I recently came across a language learning goal-setting challenge hosted by Lindsay at Lindsay Does Languages and Shannon at Eurolinguiste. As language learning is my favorite pastime, I have decided to participate!
Since graduating from the University with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Education and a minor in Languages, I haven’t done much consistently to maintain or improve my French or Chinese, and sadly, my abilities in these languages have gotten a little rusty. Setting some language goals and following through is just what I need.
Fortunately, my Spanish is the best it has ever been. Being that I am a Spanish teacher, I try hard to do something every day to improve my Spanish skills, be it reading, listening, writing, or speaking in Spanish—sometimes all of the above.
Recently, I’ve been focusing on improving my pronunciation and speaking fluency. I want to speak like a native! I’ve been listening a lot to the podcast Español Automático by Karo Martinez, filling my mind with lots of authentic Spanish, and I’m actually amazed by how much my Spanish speaking abilities have improved in such a short time (a little more than a month) just through lots of active and repetitive listening. (The first time I listen to each episode, I read the transcript while I listen, and then, I listen to the same episode several more times so that the vocabulary and grammar structures are solidified in my brain.) If it isn’t obvious, I LOVE this free resource--Español Automático, and highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their intermediate Spanish!
Another really great podcast I like to listen to and shadow (I repeat everything the speaker says) is 1001 Reasons to Learn Spanish by Juan Fernández. Because Juan Fernández speaks Spanish slowly this podcast is perfect to shadow. The content is also highly entertaining and fun!
I really want to improve my French fluency this month. Since listening to podcasts has helped me so much with Spanish I will do a lot of podcast listening in French.
I want to bring my Chinese writing back to speed as well as my speaking.
I can’t forget my Egyptian Arabic! Although I often do, and that is why my progress is slow.
For German I’m going to keep it simple. I can’t not study German, because it has been calling me! But, I don’t want German to distract from my Arabic learning, however, I am finding that German is much easier for me than Arabic.
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning when I came across this headline:
I, of course, had to stop and read the article as it had to do with languages--a topic I find fascinating. I also skimmed through some of the comments, and initially, I took umbrage to the comment (written in awkward English, with an unclear meaning) of Jesus Bermudez Perez and the following clarification of Alvaro Dominguez Virues.
Then, I remembered that a lot of English speakers are complacent about learning other languages and do expect and rely upon others to learn English in order to facilitate global communication.
Therefore, the comments of these two men, although exaggerated (afterall, many native English speakers are indeed bilingual or multilingual) and not necessarily kind, may contain some truth. And if considered in the right frame of mind, these comments can raise awareness as to how people in other countries and cultures, who have had to work hard to learn English in order to be able to participate in the global conversation, may be feeling towards the general language learning complacency of some English speakers.
What can we do as native English speakers to improve relations with our global neighbors? How can we show them we aren't lazy, and that we do respect them?
In the United States there is an attitude of complacency when it comes to learning languages. Too many of us seem to think that because English is the language that everyone else in the world is learning, we don't have to learn any other languages. Up until several of years ago I didn't really give much value to my own desires and abilities to learn languages. Even though I could speak Spanish, French, and Chinese, I considered my language learning as nothing more than a hobby I did for fun in my free time. However, an experience my husband and I had at the Summer Palace in Beijing, China woke me up and made me realize just how important it is to be able to communicate in different languages.
"冰淇淋 一元, 一元 Bīngqílín--yīyuán, yīyuán!" (Ice cream--one yuan, one yuan!), the lady called out as we passed. It was a hot day in Bejing. My husband and I had done a lot of walking in the gardens around the Summer Palace so we stopped for a cold treat. "Five yuan." the lady told us in English as she showed us our choices of ice cream.
"五元 Wǔyuán!" (Five yuan!) I replied, surprised. "但是 你说一元 Dànshì nǐ shuōle yīyuán!" (But you just said one yuan!
"哦，你说中国. Ó, nǐ shuō zhōngguó!" (Oh, you speak Chinese!) The lady said as she blushed and started to giggle. She quickly took my two yuan in exchange for two ice cream bars. She continued to laugh as my husband and I walked away. We weren't quite sure what to think, but a lesson had been learned: my knowledge of Chinese had just saved us eight yuan--not a big sum of money, but it could have been. It suddenly became clear to me, even if the whole world is learning English, it is still very important for United States citizens to learn different languages!