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Automatic English For The People

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Spanish

by AJ

Well, the Spanish blog is a bust so far. Honestly, my level is too low. I find it very hard to write daily... and I find that Im thinking in English then translating word for word into Spanish (usually with horrible results). No doubt this is a result of my grammar-translation High School courses.

Ive decided that at this point in my learning, focusing on production (especially writing) is not the best thing. Rather, Im putting most of my efforts on listening, and secondarily, reading.

A confession: I am a TERRIBLE language student. I get easily frustrated. Im impatient. I find the steep curve from starting to proficiency to be demotivating.

I am, in fact, a perfect example of how "non-linguistic factors" can inhibit language learning. Im a smart guy. I can, theoretically, learn Spanish as well as anyone else. Its not my language learning ability that is the problem, however. My problems are psychological and emotional.....

Im trying to address these problems by relaxing. Rather than obsess about learning quickly... Im trying to focus on slow but steady progress. Rather than focus on speed, Im trying to focus on consistency. Thus far, Im averaging about 20 minutes of Spanish a day. Of course thats "not enough".... but 20 minutes a day beats zero.

I try to convey this same mentality to my students. Many have the same issues as I do... they are hyper motivated, which is good. But many are also highly frustrated. They want to be perfect, native-like speakers NOW!. They fret over every mistake. They bemoan their "lack of progress" (though most are, in fact, making excellent progress). They sometimes build up so much impatience that it begins to demotivate them and impede their progress.

In such cases, the teacher's role is to help them relax. Sometimes a teacher must be a counselor and address the emotional issues that are affecting their students. Sometimes its more important to get them to laugh than to help them master phrasal verbs. Language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Lets help our students enjoy the run.

San Francisco, CA

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