

 

 

It’s the same for learning to drive and so, so true for language learning.

 

 

atalante_1_lepautre_louvre_mr_1804No time to waste…Get as much input into your language learning s fast as possible.   Photo credit

 

Fourth point: CONSECUTIVE (RAPID) INPUT 

 

You have to have as many lessons and practice in a consecutive time frame in order to maximise learning process to learn a language or drive

 

Unfortunately, all important things take time and time commitment is crucial in learning a language as it also is in learning to drive.

When I was signing up for driving lessons, I wanted a lesson every Saturday morning for 12 Saturdays, for a total of three months. But the lady at the desk, yes, that old battle axe, advised me that I should sign up for the ‘Intensive Course’ which was one session every day for 12 days, Sundays included.

She said it had been proven to be the most time-efficient formula to learn to drive. She added  that from one Saturday to te next Saturday there was so much time, I would forget the skills I was learning and it would be like starting the first lesson every time.

Perhaps this was a slight exaggeration, but I sort of got what she meant.

Oh, and guess what?

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The same goes for language learning.

If you take one lesson a week, or look at a Spanish book once or twice a week, it will take FOREVER to reach the targets you dream of.

Your brain needs extra reminders at the beginning of any learning process to assimilate the connections being made, just as in learning to drive.

10 lessons of language learning over 10 days will have double/ triple/ quadruple the effect of 10 lessons over 10 weeks. Much the same as learning to drive a car, I’m sure.

 

pretzels_euro_-_dollar_-_pound

Tasty Euro / Dollar / Pound signs in PRETZELS! Photo Credit

     Fifth point: COST FACTOR

 You have to invest some finance, even to a small degree, to achieve your goal of learning to communicate in a language or driving.

 

It may be painful but it’s true. You might have to invest some modicum sum into your language learning goal, the same way you may have had to do so in order to learn how to drive a car.

This may come in the form of:

  • classes in your area that requires a fee;
  • a trip to the country where your target language is spoken naturally;
  • text books, phrase books and dictionaries;
  • language ‘applications’ or ‘Apps’ for smart phones;
  • On-line courses, etc., etc.

 

Does the end justify the means? Certainly!

It’s not as if you would give up learning to drive after your statutory 12 lessons, right?

 

People can be so ‘driven’ (sorry for that painful pun) to learn to drive that they take many lessons, as many lessons as it takes in fact, to achieve their goal.  Yet many people give up on their language learning before they give themselves a chance to make any progress.

 

I hope this helps with your learning a new language motivation.

Which of those points above resonates with your language learning experience?

Let me know what trouble you’re having with those 5 points for language learning above.

 

                     Two previous posts

In Never too old! I discussed the fact that it’s never too late to start learning another language and it it can be so extremely rewarding and beneficial.

Another popular post in my motivational series entitled Is it easy to learn to speak Spanish? also underlines the benefits of learning another language; in this case Spanish.

 

Language learning is my passion and I would love to help you do that, if you are intersted in learning Spanish.

More next time…

 

 

Useless at languages? No, just good at languages!

 

IMG_2303

Isn’t it lovely? This is what language learners used before Internet  Photo credit

I can hear some of you even from here saying “Yes…that’s me…I’m useless at languages!”(I’m on the south coast of Spain at the moment!)

I’m useless at languages so I’ll never learn Spanish!

Throughout my time teaching Spanish to English people, the one consistent lament I hear , as I take on a new student, is “I’m useless at languages so you’ll have your work cut out with me!” Or “I’m useless at languages so I’ll never be able to really learn Spanish.”

 

You seriously would not believe how many of my first-time students start out with that first sentence when I meet them.

And I get it. I really do.

 

I was labelled “useless at languages” too.

At Secondary School in the UK, many years ago I remember, perhaps it was after my first Spanish lesson, feeling that I was ‘useless at languages’. (The same way some of us have been labelled ‘useless at Maths’ or ‘useless at History’; labels encouraged by the education system to exonerate itself of any obligation or duty to provide efficient teaching resources.)

 

I have to admit that it took several years before I managed to shake off that label of being ‘useless at languages’. But I finally began to realise that I had been tagged with that label unfairly. And I can bet you that the chances are that you have been unfairly tagged too.

 

So you are ‘useless at languages’?  There maybe several reasons why you feel that way, so let’s analyse them.

 

Perhaps:

  1. Your first Foreign Language class made you feel that way, so gave up.
  2. You have since signed up for language lessons at the local community hall but made little progress, so gave up.
  3. You paid a lot of money to a private tutor once a week and learned very little in 2 months, so gave up.

 

Feel free to add your own reasons as to why you feel you are ‘useless at languages’. There may be many more.

Add your reason here…………………………………………………….

 

                                      But  this is MY story

 

I was labelled, as perhaps you were, at a young age, as being ‘useless at languages’. But I still dreamt of being able to speak another language. I couldn’t shake the bug. I had loved my first foreign language lessons at school and desperately wanted to succeed…in Spanish. But I felt useless.

My Spanish teacher insisted on  giving out a very clear signal which was: “You are useless at languages.” I tried so hard to overcome that with extra homework but kept failing miserably every time. I still had the dream of speaking Spanish, and in my first ever post here I talked  about falling in love with Spanish

 

Remember we are talking a long time ago here. With that I mean ….NO INTERNET! But we had something in the UK called “The Teach Yourself” series. They were little yellow and blue hardback books and there was one for every subject under the sun (at the time).

My elder sister Angela bought me one. I remember it to this day: “Teach Yourself…Spanish”, in a desperate attempt to get me, useless at languages, through a Spanish exam.

 

I even hid this book from my teacher. I didn’t want her to see I was looking at something different. Something SHE hadn’t given me to study…..

It was a different approach. I remember it had a few humorous touches. I don’t know why, but for some reason it worked for me.

The extra dedication worked. Unfortunately something had to be sacrificed and that was dedication to Maths. (But that’s another story.) The point was that I became a bit obsessed with the Spanish. It wasn’t just another subject for me on the timetable. It sort of turned into the ONLY subject on the timetable, for at least a while.

                              Then it got pathological!

 

 

 

actress-fear-and-panic

Identity crisis!

I  changed my name from ‘Marie’ to ‘María’., and wouldn’t answer to anything else, not even at home.

I named all my work ‘María’ to such an extent that all my school certificates show the name ‘María’ on them. Remember I was only about 13 at the time so I was allowed to do strange stuff like that!  I turned into ‘María’ . NOT RECCOMMENDED.

(What I didn’t realise was that this caused a tremendous amount of confusion later on in life when I had to convalidate these qualifications before the Spanish authorities. I paid a couple of hundred  pounds to have the certificates verified as belonging to me…but that’s another story, too)

Only after concentrating all my efforts on Spanish did I slowly I begin to realise I wasn’t particularly “useless” at languages. I began to view Spanish as an equivalent to English, which I already knew very well…. but just with funny words.

Now this is the part where I’m going to surprise you!

One major fact is that generally we all speak a language and have gone through the ‘language acquisition’ process.

I’m hearing you think “No, not me. I haven’t gone through a language acquisition process.”

But you speak a language, don’t you? Your own native language!

You may be even quite fluent in that language?  I would even go so far as to say that you believe you speak that language very well.

Well there you have it. You are a linguist and you weren’t even aware of the fact!

Now you know you are great at languages, you have to remember the next stage is to realise that you are Never too old!

 

           We are all linguists…you are a linguist!

We are all linguists in as much as we all (or mostly all) have been able to ‘acquire’ a native language. This in itself constitutes language acquisition.

Now is the time to harness in the linguist in you and be determined to reach some of your linguistic goals,,,,,

because after all, you ARE a linguist, aren’t you?

COMMENTS:

Do you believe you’re a linguist and  that you are …great at languages?

Tell me in the comments below how you feel about your language journey.

Would you consider yourself useless at languages? If so, why?

 

Have you got a….bicycle?

We all love having things. You have things…your friends and family have things. Now’s the time to really let them know that you know what they’ve got…

It’s time to tell your son: “But you already HAVE a bicycle!”

ordinary_bicycle01

19th Century bicycle, known as the ‘penny-farthing’ (The big wheel likened to a ‘penny’ and the smaller wheel to a ‘farthing’ = a quarter of a penny)

 

It’s time to tell your friend she is so lucky because she has a bag: “You HAVE a bag!”

It’s time to tell your daughter that she has a skirt, even if she wants a new one:”You HAVE a skirt.”

It’s time to tell your friend that she indeed has a bag: “You HAVE a bag.”

 

Grammatically speaking, this is the ‘second person singular’ of the verb: TENER (to have)

 

Tienes una bicicleta  You have/ You’ve got a bicycle

Tienes una amiga   You have/ You’ve got …a  friend (who is a girl) / one friend

Tienes una casa       You have/ You’ve got…a house / one house

Tienes una flor        You have/ You’ve got…a flower / one flower  

Tienes una falda      You have/ You’ve got…a skirt / one skirt

Tienes una mesa      You have/ You’ve got…a table / one table

Tienes una bolsa       You have/ You’ve got…bag / one bag

Tienes una nieta        You have/ You’ve got…a grand-daughter / one grand-daughter 

Pronunciation, for English speakers: 3 syllables:  TEE-AY-NESS. Once you have mastered   the separate syllables, start rolling them together a bit  faster.

Commit them to memory and then make up your own sentences, imagining you are speaking to a friend or family member.

Use an on-line  dictionary to find more vocabulary of items that make sense in your sentences. (I love Spanishdict.com as it is free and easy to use.)

But what if you want to ASK if your friend or family member has something? In English we have to do all sorts of acrobatics and turn stuff around in our heads just to ask a simple question.

How easy in Spanish, when all you have to do is put on a little bit of a questioning voice???

So when speaking, there is absolutely no difference between the affirmation (saying it affirmatively, positively and a question (or interrogative). Just a questioning lilt is required. In written Spanish, however, you can’t hear the questioning tone, so a clue is given so the reader knows there’s a question coming up. ¿ . An up-side-down question mark! It looks a bit weird, right ¿ . You’ll have to get used to it because it pops up (or down) a lot of the time.  72px-vraagteken-svg72px-vraagteken-svg

¿Tienes una bicicleta?  Do you have/ have you got …a bicycle?

¿Tienes una amiga?   ..Do you have/ have you got ….a  friend (who is a girl) / one friend?

¿Tienes una casa?     .Do you have/ have you got …..a house / one house?

¿Tienes una flor?       .Do you have/ have you got ….a flower / one flower?  

¿Tienes una falda?      …Do you have/ have you got …a skirt / one skirt?

¿Tienes una mesa?      .Do you have/ have you got …..a table / one table?

¿Tienes una bolsa?      .Do you have/ have you got …..bag / one bag?

¿Tienes una nieta?        Do you have/ have you got ……a grand-daughter / one grand-                                                                                                                                             daughter?

 

Ask  aloud all the questions. Commit them to memory and then make up your own questions, imagining you are asking a friend or family member.

Use an on-line  dictionary to find more vocabulary of items that make sense in your questions.

 

DON’T BE SO NEGATIVE!

We spend our lives trying to be more positive, but there area few occasions when we have to succoumb to a bit of negativity!

No tienes una bicicleta   You don’t have/ You haven’t got …a bicycle

No tienes una amiga     You don’t have/ You haven’t got…a  friend (a girl) / one friend

No tienes una casa        You don’t have/ You haven’t got…a house / one house

No tienes una flor        You don’t have/ You haven’t got…a flower / one flower  

No tienes una falda      You don’t have/ You haven’t got…a skirt / one skirt

No tienes una mesa      You don’t have/ You haven’t got…a table / one table

No tienes una bolsa       You don’t have/ You haven’t got..bag / one bag

No tienes una nieta    You don’t have/ You haven’t got..a grand-daughter /one grand-                                                                                                                                                 daughter 

Now you are equipped with a great set of sentences, questions and answers, positive or negative!  Commit them to memory and then make up your own questions, imagining you are talking to a friend or family member.

vosotros2

Asking and answering lots of questions about life!

Now you can invent your own conversations. For example:                                                       Conversation 1:  Have you got a skirt? Yes, I ‘ve got a skirt.                                                     Conversation 2:  Have you got a skirt? No, I haven’t got a skirt, but I’ve got a bicycle.

You can replace words in italics with your own vocabulary to make a conversation.

Use an on-line  dictionary to find more vocabulary of items that make sense in your conversations.

I hope this helps…

Please ask me about any doubts you have about Spanish grammar in comments below.

More next time…

 

Las Uvas de la suerte or Midnight Grapes.

uvas_de_la_suerte_2012

Photo by jacinta Lluch 

I love Spanish traditions, and one of my favourites is eating UVAS at MEDIANOCHE  on NOCHE VIEJA  (GRAPES at MIDNIGHT on NEW YEAR’S EVE. )

I’m so excited.

Tonight I’ll be going to the PLAZA together with most of the people of my town to hear the town clock (RELOJ) strike twelve midnight (MEDIANOCHE). On each CAMPANADA (stroke of the bell) everybody in the PLAZA (town square) will pop an UVA (grape) into their BOCA (mouth) with such seriousness and ceremony that it is hilarious! 

 By the time there have been five or six CAMPANADAS (strokes of the bell), everyones BOCA (mouth) is brimming with UVAS (grapes), but the idea is to continue stuffing until all twelve UVAS (grapes) are eaten, synchronising with the CAMPANADAS  (strokes of the bell). Only then will you have BUENA SUERTE  (Good Luck) for the New Year (AÑO NUEVO) [Pronunciation: ANYO NOOAYBO]

I’ll be meeting up with lots of AMIGOS (friends) and people we know, we’ll open some ‘cava’ (Spanish sparkling wine typically used in celebrations and enjoy a toast (BRINDIS)  for AÑO NUEVO (New Year). 

 Then there will be fireworks  (FUEGOS ARTIFICIALES) [literally : fires artificials]  and a FIESTA (party) with MÚSICA (music) for everyone. 

I know it will be great fun, as I have been following this tradition for many years now!

Would you like to join me?

 We are meeting in the PLAZA at 11.30, so get your UVAS ready and peeled to make it easier to guzzle them all.  ¡BUENA SUERTE!  Good Luck !

Please let me know if you enjoyed reading about my plans like this.

More next time…

Some reminders:

UVA   [Pronunciation: ooba]  Grape 

UVAS    [Pronunciation: oobas] Grapes 

MEDIANOCHE Midnight

NOCHE VIEJA New Year’s Eve. (Literally: Night Old)

PLAZA  Town Square

RELOJ   Clock

 PLAZA DEL RELOJ  Clock Square  (Literally: Square of the Clock)

CAMPANADA     Stroke of the bell 

BOCA     Mouth

BUENA SUERTE Good Luck

AÑO NUEVO (Pronunciation: ANYO NOOAYBO) New Year

AMIGOS   Friends

BRINDIS   A toast ( e.g. raising a glass of wine in celebration) 

FUEGOS ARTIFICIALES  Fireworks (literally : fires artificial)  

FIESTA  Party

MÚSICA  Music

 

Gender issues?

gendersignGender issues are very important. There is a growing  awareness of the debate on gender in society nowadays. This is all good.

Now I’d like to consider the vital importance of gender in language learning!

Especially in Spanish language learning.

Spanish is very concerned with gender. All nouns (the NAMES of things) have a given gender. This means that some THINGS are considered FEMININE  while others are considered MASCULINE. This may not seem important but depending on the ‘gender’ of each thing, there are certain patterns to follow.

In my experience over the years teaching Spanish, most textbooks and learning programmes present the MASCULINE form of nouns and pronouns first, and expect the FEMININE form to be understood by osmosis! Well I am revolutionising Spanish language learning here and now, by presenting the FEMININE  form first.

Girl power!

In the following, I’d like to begin showing first the FEMININE form of nouns and how to use the ‘indefinite article’ ( ‘a’ or ‘an’ as in ‘a table’ or ‘an orange’ = UNA [Pronunciation: OONA]  

Note: UNA also means ONE, as in the number one. 

 

Una amiga   A friend (who is a girl) / one friend

Una casa      A house / one house

Una flor        A flower / one flower  

rainbow_rose_28336655002929

ByLucy Roberts

 

Una falda      A skirt / one skirt

Una mesa      A table / one table

Una bolsa       A bag / one bag

Una nieta    A grand-daughter / one grand-daughter 

 

Some important words are a little tricky to pronounce without hearing them first.

Una hija   [pronunciation: EEHA]    A daughter / one daughter

Una botella   [pronunciation: BOTEYA]   A bottle / one bottle

Una manzana  [pronunciation: MANTHANA] An apple / one apple 

 

Try and memorise these few nouns with the indefinite article  (UNA) which goes with them. I am so excited because in my next post you will be able to start using them in important sentences!  

I really hope this helps. 

Please ask any questions if I haven’t been clear. 

 

 

Little Red Riding Hood and how she can help

 

You probably know at this stage of your Spanish language learning, you aren’t going to launch into reading the first chapter of “Don Quijote” by Miguel de Cervantes just yet. (Cervantes was/is to Spanish literature as  William Shakespeare was/is to English literature.)

 

naftel-isabel-nee-oakley-act-1-little-red-riding-hood

Isabel Naftel (Wikimedia Commons)

In fact your literary level may be more akin to Little Red Riding Hood.  And that would be great. There are so many language learning resources available now that it only makes sense to tap into as many of these as possible.

You have to swallow all that pride and go back to basics. The thing is that ‘basics’ in language learning can mean really basic.

Would you not be thrilled if you could speak Spanish as well as a 3 year-old Spanish child? Your ultimate goal may be to speak a little better than that in the future, but at the moment that would be a fine goal.

Children’s fairy-tales in bilingual texts are a great learning resource. A bilingual text usually means that the story or text is written in a target language, (in this example Spanish) and on the next page, usually visible, is the parallel text in (this case) English.

An example of this could be this bilingual text of Little Red Riding Hood, which I found on Amazon, very cheaply.

(Disclaimer: I have no connection with Amazon but simply want to provide an example of a bilingual text which could prove useful and fun.)

The key would be to choose stories you are familiar with (we all know Little Red Riding Hood) and so half the battle of understanding is already won.

The best way to use a story like this would be:

 

  • Read the text in both English and Spanish
  • Look up words you don’t know.
  • Notice the verbs of SER and ESTAR and when they are used.
  • Enjoy understanding the story, like a three-year-old would.

 

Please let me know if this has helped.

More next time…