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!

beuckelaer_girl_with_a_basket_of_eggs

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

footsteps

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

 

 

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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?

 

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

 

If not now, when?

 

There’s always something,  isn’t there?

Some people are really good at making excuses.  If it’s not a big holiday coming up, like now perhaps in December, it’s maybe too much stress at work. If it’s not a great series on your favourite network, then it’s because you have to finish clearing out the garage..

There are a myriad of excuses to be coined for putting off seriously getting down to language learning. Some can  never seem to find a good time to get started with a big project like this.

Perhaps someone like that is reading this, right now.

And we have to admit, learning a language is a big project. It’s a major project. It’s a project that can take a long time. It’s probably a project that really doesn’t have a specific end.

Even in our own first language, there will always be something new to learn. We hear new words all the time in our own first language. Words that we have to reach to the dictionary for.  Think how much more so in a new language.

When you begin to learn a new language, you have to be ready to go in for the long haul. It won’t be fast, it won’t be without its ups and downs. It won’t be effortless. It will be hard. But it can be fun too.

The key is not to find the effortless way, but to find the fun and interesting ways, ways to keep you engaged and involved over time, over a lengthy period of time. You need to add variety to your learning. Try different styles, different approaches, different teachers, different courses, different books, different people to talk to and learn with.

If not, the whole process will become stale and you will lose interest. Once you lose interest, the magic has gone. The initial motivation and enthusiasm wane and it will take an awful lot to regain momentum.

Keep in mind the reasons why you want to learn another language and follow this…

                                        ACTION PLAN

  • Make a list of 5 reasons why you want to learn another language
  • Identify which part of the language you most need/want : Listening , Speaking, Reading, or Writing. (Or any  combination)
  • Search for the first/second/third/ etc. most appropriate method to begin your learning.
  • Take action required to learn according to method.
  • Read your list of 5 reasons why you want to learn another language.
  • Rinse and repeat!!!!!

 

So if not now, then  when?

 

More next time…