Learning Spanish in 10 weeks (hopefully)

Of interest to language learners and linguists everywhere.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

STAGEFRIGHT - how to overcome initial shyness

Stagefright is a very similar phenomenon to the anxiety attacks that strike most people when they first try to talk to somone in a new language. On a site about overcoming stagefright (yes, I read the oddest things sometimes) I found this good advice: When you get onstage, focus on something other than the audience. To relate this to myself or anyone else trying to get over this initial hurdle, a helpful suggestion might be to focus on something other than your nervousness. The other person, for example.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

REVIEW - How am I faring so far?

The past few weeks have seen me go from learning a lot from the vast array of Spanish sites on the Internet to trying to scrape up as much language input as possible from next to no resources. It's been a struggle, I admit, and these ten weeks could have been far more successful if I'd been able to continue in the conditions of unemployed soul with Internet access in which they started.

However, I'm one to find the best in a situation. At least this way I have a bit more money to enjoy myself with in Spain, and something more to say about myself than "I've been sat at a computer unemployed for 10 weeks!"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

PASSIONATE USERS - How to enthuse yourself.

The site Creating Passionate Users has a following of sycophantic converts who all know that the Passionate Users formula works for marketers, writers, people who have to give presentations, teachers - in fact anyone who wants to make someone else enthusiastic about their product, whatsoever that may be.

Seduce yourself.

Your focus of course has to be on how the language relates to you, the learner; how it will help you. You can look at it as a voyage of discovery, a challenge, a social experience, a goal to triumph in, for the sense of accomplishment, as an escape from reality - or more likely all these things at different stages of your learning. (When your brain has had too much of you thinking 'This will be useful for me', and when you've exhausted your capacity for reminding yourself that 'I enjoy this', you can try another tack.)

Expose yourself to positives as much as possible - seek out strong emotions, smiling faces, attractive people, enjoyable situations, fun (informal) language. Keep your interest by varying the things you're doing to learn. (Much easier with the 'Net or being in a country that speaks the language.) To be honest, I'd much rather read or watch an interview with Shakira (Colombian) or Eva Longoria (Mexican-American) than with some boring 'normal' character in a textbook or newpaper. It interests ME; it holds MY attention.

Finally, relax - your brain will take in more. Never let it get you down if you can't seem to say something right or the words just won't stick in your brain - being able to smile graciously through your language mistakes will win you huge respect, and a second try.

Friday, July 14, 2006

MOVE - Don't just study. Dance!

As well as listening to music, learning the lyrics, following the words in my head and at times karaoke-ing along, I've noticed that something I've been neglecting to do (though I do it all the time when I listen to music for pleasure) is actually move to the music. It makes singing along feel even more enjoyable and enthusiastic. Must do it more.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

RESEARCH - Can you learn without computer access?

Not having a computer to myself for the last few weeks has made me realise just how reliant I'd become on the machine. Without it I've had to revert to learning from a severely limited number of Spanish CDs, webpage printouts and a sole copy of 'People en Espanol', a Latin-American Spanish version of the magazine.
I spent a significant amount of time (around 30 minutes most days) searching for what was available to read, listen to, watch... However, this search did involve me, indeed absorb me, and call on me to use my scan-reading skills to browse through search results and web links to find quality input.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

DOWN-TIME - The benefits of taking breaks.

Whether it's watching a DVD, reading a web discussion page, leafing through a magazine, listening to song lyrics, or whatever - take breaks.

What I find works best for me is to set an alarm to stop me after 30 minutes or so. I take a 10-minute break and my mind is noticeably refreshed when I get back to what I was doing. It seems to slow the inevitable 'language fatigue'. (That's the feeling of sudden tiredness that comes with putting so much mental energy into speaking or listening to another language. You just suddenly switch off and don't feel like doing more.) The down-time also gives your mind a chance to process what it's learnt.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Something I've learnt from teaching reading classes is that reading shouldn't be a simple text-to-person transfer. It should be a dialogue. By that I mean, to get the most out of your reading, you have to ask questions of the text (Who did that? Why? Where did they get that idea?), even if not all you questions are answered. Sometimes criticising (To the best of my knowledge, that's BS. I could've written this better.) can also raise issues and help not only your critical thinking faculty but also aid in cementing the text in your mind. And the words in it.