Is the thought of enjoying a foreign language shocking?
News flash: I did not enjoy high school Spanish class at all.
I took four years of high school Spanish. Then I took two Spanish courses in college. After all that time studying Spanish, I still could not speak or understand Spanish! I could read and write the language fairly well, at least on a basic level and with some errors, but it was frustrating to have studied for so long and not be able to speak! My mom’s first language is Danish, and she speaks Spanish fluently. Still, we always spoke English together.
I asked myself, “How is it that I studied Spanish for so many years, and at the end of it I could barely stammer out a basic sentence?” I got A’s and B’s, so it’s not like I was a bad student.
I blame it on NOT talking enough during all those years of study.
No, it wasn’t all for nothing. All that studying eventually paid off.
It just took a long time, and it took being in a situation where I finally HAD to speak. I wound up teaching in Van Nuys, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.
I was surrounded by 20 six year olds who spoke barely any English. Suddenly, I was in a situation where if I did not speak Spanish, no one would understand. And I spoke!
Ohhhhh, those six year olds were merciless about my mistakes! They laughed so hard when I said something wrong. They were not mean, it was just that they had never heard anyone flounder around in Spanish before. I quickly used it to my advantage and turned it around, telling them that it was JUST FINE for them to make mistakes in English, because I was JUST FINE with making mistakes in Spanish. It worked! My Spanish improved immensely, and so did their English! Even the shyest, most self-conscious of them began to speak when they saw that mistakes in a foreign language were ok.
I learned something about teaching and learning – something I would later see verified by studies. These general tips work for all subjects:
The above tips work with everything, but they’re even more important for a foreign language. The reason why is because one must SPEAK in order to learn to SPEAK! Most people can’t speak their best when they are stressed out.
For foreign languages:
I never learned to speak a foreign language perfectly. It doesn’t matter. I continue to speak Spanish frequently as part of my work. I speak fairly well and I can talk about anything, but I still make mistakes. I understand much better than I speak. I can even talk on the phone in Spanish – something I never thought would happen.
I never expected to have children who could speak Chinese, but that is what is happening, too. My children attend a Chinese school for two hours a week. They love it! They have started studying French, too, and I’m studying with them. My husband speaks German, Arabic, and is studying Russian. I speak Spanish, but I have forgotten most of my Danish because it is such a rare language.
I use Spanish for work all the time, and my husband occasionally uses his foreign languages for work. The funny thing at home is that all three kids say basic things to each other in Chinese, even though my husband and I do not speak Chinese! With their young ages, toilet humor is popular. They are also loving French, which we just recently started learning – they are often counting, singing, and having fun with it. The other night I caught my son crooning in French to our cat – just basic things like, “Bonjour Mademoiselle Chat, comment ca va? Tres bien?” and, “Au revoir Mademoiselle Chat.”
I have learned so much about teaching and learning a foreign language and I would love to share it with you, to help you enjoy it as much as we do!
I am giving you a free download! Get it, print it, and try it out with your curriculum. The system works with any foreign language curriculum you choose!