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Pura Buena Onda is a Spanish language school for adults, that uses an organic, conversational approach to teaching Spanish.

For the last few weeks our in-house polyglot Octavi, has been telling us the stories of how he came to be a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English, French, Italian, and Japanese. Today Octavi will tell us about his journey with Korean, his 7th language.

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola a todos!

This week it’s Korean, everybody! This is the last language I learned. I started back in 2006, and like with most of the other languages I speak, I never thought I would seriously learn it.

The Beginning

It all started during my first trip to Japan in 2006. I was walking down the street and in one of the big TV screens scattered around the city, I saw a pop music video sung by a young girl. I looked for the singer online because I liked the song. Later, I found out she was not Japanese, but Korean. Apparently, the song I liked was the first song she had released in Japanese, and it was called ‘Number one’. The singer’s name was BoA (yes, written like that).

I was very curious about her, and I wanted to hear her previous songs in Korean, so I looked for videos on Youtube. I liked the music videos and the songs I discovered, and it made me want to learn more about Korea and its language. With time, I found other singers, other songs, and I even started watching South Korean soap-operas and movies. I liked them, and what I liked the most was the fact that people in Spain didn’t know anything about South Korea, so it became unique and special in my eyes. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but one thing led to another and, after some hesitation, I decided to meet a Korean girl living in Barcelona to start a language exchange.

I still don’t know exactly why, but I was increasingly fascinated with the language. As I said before, the fact that everything Korean was so unknown in Spain made learning about the language and the culture so much cooler. Nowadays things are different, and Spaniards know a lot more about Korean culture, but not back then.

First Contact

2009 was the year I finally traveled to South Korea. I loved it! My first impression was that people were friendly, energetic, boisterous and generous. I didn’t see many westerners, which I liked, and the food was good and cheap; perfect combination! I met a lot of people in only one month, and when I tried to say things in Korean everyone was very encouraging… the country reminded me of Japan, but it was not like Japan. I guess what I’m trying to say is like saying that Spain, France or Italy are similar but different. They are European countries and share some characteristics, but aren’t the same country, obviously. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, Before the trip was over, I changed the plan I had in mind: instead of trying to live in Japan, I would try to live in South Korea. I still liked Japan, but I knew it was going to be easier to find an exchange program that would allow me to study in Seoul, given that most students wanted to go to Japan, and the concurrence was fierce. At that time, There was a Postgraduate degree in Barcelona called ‘Asian Studies’ that offered yearly exchanges to students in mainly two countries: Japan and China. As I said before, most of the students wanted to go to Japan, or China; but only a few knew there were spots for Korea, and those spots were not even filled! That fact made it even easier for me to choose Korea over Japan for my year abroad. I remember how excited I was when I left Barcelona in August of 2010 with another exchange student to live in Seoul for one year. It was a dream come true, and maybe the last time I was going to be able to live abroad.

One Year becomes Five Years

My first year was amazing. I enrolled in an immersion program provided by the University of Foreign Languages of Seoul. The classes were from Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm. All the classes were in Korean and only in Korean, even for total beginners, and they worked! I was lucky enough to get an extension and my year became two years, so I attended the Korean immersion program for a year and half. I completed all the levels and even a special level added for students interested in advanced Korean. We were only fours students in the final advanced level: three Chinese students and me.

I consider myself to have been extremely lucky to have been in such a program for so long when I already was 30 years old. I would advise anyone to take a chance, if they can, and enroll in a language immersion program. It doesn’t need to be one year, it can only be a week, or a month; it is such a great experience and you learn so much…

However, before the second year went by, a friend of mine asked if I could work in a Spanish academy for some days. They needed teachers and I needed money, so I said yes. Within a few weeks, the academy owner asked me if I would like to work with them full time, and he said that they would provide the necessary visa for me to stay in the country. Indeed, they did, and I ended up working in that academy for three years.

Five Years in another Country

Thanks to the being so many years in South Korea, I was able to learn Korean pretty well. However, just living for a long time in a country doesn’t automatically turn you into a good speaker of the language spoken there. I have met foreigners in Seoul who had been there for years and were not able to put a simple sentence together in Korean. Being there clearly helped me learn the language, but you also need to make an effort and talk, meet people and talk, just talk, talk, talk.

When the immersion program was over, I tried to meet up with a Korean friend at least once a week to practice the language. I read books in Korean, watched Korean TV, etc…I also spoke to one of my bosses in Korean, and to people in shops. When someone tried to speak in English with me, I lied and I said that I was from Spain and that I couldn’t speak English. I don’t think anybody believed that, but hey, who is going to say: ‘that can’t be! A Westerner living abroad who doesn’t speak English? You are lying!’ Hahaha! So they spoke in Korean with me :)

Conclusion

By now, you all know what you need to do to learn Spanish, right? Hehehe… Speak! Not being in Mexico or Spain shouldn’t be a great obstacle to learn. Also, read a lot in Spanish and watch Netflix shows or whatever TV shows you might like, provided they are in Spanish.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed my story! I still want to share one more story next week; my experience with a language that I learnt for four years but I don’t speak! The mysterious language will be revealed next week!

Hasta pronto!

Octavi :)

PS Since I left Korea I have been practicing with somebody on the phone for at least one hour a week. First, I did it with a friend, and now I do it with a teacher called Hoyeon :)

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian & Japanese, check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

A few weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English, French and Italian. This week, the topic is Japanese!

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Bienvenidos a todos al blog de Octavi :)

Today the blog is going to be very special, because I’m going to write about my experience with a language that has nothing to do with the other languages I had learned before: Japanese!

How I got interested…

It all started when my mum enrolled in Japanese classes, for fun. She would bring her notes home and show them to me, and I immediately found it extremely interesting. Throughout my whole childhood and youth I watched Japanese animation series on Catalan TV, so I was very fond of Japan and its culture even though I had never been to Japan. That’s why it was so exciting to me to see all those notes and words in Japanese every time my mum came back home.

However, I never really considered the possibility of really learning to speak Japanese. It was entertaining, but not something I was planning to do. Anyways, if you read the blog in which I talked about my experience with French, you might remember that I spent several months in Paris as an exchange student. While I was there, one of the other Catalan students found out that I had an interest in the Japanese language. She said she was acquainted with a young Japanese pianist who was studying in Barcelona, and she told me that he was looking for a language exchange partner. She asked me if I would be interested in teaching him Spanish in exchange for Japanese, and I just said yes.

And so it began…

Once I was back in Barcelona I met this guy, and we decided that we would meet each other once a week. We practiced Japanese for an hour and Spanish for an hour. We didn’t really teach grammar to each other, it was mainly trying to speak. It was super hard for me; I had to ask everything and I forgot most of the words all the time: how do you say ‘church’? Ok… Kyoukai… Got it. Yesterday, I saw a beautiful… sorry, how do you say ‘church’, again? :) It was sooo hard to just put simple sentences together. I had a headache at the end of every time we met. Nevertheless, I kept meeting with him because we got along and I found it fascinating to learn such a different language.

A whole other world…

One day, he said that he was going back to Japan for a month in August. It was 2006 and he was going to visit his family. He offered me to go with him and stay with them! I was so happy! I obviously accepted! (My parents paid for the plane ticket… They are awesome. Thanks dad and mum!). Let me tell you: that trip changed me. It was like being in another planet! I experienced so many sensations and had so much fun… I realized I wanted to commit to learning Japanese and also, I decided that one day in the near future I would live in Japan. While I was there, I tried to practice with my friend’s parents, in shops, on the street… I never used English. It is such an amazing feeling to be able to communicate to people who live in such a different and exciting place (obviously, different and exciting from my point of view, probably not theirs :).

Consistency is key…

Anyway, from the day I meet my friend in 2003, I have been speaking in Japanese for at least one hour every week. I know I will never be perfectly fluent, because Japanese is complicated, but to me the best part right now is not trying to be perfect, it’s just enjoying a conversation in that language with my friend Yasuko who lives in Korea. I meet her in 2010 when I moved to Seoul. Since 2013, she has been helping me. We used to meet in Seoul every other week and talk for two hours, but I realized it was more effective to meet once a week and speak for one hour. Two weeks without practicing was bad, I could tell. It was hard for me to warm up at the beginning of every conversation. Now we speak on the phone, for one hour, mainly on Thursdays. During the week I make sure I read Japanese and watch Japanese TV shows. It’s important to live your life in the language you learn, as many of you probably already know. To me, one hour with Yasuko is essential, but I know that if I do more during the rest of the week, I get the more out of the time we spend speaking on the phone.

Well, that was my experience with Japanese, and I hope you’re already looking forward to next week, because I’ll tell you why and how I learned Korean!

Hasta pronto, chicos y chicas :)

Octavi

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English, French & Italian, check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

A few weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English and French. This week, the topic is Italian!

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola una vez más a todos :)

The journey continues! Today the language is… Italian!

If you read the last blog entry, you might remember that I said I tried a language learning technique that consisted in reading books or texts in the target language. That method was supposed to only work with romance languages, and I tried it with French because I was taking French in high school. Well, I got a little ambitious and I decided I wanted to try it with Italian too. After Catalan, Spanish and French, it seemed easier to learn a fourth latin based language, and it certainly was. Some of you possibly know this already, but the more languages you learn, the easier it becomes to learn a new one, specially if the new one is related to one or more of the other languages one speaks.

I learned a lot by just reading. When I was in San Francisco in the year 2000, I bought an Italian dictionary, some books and a CD from an Italian pop duo called Paola e Chiara. I liked their album so much that I learned all of their songs by heart, which is a great way to learn too (and that’s why we sing a song in Spanish at PBO at least once a year). I was very excited about how easy it seemed to learn Italian. In fact, I thought I didn’t even need to practice it orally at all.

I never really thought about learning Italian seriously, until I got to my Senior year in college. As I said before, my major was French and my minor was German (even though the educational system in Spain is not as in the US). In my Sophomore year, I spent 6 months in Paris, and that stay helped me improve my French so much, that I wanted to repeat the experience in Germany in order to take my German to the next level. I applied for an exchange in Germany and… all the spots were taken. However, I was offered a spot in Forli near Bologna, Italy. I never planned to go to Italy to study, but I wouldn’t waste such a great opportunity! So I spent 9 months in Italy.

I loved the experience. It was better than the exchange in Paris. I lived with roommates from other parts of Italy, and we spoke only in Italian. In fact, Forli is kind of famous in Italy because there are many colleges and faculties there. The city is rather small, so there’s students in every corner, bar, café, restaurant, etc… Everyone comes from somewhere else in Italy and all of us were eager to meet new friends. That was such a perfect combination! I met lots of new friends and I spoke in Italian all the time. That’s when, again, I realized how little Italian I knew and how much room for improvement there was. As I said before: speaking is the key.

Obviously, living in a place where the language you learn is spoken everywhere is ideal, but most of us can’t do that. What is the closest thing to being in that kind of situation? Living your life here in that language. Use it everyday; read books, watch TV, listen to the radio, speak to people… everyday. When you make a language a big part of your daily routine, you learn so much faster. Now, don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to be immersed in it 24/7, but I’m sure you can commit to 5 or 10 minutes a day. That really helps. It’s way better to practice a language 5 minutes a day that 2 hours every 2 weeks.

I keep speaking Italian thanks to Caro. She introduced her Italian teacher to me and now we have a one hour class every Monday morning. Thank you so much, Caro! Gerardo is fantastic, isn’t he?

Anyways, I hoped you are ready for the next story because it is going to be about a very different language: Japanese :).

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English & French. check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in French

Two weeks our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Two weeks ago he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, last week he wrote about how he learned English, and this week he will delve into how he learned French.

In case you missed either of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola queridos alumnos!

After a brief text last time about how I learned English over the years (and still learning!), it is time to continue with the language learned next: French.

I was 15 or 16 years old and in High School when I decided to take French as an optional language. I think the biggest reason was the fact that I had been in Paris when I was 13, and I met my uncle and his family there. It is a long story, but my uncle was born and raised in France. He knows some Spanish, but my parents talked to him and the rest of his family in French. That experience was probably the reason why I chose French.

I remember the first day of class: the first thing the teacher taught us was how to count to 10. Afterwards, we were supposed to count to 10 on our own, but we all started counting in English! Obviously, our brains were used to switching to English and only English as our foreign language, but with some practice we had no problem getting used to French.

That was my first time learning that language. A few months later, I read an article about a guy who had a theory on how to learn Romance languages (which are Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, plus some other smaller languages). He said that he learned by reading texts in those languages and by inferring the meaning of most of the words. I really liked his approach, because you didn’t have to go to class or find a teacher, so I started to read texts and books in French. I used the dictionary sometimes, but just when I thought I needed to know what a certain word meant. Otherwise, I would’ve been using the dictionary all the time, and that was not the point of his method.

I would say it worked for me, but maybe because I was attending French classes in High School, who knows. In any case, I recommend it to any student who has reached an A2 or B1 level. Be careful when you pick a text or a book, though; it should never be too hard for you. My advice is to choose something that you can understand at least 70% of what is written.

Anyways, when I decided to study Translation and Interpretation at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona in the year 2007, I had to choose two foreign languages. I picked French as the first language and German as the second one. Everyone else choose a combination of English and another language, but I wanted to take advantage of being able to learn new languages to learn something that was not English. Among all the freshmen, only another girl and I choose a combination without English (I think she chose German and French, in this order). I really enjoyed the 4 years in College, but the best part was the Erasmus Exchange Program.

For people who have never heard of this: the Erasmus Program is a very popular exchange program that allows European university students to complete a whole year of their studies in another European country. Students love it because during that year abroad, professors are usually very lenient with them. It is practically a year away from home to discover another culture, make friends and have a lot of fun. I enrolled in the program, and in my second year in college I went to Paris (however, I only stayed there for a semester).

During my stay, my uncle and my aunt were very kind and they let me stay in their apartment. I learned a lot during those 4 months. I was speaking French with my family in Paris, every day. I also had a part-time job in a restaurant, and I met some friends there.

After I came back to Barcelona, I visited my friends and family in Paris several times. However, in 2010 I left for South Korea and haven’t been back to France since then. What I do now to keep my French is to speak with my Swiss friend Tania. I met her through and ad when I was looking for private French classes in San Diego. We kicked it off and became friends very fast. We practice French and Spanish on Wednesdays. We chat in French for an hour and then in Spanish for another hour. As I always say: you need to speak it in order to keep it :)

Now, that was a long text! Feel free to comment or ask questions and stay tuned for my next blog :)

Besos y saludos,

Octavi

In case you missed Octavi’s previous blogs on becoming a polyglot:

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in Spanish & Catalan

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Our in-house polyglot: on reaching fluency in English

Last week our in-house polyglot started a weekly mini-series on how he has become a 7 language speaker. Last week he wrote about how he became fluent in Spanish & Catalan, and this week he wrote about how he learned English. In case you missed last week’s post: https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

Now on to today’s topic:

¡Hola a todo el mundo!

Today I’m going to share my experience learning and reaching fluency in English. It all started when I was 8 years old; yes, 8 years old only. English was not taught in schools in Spain, and only a very few people knew how to speak it. Both my parents are a rarity in Spain because they both speak English. They knew they wanted me to learn the language as soon as possible, so they found an Irish young guy who lived in the neighborhood and who offered private lessons. Since the first moment, he only spoke English to me. I was terrified in the beginning; a guy who I couldn’t understand was saying things to me that made no sense. Why would my parents do that to me? :)

Anyway, that was my first contact with English, and since that day I never stopped learning. A year later, the Catalan govern introduced English as an optional subject in schools, and 2 years later it became mandatory.

Although the language was being taught in schools, it really didn’t help me learn it. The approach was terrible: they only taught how to pass tests, not how to speak English. Besides, the teachers were not natives; I spoke better than my first teacher in school! That was the reason why my parents put me in a private language school the following year. I learned a lot more there and I’m very thankful for that.

After some years in the language school, I stopped taking classes. I thought I had learned enough and, in my mind, I was already a fluent speaker. How foolish I was! When I turned 20, I went to San Francisco alone. I remember very well how embarrassed I felt when I couldn’t understand the immigration officer at the airport. Later, during the whole stay in San Francisco, I realized how rusty I had gotten and how much I still had to learn. It gave me the motivation to push myself to read books, watch films and talk to people in English after I went back to Barcelona.

What really has helped me, however, has been meeting Ron, my husband. Since I’m with him, I have learned so much! I talk to him everyday, since 8 years ago, in English, and even though he doesn’t usually correct me, I’ve gotten immersed in the language. So, again, the more you use a language, the better you get at speaking it. If you can’t marry a Spanish speaker, at least you can come to our classes and… speak! :)

Stay around, because my next blog is going to be about another of my languages and my journey with it.

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

Spanish language milestones

 

Every day I listen to a chapter of an audiobook in Italian. The short stories that I read are usually 3 chapters, so it usually takes me 3 days to listen to an entire story. Then I usually listen to the story 2 to 5 times, before I completely understand it (and by “completely understanding it” I do not mean every word, I mean all of the important aspects of the story), so usually it takes me between 1 – 3 weeks to get through one short story.

A few days ago I listened to my first story all the way through. I was so captivated by the story from the first chapter that I had to listen to another one and then the third one. When I was finished I realized that I had listened to the entire story and understood everything (and again, with “everything” I don’t mean every single word, I mean all of the important concepts of the story) in just one shot! I was SO excited that I immediately shared my news with everyone I ran into that day!  

So why am I telling you this?  Because throughout my personal language learning journey I always think about our Spanish students and what they must go through. On this particular occasion I realized how important it is to celebrate the milestones. We often spend so much time worrying about vocabulary that we don’t know yet, mistakes that we make when we speak, tenses we don’t yet understand, etc., What we should be doing instead is celebrating the milestones, remembering how much joy learning a language can bring into our lives, thinking about the doors learning a language opens up for us, how much fun it is to learn a new funny or useful phrase, how interesting it is to learn the way another language expresses something, etc.

Today my request is that you take a moment to celebrate your Spanish language learning accomplishments. What have you experienced recently that made YOU giddy?

Besos,
Caro

What is your attitude towards learning Spanish?

¿Qué tal chicos?  ¿Listos para el fin de semana?

This week I want to talk about the role that attitude plays in learning a language.

 

The reality is that attitude plays a huge part in everything that we do.

If you walk into a situation with a bad attitude, you probably won’t be surprised when everything turns out crappy.

When you go into a situation with a positive attitude, you will most likely feel thankful afterwards that everything went so well.

This is how it plays out in life, and this is how it plays out with language learning.

 

So here are a few alternatives for those days when you are feeling negative about the language learning journey:

 

Instead of: The conjugations are so hard in Spanish!  I’m never going to learn them!

How about: There are so many conjugations in Spanish that I’m going to focus on learning one at a time.

 

Instead of:  I’m never going to understand native Spanish speakers, they talk way too fast!

How about:  My goal is to someday understand native Spanish speakers, so I’m going to dedicate 5 minutes to comprehension practice every day.

 

Instead of:  My pronunciation in Spanish sucks!  I can’t make those sounds!

How about:  I’m going to work on my pronunciation by reading out loud, listening to native Spanish speakers, trying to mimic sounds, by looking in a mirror at the positioning of my tongue when I speak, etc..  I’m bound to get better!

 

Instead of:  I feel like I don’t know anything!  I’m never going to be fluent in Spanish!

How about:  I can’t believe how much Spanish I have learned already!  X years/months ago I couldn’t even X and now I can X!  

 

So the moral of the story is that attitude counts.  Learning a language is a lifelong process, and having a bad attitude is just going to make everything take longer, seem worse than it is, and take away the joy of learning. What is your attitude towards the language learning process?

 

Besitos,
Caro

Squeezing in some Spanish over the holidays

I know, I know, I know, you are very busy right now and the last thing you need to think about is how you are going to practice your Spanish over the holidays!
But, I am a firm believer that anyone can find five minutes in their day for a little practice. And those five minutes will help you to not come back to class in January feeling like a total dumbass, so I highly recommend it!

Here are a few recommendations:

Things that you can easily do for five minutes:
Talk to yourself
Participate in La conversación del Día on PBO’s Facebook page
Journal about your day (on your phone if necessary)
Do DuoLingo or better yet, Busuu
Listen to Spanish radio, a podcast, music, and audiobook, whatever…
Listen to music in Spanish
Read a paragraph or two or three of a book/magazine, whatever you can squeeze into five minutes
Hear someone speaking Spanish? Strike up a conversation!

When to squeeze in these five minutes:
While you are getting ready
While you are having breakfast
While you are waiting in a horribly long line somewhere
You can use it as an excuse to get away from your crazy family for five minutes
While you are driving
While you are at an airport somewhere
While you’re cleaning

So, as you can see, you can always find 5 minutes to practice your español :) How will you practice over the holidays?

Besos,
Caro