Dear Language Friends:
Today I write for two purposes: one to offer a video I just viewed about how we acquire language through stories. Here’s the link. The other reason for this newsletter is to share with you how I FEEL about my own language learning at this point in time.
I am SO encouraged with my progress in Spanish up to now. But first a brief summary of my experience with Spanish beginning in 1995. Here’s the timeline of activities:
- May 1995 – I get hired to teach French (my field) in a new school. As an extra duty, they want me also to offer Spanish enrichment for little kids. I attend a course of beginning Spanish ‘grammar’ at a local university
- Between 1995 and June 1, 2018 – I encounter Spanish occasionally at language conferences. I greet Hispanics once in a while, but that is it.
- June 1, 2018 – I start dedicating an hour a day to Spanish immersion through podcasts and videos because I am planning to co-lead a trip to Europe with our school’s French and Spanish students. But, my husband gets a new job and we move before the trip takes place.
- December 31, 2020 – I have fallen in love with Spanish, having accumulated 1845 hours of immersion (reading, listening, watching and occasionally speaking Spanish).
This year, 2021, I am focusing on making myself speak. I am using platforms such as Whatsapp audio and Voxer audio to record stories/accounts taken from my daily life or my past. Each one lasts anywhere from 6-10 minutes. There are 6 Spanish-speaking people in my life who listen to me each week. Four of them give me written or oral corrections. For those 4, I do the same for them as they weekly share something in English. I listen, taking notes, and provide them feedback. My other two language partners and I don’t share corrections, but we do speak to one another once a week.
As a ‘routine junkie’ I schedule MY 6 submissions/exchanges each week.
Now, just 6 weeks into this practice, I FEEL the improvement in my speaking. Get this! ‘Out of the blue’ last week, the thought occurred: ‘Maria, you have reached the high intermediate level in spoken Spanish’. It must be my increasing confidence that triggered that thought. Yes, I know there are ACTFL and European standards that ‘place’ or categorize a learner’s level. I’m not using any of those objective measures. I just FEEL my growth and ability inside of me. So, that is what I am calling it – ‘high intermediate level spoken Spanish’.
That’s my good news I wanted to share with you all. If you’ve gotten this far, then I want to encourage YOU to keep teaching your students patience, reminding them that becoming good at something, no matter the skill or field, takes a consistent investment of time.
And do yourself a favor, if you haven’t started already. Choose another language to acquire and join the journey. It’ll be fun and make you a more empathetic teacher.
Hope you, too, are acquiring another L2 so you can see for yourself whether grammar helps. And if so, in what context. At the very least, being a learner will make you a much better teacher.
Happy learning – Happy teaching!