In other words, this particular post is not about woodworking at all, but my journey so far with español.
|Traditional Spanish dancing.|
Perhaps a little bit of my personal history to put my journey into context:
I came to Germany in 1997 with the US Army. Until recently, I have worked for the US Army either as a soldier or a civilian. This means I have always worked in an English speaking environment on a US Army post, where I could spend dollars, eat peanut butter and speak English.
Early on I met the Frau who speaks better English than I do. For some reason (and I think I'm not alone), we find it excruciating to attempt German at home.
I could go on with lots of excuses, but in the end, after 19 years in Germany I am not at all fluent in German, and there is no one to blame but myself. I can follow a conversation pretty well, can read a bit, and can order the hell out of a Big Mac. The problem is when it comes time for me to speak, my brain turns to jelly.
I've been in Spain since August, and I vowed I would not let the same thing happen to me here. I want to speak to the people here. I think it would be way more fun that way. I could get away with English in the part of Germany I was in, as the education system there does a great job of getting young people fluent enough in English. I could get away speaking English because there would invariably be someone who could speak English nearby.
We will go back to Germany in a few years, and I will need to learn German, full stop. I think being in Spain now is an excellent opportunity for me to learn how one should go about learning a language, as I pretty well know what NOT to do to learn one.
I think learning a language is a bit of a catch-22, because in order to really get it, you need to speak it. But, to speak it, you need to know something.
Hmmm. What to do?
There was one giant mistake I did when learning German: I allowed fear to prevent me from trying. I was afraid of making mistakes, afraid of getting the articles wrong, afraid the grammar was in the wrong order, etc. In other words, I was afraid of sounding dumb.
Other people seem to be great at languages. The Frau is fluent in German, English and French. Jonas has Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, German, English and who-knows-what-else. I would call him a polyglot. He would consider himself able to talk to anyone within an hour's drive of his house.
I know this is completely irrational, because I always appreciate it when someone bothers to learn English. They might not be perfect, but it doesn't take too much effort to help someone get out what they are trying to communicate.
For some reason, it is different when the shoe is on the other foot.
I am well aware of this folly, and my propensity to fall in it. I've caught myself a few times already choosing to keep my trap shut rather than say what I want.
OMG! This is going to be a long post. I'll have to find some more pictures to break it up.
|Ham! What could be more Spanish than Iberian ham in a market!|
My regimen up until now has turned out to be pretty effective so far.
- I am in a Spanish class downtown for two hours three days a week.
- I am taking private lessons from Spanish teachers via Skype
- I supplement my lessons with YouTube videos on the subject I'm working on.
- I use my limited Spanish every chance I get.
Spanish ClassMy Spanish class is taught by a very nice lady at a language school in town. There are about six students learning basic Spanish, and the teacher speaks very little English in class. I suspect she doesn't really have English at a conversational level, but really I don't know.
- I'm with a real-live person who can answer questions and demonstrate the language.
- I can learn along with some of the other students who are in the same boat.
- There are proper materials provided and a certain expectation that we do our part.
- We really are getting into the weeds of the bits that make Spanish work and be correct.
- One can "hide" in class. This is something I am predisposed to do. Remember, I said that to really get it, you have to speak. I've caught myself hoping she would call on someone else when I am not confident with an answer.
- The class both goes really fast, and too slow at the same time. It sounds weird, but we are learning so much that it seems before I can really get a handle on a concept we are moving ahead to the next step. I could be at it for years before becoming conversational if this is all I do (I know, because I proved it with German).
- All in all, a group class like this gets you good at analyzing Spanish, but lacks a bit in the creation required for speaking fluently.
Private Skype LessonsI'm lucky here, because I am doing some private lessons with a company called BaseLang. I'm lucky because they only teach Spanish. I'll have to figure something else out when it's time for German.
- It is really cheap - $99 per month for as many Skype lessons as you can do.
- Quality lesson design with flexibility. I mean that this company's focus is to get a student speaking and understanding as quickly as possible. It is flexible in the fact that the instructors all will go over whatever you want them to. I could use them as tutors, for instance, to help with the lessons in my downtown class. I find their lessons to be a great compliment to what I am learning downtown, though. While I am hanging on by my fingernails downtown, here I get to really understand and gain confidence. Honestly, I feel more like my downtown class is a good companion to this one!
- The instructors are all cheerful, knowledgeable and dedicated. There are dozens of them. I found one that I use most of the time, and I use a few others on days and times when he isn't available.
- I can do it every single day, even days when I have my downtown class. The most I've used so far is five 30-minute sessions. At a $99 per month rate, this is perfect for me while I am not yet working. I think if I did have a full time job, I could still get really great instruction with a 30-minute class every day and perhaps one day on the weekend with one or two one hour sessions. I think if you do less than ten 30-minute sessions a month, you probably would be better off with a local private tutor.
- I think the reason BaseLang can keep the price so low is their instructors are mostly from Venezuela, from what I can tell. I think if you are in the US, this is not so much a problem, but Castillian Spanish here in Spain has some differences. I think the differences are about the same as the differences between British English and American English. At the end of the day, I decided to go with this company anyway, as South American Spanish is better than nothing, and there is no way I could afford this amount of private tutoring with a language teacher here. I did find a BaseLang teacher who has been great in helping with the Castillian. He is knowledgeable about the differences, coaches me about them, and adds exercises to our lessons including grammar and pronunciation that I need. He even created one entire lesson for me just on this topic!
- It is over the computer, which isn't quite as good as speaking face to face with someone. But I have to say it's close.
- It is restricted to being able to communicate over Skype, which requires an internet connection, video and audio.
YouTubeYouTube is an amazing resource that wasn't something I would have thought to include in a study regimen even a couple of years ago. Now, it has a TON of good content. Beware, though, there is also a TON of crap content. I find that there is some real gold to be mined here. Cherry picking the topics you need to assist understanding is a real boon.
- It makes a brilliant companion to a proper language class, as you can search topics. For example, last week I was so mad and frustrated with my class because the teacher went over indirect object pronouns for probably 45 minutes. Very detailed. My problem was, I didn't get it. The more I didn't get it, the madder I got. I fell in my trap of keeping my mouth shut as it seemed that no one else was having problems, in fact they thought this concept was easy. Once I was home and calmed down a bit, I decided I needed to figure these things out, and I wasn't going to stop until I did. A quick search on YouTube yielded about seven years worth of content regarding indirect object pronouns. In ten minutes, I was good to go. Sometimes, you just need someone else to explain it in a different way.
- I find it not very effective as a stand-alone language program. There's lots of opinions on how you should learn Spanish, and without guidance it can be a bit like walking through a swamp blindfolded.
- No feedback. This kind of goes with the previous point. Just like any other kind of video instruction, the teacher can not observe and correct what you are doing.
Accosting Every Local With Limited SpanishI jest a bit with this title, but the idea is to put as much of what you are learning into real world practice as soon as possible. I have to say the Frau is better at this than I am, but she is getting by.
- You are really doing it! You're speaking a foreign language!
- Speaking a word somehow cements it into your long term memory better, making it easier to pull it up without effort the more it is used.
- They respond. Now, it's "omigodwhatthefuckdidhejustsay?"
- Don't get me started on a telephone conversation at this point. How are you supposed to use your hands and feet on the phone?
- Sometimes a local will speak to you in a dialect. Here, it's Valenciano, which is a different language entirely.
Especially if you live in another country.
What languages do you speak, or would you like to speak, and what ways do you learn?