Posts

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

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

Hola a todos de nuevo :)

Last week I wrote about what fluency meant to me, and I mentioned that it is different for everyone and, in my case, for every language too.

In the following weeks, I’ll write about my experience with languages with more detail. I’ll start with Spanish and Catalan, since those two are both my mother tongues.

I guess that for some people, speaking two languages as mother tongues is quite a mystery. For bilingual speakers, though, it just comes naturally.

I learned them differently, though. At home and with my family, we only speak Catalan. At school 90% of the subjects are taught in Catalan, and 50% of them, at least, are taught in Catalan in High School (In Catalonia).

I learned Spanish at school and speaking with other kids and other people. Both languages are spoken everywhere in urban areas, so you end up learning both if your first language is Catalan. It’s not necessarily the same if your first language is Spanish. A lot of people have the habit of switching from Catalan to Spanish the moment someone says something in Spanish. It is a habit that has its roots in the years of Franco’s dictatorship, because Catalan was banned from public life and spaces from 1939 to 1975. Due to this, a lot of Spanish speakers feel comfortable only speaking Spanish in Catalonia, because most Catalan speakers will switch to Spanish with them. The younger generation has studied Catalan in school, but a good amount of them don’t speak it very well, or even at all, because of the reason I mentioned before (people switching from Catalan to Spanish). This happens too to a lesser extent with some Catalans who live in areas where Spanish is not largely spoken.

Are those speakers bilingual? It really depends. Some people struggle if they have to speak Catalan, and some do better; and vice versa. Usually, in the case of Spanish speakers with Spanish as their main language, the ones that speak Catalan frequently do better in Catalan. Again, this proves that speaking a language is crucial to really mastering it, and just learning it passively doesn’t assure fluency.

Stay tuned for future blog posts where I write about my experiences learning English, Italian, French, Korean & Japanese!

Hasta la próxima semana :)

Octavi

How do YOU stay motivated?

 

It’s been established that learning a language takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, just like any other big goal in life. So how do you stay motivated?

I think we can all agree that if we don’t enjoy doing something, the majority of us procrastinate or don’t do it all. I think we can also agree that we seek out things that we do enjoy, right?

Well, this theory can easily be applied to learning a language.

 

Suggestion: Make a list of 10 things you enjoy doing (they do not need to have anything to do with learning a language)

 

My list could look something like this:

1 – Spending time with friends

2 – Taking Lola (my dog) to the park or on a hike

3 – Going to restaurants

4 – Singing

5 – Listening to Podcasts

6 – Listening to Audiobooks

7 – Running

8 – Meaningful conversation

9 – Learning Italian

10 – Teaching

 

Now take this list and see what you may be able to apply to learning Spanish (in my case Italian).

 

My list could look something like this:

1 – Spending time with friends – spend more time with Brigitte, since we’re both learning Italian & practice for a few minutes each time we see each other + take conversation classes so you get to speak – check

2 – Taking Lola (my dog) to the park or on a hike – learn a new park/hike related word every time we go 

3 – Going to restaurants – go to more Italian restaurants and chat with the waiters

4 – Singing – set a few Pandora stations that will play music in Italian, write the names of some songs that I like, look up the lyrics & learn how to sing along – check

5 – Listening to Podcasts – listen to a few podcasts about Italian or in Italian – check

6 – Listening to Audiobooks – listen to short stories in Italian for beginners – check

7 – Running – listen to music in Italian while running

8 – Meaningful conversation – not there yet (my level is around A1-A2), but I could start learning how to express some meaningful phrases in Italian

9 – Learning Italian – this one speaks for itself

10 – Teaching – I am currently teaching Lola some Italian – Vieni qui Lola!

 

There is nothing fast or easy about learning a foreign language; that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun! Now all you need to do is figure out what that looks like for you.

Please share a few ideas you have with us!

 

I hope you have enjoyed the final of 10 tips for new language learners!

 

Besos,

Caro

Why oh why am I learning a foreign language?

Do you ever ask yourself why in the world you are learning a foreign language?
I hope that you have asked yourself this question and that the answer is clear to you.

Learning a foreign language takes a tremendous amount of time, commitment, effort and eventually a lifestyle change if fluency is your goal. Since it’s a marathon and not a sprint, it’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing it, to keep up the momentum.

I suggest that you take a moment to make a list of reasons, and keep it somewhere that you can look at it on occasion. I keep mine in my phone.

Here is my list for why I am learning Italian:
– Because I love the sound of it
– Because I’ve always wanted to learn it, since I was a kid (lifelong dream)
– Because I love all things Italian
– So that I can communicate when I travel to Italy
– So that I can communicate with more people on this earth
– So that I can go through what my students go through: learning a language as an adult and using PBO’s conversational method
– So that I can sing in Italian (especially Andrea Bocelli)
– Because I think that being trilingual is pretty cool
– Because it’s fun (I still get giddy when I learn new words or recognize a word in a song/book/movie)

So why are you learning Spanish? Please share your list with us!

I hope you have enjoyed the 9th of 10 tips for new language learners!

Besos,
Caro