Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Key See-era ablar Espanyol

Okay, the spelling is atrocious but phonetically I think it's about right - 'I would like to speak Spanish.'

Do you want to learn another language? Do you believe you can?

I believe you can!

I've now completed five weeks of Spanish language learning using Collins Spanish with Paul Noble. My goal number 27 is 'To learn Spanish and speak it.'

One of the first things Paul says both on the DVD that comes with the course and the first CD is that he struggled to learn a language at school; that he left school believing he was incapable of learning a language and yet he found the problem was not him - it was the way he was being taught.

I was taught French at school and still remember a few words and phrases but as a teenager could not see the point of learning the words for orange or hot chocolate or many of the sentences we were asked to learn. I was not likely to travel to France at the time so it seemed like an exercise in futility. I was embarrassed when I made mistakes in class and this was even worse when others seemed to be coping well with the learning and were praised.

I was also lazy and distracted. Two goal killers right there!

How did you find language learning at school? Have you tried learning a language since then? How have you gotten on?

I currently speak two languages - my native English and also Tajik which I learnt while working in Tajikistan. I believed - like I imagine most people do - that learning a language while living in a country must be possible. I took language lessons while there but struggled to apply what I was learning. I was determined though and kept trying. I would speak to everyone and anyone. I forced myself to remember numbers and practiced adding and subtracting so I could shop in the local bazaars. I learnt key phrases; questions and answers. The local police had a habit of stopping drivers and I took the opportunity to say what I knew and try and hold a conversation.

I must have spoken broken/incorrect/unintelligible Tajik to a thousand people while I was there!

It is quite reassuring to hear Paul state that making mistakes and forgetting is encouraged while learning a language!

After two years we had a chance to get our progress in language tested according to LAMP standards. (Language Acquisition Made Practical) I still did not have a huge vocabulary and was quite nervous about taking the test - even though I was confidently conversing with dozens of people in ordinary situations every day. Colleagues of mine were much more advanced in their language skills and I was worried about how I would compare.

I was told by the examiner that I was demonstrating an intermediate grasp of the language. For me this was an amazing achievement. It didn't matter any more that my colleagues were doing better - I had achieved something. I achieved learning a language by being willing to try; being willing to make mistakes; by trying everything I could to speak the language. Both my methods and my discipline could have been better but I kept on trying.

I now strongly believe that just as all of us can learn our native language as children - we can learn another language as adults. If you want to learn another language - you can do it!

Let me know how you get on!

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