Let’s talk about language acquisition!
¡Hola a todos de Nuevo!
Living in Mexico has been great for my desire to gain fluency with speaking Spanish. However, I have still experienced some struggles as I navigate the intricate layers of language learning. Making mistakes is a part of the process, but I have learned that it is the mistakes that help you learn. Here are some of the steps I have been through in the short time that I have been in Mexico.
Step 1: Confusion
When you are learning a language, it is okay to be confused. I know I have moments when I have no idea what someone is saying. One thing that I try to do is ask for the speaker to repeat what they are saying or ask them to speak a little bit slower. This process can be a bit daunting, which leads me to…
Step 2: Anxiety/Nervousness
Sometimes it is tempting to just grin and nod when you don’t understand a native speaker/professor/street vendor. Nodding and grinning is a mistake that I now avoid. When you just nod, or shake your head, you are missing a chance to learn something new. Attempting to speak in Spanish everywhere has enabled me to earn a few discounts from vendors when I am on excursions. (Just something to keep in mind :) )
Step 3: Practice
When visiting the market or other areas around Cuernavaca, I have had people reach out because I stand out as a foreigner. Some of these people either want to sell you something or practice their English. When will you have the opportunity to be surrounded by so many native speakers of the language you are learning? If anything, participate in a language exchange (speak some in Spanish and English) but don’t fall back on your native language because it is easier. Make it known that you are learning Spanish and want to use what you have learned. Be firm in your desire to practice!
Step 4: Improvement
Once you start using the language more, which in my case is Spanish, it starts to become easier. I still stumble over some words and phrases, (especially where to place direct/indirect objects and the use of any version of the subjunctive) but the more I try to speak, the easier it becomes. I know I have heard the phrase “just speak” over and over ignoring it as nothing more than a trifle. Of course, the phrase is right, just speak. If you don’t, you won’t be able to improve your conversational skills. Reading, writing, and watching Spanish-language programming is not a replacement for speaking practice, although they are all still important parts of learning the language.
Step 5: Understanding
One of the most exciting things to happen to me was when I sat down at the table with my host family and I understood everything that they were saying! I have noticed that they have begun to speak faster and I am able to process the language mentally easier and with more speed. Learning a language takes time, so don’t give up and have patience!
¡Hasta la próxima! I hope your language learning journey is a great one!