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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Vamoos’ or Vamos? Shall we go? Spanish for beginners

Spanish is so cool and precise!

VAMOS (Pronunciation ‘BAMOS’) *

Important note: VAMOOS  does not exist!

As do many other Spanish words, VAMOS doubles up for several ideas in English

Vamos. We’re going (now)  (It’s just a fact)

Vamos  We go (usually) ( It’s just a fact)

¡Vamos! Let’s go. (It’s a great idea!)

¿Vamos? Shall we go? (It’s a suggestion?)

Now that may look a little messy, but it’s the English that is actually messy….

Look how simple Spanish is that the same word VAMOS doubles, triples, even quadruples up for several GOING ideas when relating to US, or WE!

Can you see the Pattern emerging?

(For more on “Patterns in Spanish” see here.

Now for a bit of practice:

La tienda : The shop

Vamos a la tienda: We’re going to the shop.

The audio file below will say: “La tienda” (the shop) . You can repeat this.

Then you will hear : “Vamos a la tienda.

There’s a pause and you can repeat the sentence.

Try this now!

La fiesta = The party

Vamos a la fiesta=We’re going to the party.

 

Let’s just have a quick look at the patterns emerging here

 

 La tienda=  the shop….                 a la tienda= to the shop

                              VAMOS….. a la tienda 

                can express several ideas in English

a) WE’RE  to the shop (now)

or       b) WE GO to the shop (everyday)

or       c) LET’S GO to the shop!  (great suggestion!)

and,  if said with a ‘questioning lilt in the  voice’ ?? it also can express

d) ARE WE GOING to the shop? (now)

or    e) DO WE GO to the shop?  (everyday)

or    f) SHALL WE GO to the shop? (great question suggestion!)

 

 

Now it’s the REAL DEAL !

It’s time to listen and repeat after a native Spanish speaker, my daughter!

COPYCATS!

She will say a sentence, wait for you to repeat it, then she will say it again, after which you repeat again, adjusting your speed, intonation, or accent to copy her as closely as you can.

My daughter is  very patient and understanding. You can even click again on the audio start-arrow and she will happily oblige to do a ‘repeat performance’ if you so wish!

You might need this several times to get a hold on the real accent and intonation. (Just saying…)

 


                     8 more simple sentences which will get you speaking Spanish now!

 

Australian (AUS) fans in green and gold cheering 2000 Sydney PGLa fiesta = the party.

¿Vamos a la fiesta?     Vamos a la fiesta.


playa_parac3adso2c_villajoyosa2c_espac3b1a2c_2014-07-032c_dd_01-02_panLa playa = the beach

¿Vamos a la playa?        Vamos a la playa.


window_4_by_carroll_jones_iiila casa de Jane = the house of Jane (Jane’s house)

¿Vamos a la casa de Jane?    Vamos a la casa de Jane.


By Nací con un pie yámbico [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Málaga local train station Photo Credit

La estación = the station

 

¿Vamos a la estación?      Vamos a la estación.


317La plaza = the square (geographical, central point of towns a villages)

¿Vamos a la plaza?   Vamos a la plaza.


 

The last three sample sentences are using masculine nouns:

el aeropuerto, el campo, el supermercado

(See previous post about ‘A LA’ versus ‘AL’ here  and why it’s important!)

aeropuorto_de_malaga_terminal_2

El aeropuerto = airport      AL aeropuerto =TO THE airport

¿Vamos al aeropuerto?       Vamos al aeropuerto. 


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La Valle Alcudia, Spain Photo Credit

El campo = the country ( as in the field, the countryside, nature)

 

AL campo = TO THE country

¿Vamos al campo?           Vamos al campo.


Por Eduardo P (Trabajo propio) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], undefined

Un supermercado en España Photo Credit

El supermarket = the supermarket

 

AL supermercado =  TO THE supermarket


 

Please let me know if this helps….

or what else I could do to improve this post…

Are there any bug-bear areas in your Spanish grammar you need a bit of clarification with? Ask me.

Jot down a comment in the Comments box below.

I might be able to help.

 

 

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.

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…