Posts

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

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

Language learning weekly tip: The Buddy System

 

If you are an extrovert like me, you probably find doing just about anything with a buddy, more fun than without a buddy.

If you’re an obliger (Four tendencies quiz) you would probably do well having someone else holding you accountable for tasks you would like to accomplish.

If either of these sound like you, you would probably find it a lot more fun to practice Spanish with a partner than on your own.

This week why not ask someone if they would want to practice with you once a week?

Everyone is busy these days, so it’s not like it has to be a 2 hour dinner, but you could get together for a cup of coffee, or even practice on the phone or via Skype. It doesn’t have to be for an hour, it could be for 30 minutes or even 15 minutes.

It could be a classmate or maybe someone you know at work who speaks Spanish.

If it’s a significant other, start small. Don’t expect Saturday to be “let’s speak Spanish all day” day, but maybe start speaking Spanish over breakfast, or for 10 minutes when you see each other.

Life is simply more fun with a buddy. And so is learning a language :) Who will you ask?

Besos,
Caro

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

Take advantage of us!

Today we’re on to the 8th of 10 tips for new language learners!

With today’s tip I would like to encourage you to take advantage of us.

What do I mean by that?
Well, Pura Buena Onda continually makes an effort to create a community where you can practice Spanish, not just a class that you go to once a week.
So take advantage of everything we have to offer, such as:
– Our daily interactive conversations on Facebook
– Our daily saying on Twitter
– Our monthly social club events BOSC events
– This blog with the weekly tip
– Our weekly newsletter that among other things features informative stories by our students who have advanced a level
– Our Instagram page with pics of our students, teachers, outings, etc.
– Our Pinterest page with resources, grammar lessons, jokes, etc.
– Of course there’s our annual 90-Day Spanish Bootcamp, the weekly optional homework, the trips abroad, etc. The point is that PBO is so much more than a once a week language class, and we want you to enjoy and take advantage of all of it!

Besitos,
Caro

Divide and conquer!

 

Today we will continue with the 5th of 10 tips for new language learners!

 

How quickly you want to learn a language is up to you. The more hours you put in, the faster you will learn. But, there’s a twist.

 

Divide and conquer!
Did you know that you retain more information if you study for less time more often than if you study for a longer period of time less often? In other words, let’s say that you’re going to dedicate 2 hours to Spanish each week outside of class. It’s actually better for retention purposes that you split up the 2 hours between 5-7 days (approximately 20-25 minutes/day), than if you split it up into 2 one-hour sessions for example.

For this reason, and the fact that you must be consistent when you learn a language, we recommend working on your Spanish for 10+ minutes every, single day. Have a few options for days that you have time (I’m a HUGE fan of journaling in Spanish & watching telenovelas) and a few options for the days you don’t (podcasts, audiobooks & talking to yourself are perfect for these situations).

You know you can squeeze in 10 minutes per day, if learning Spanish is a priority!

Besitos,
Caro