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Beating the presents out of the Shit Log. Yep. It’s a thing.

Hola, estimados alumnos :)

This week we’re going to take a break from common mistakes. Christmas is around the corner and I want to take this chance to let you know about a Catalan tradition that’s pretty weird and many of you might not know. This tradition is called “Caga tió”.

This tradition is only celebrated in Catalonia, and the name means “Shit log”, in Catalan. Yes, you have heard correctly. Why does it have this name? You might be wondering… What is this tradition about? You might be asking… Ok, let me explain it.

On the 8th of December, which is the Feast of Immaculate Conception, Catalan families put a “Caga tió” by the fireplace, or else they put in a corner of the living room with a blanket to keep it warm at night. Kids pamper the log and they “feed” it sweets and candy for two weeks. Then, on Christmas Eve, adults send the kids outside the room where “Caga tió” is, with sticks. The kids have to prepare the sticks for what’s going to happen next. In my case, we were sent out to the staircase and we had to rub the sticks on the steps of the stair to make them warmer. Afterwards, we were sent back in and then we started singing a song while we whipped the log with the sticks. This song is called “Caga tió”. When the song ends with a final cry of “Caga tió!”, kids check under the blanket, and they find the presents that the log has “shit”.

This operation is repeated several times, until the parents in the room say that the log has shit everything and there’s nothing else. The presents are usually candy, nothing big, and only kids are supposed to beat the log while singing the song “Caga tió”, which literally means “Shit, log!”.

I’ve always cherished this tradition and it was one of my favorite Christmas activities. However, when I started explaining it for the first time to my Korean students in Seoul, and while I saw how their faces muted into expressions of pure awe, I realized how scatological and kind of crazy this tradition is. I know that many of you will probably be shocked too after you read this, but… I love “Caga tió”! Ha, ha, ha!

Kate McKinnon, from Saturday Night Live, explains this tradition very well too. I will leave the link to the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=UjzkxcHPb9g

Also, for whoever might be interested in it, here are the lyrics to the “Caga tió” song (Remember this song is in Catalan, not Spanish):

 

Caga tió,

Tió de Nadal,

No caguis arengades,

Que són massa salades

Caga torrons

Que són més bons!”

 

Shit, log,

Log of Christmas,

Don’t shit herrings,

Which are too salty,

Shit nougats (turrón)

Which are much better!

 

Do you have a special Christmas tradition? Something that only you or your family does? Let us know in the comment section :)

 

Saludos a todos!

Octavi

Common errors made by Spanish language learners

¿Cómo están hoy? Espero que bien :)

During the past two weeks you have actively and positively responded to the blogs about common errors made by Spanish language learners. You have expressed how much you like to see this kind of topic, and I can’t deny the students what they want, so this week I’ll write about five more mistakes that students make when they are learning/speaking Spanish, this time related to prepositions. I hope you like it!

 

1 – “Salí la casa.” – I left the house.

This is incorrect because in Spanish, when we are leaving a place or exiting a place, if we want to use the verb “salir”, we need to say “salir de”:

“Salí de casa”

 

2 – “Pienso mucho sobre tu tía.” – I think a lot about your aunt.

The problem in the sentence above is, once more, the preposition. In Spanish, when we think about someone or something, we should say “pensar en”. You can also say “pensar sobre”, but that means something like to reflect on or to ponder. For example, “pienso sobre el sentido de la vida”, I think about the meaning of life. However, the example sentence should be:

“Pienso mucho en tu tía.”

 

3 – “Mi plan para el fin de semana depende en el tiempo que haga.” – My plan for the weekend depends on how the weather will be.

In this case, the preposition “en” is incorrect. We should always say “depende de”, and not “depende en”:

“Mi plan para el fin de semana depende del tiempo que haga.”

 

4 – “Tu computadora es similar de la mía.” – Your computer is similar to mine.

Again, the problem with the sentence is the preposition. In Spanish, we don’t say “similar de”, instead of “de” we should say “a”. Therefore, we would say this:

“Tu computadora es similar/parecida a la mía.”

 

5 – “Dependentemente de tu respuesta, haré una cosa u otra.” – Depending on your answer, I’ll do one thing or another.

Many students assume that since “depende” means depends, then depending will probably be “dependentemente”. I don’t really know where this comes from, but either way the correct translation for depending is “dependiendo”, and it is also used with the preposition “de”, like in “depende de”:

“Dependiendo de tu respuesta, haré una cosa u la otra.”

 

I hope this new entry has helped you find some mistakes you didn’t know you were making. Next week I’ll do something unrelated to common mistakes for a change, but in case you still want me to write more about this topic, let me know and I’ll continue doing this kind of blog in the future :)

¡Les deseo una buena semana!

Octavi

 

Check out our idioms and sayings on Twitter!

5 more common errors made by Spanish learners

 

Hola a todos :)

A couple of weeks ago I received some positive feedback about the blog regarding some of the common mistakes students make when they speak Spanish. By popular demand, this week we’ll look at more common mistakes that people who learn Spanish make:

1 – “Me gustaría preguntar una pregunta.” – I’d like to ask a question.

If we literally translate “to ask” and “question” in Spanish, it is “preguntar” and “pregunta”. However, we never say “preguntar una pregunta” because this expression is incorrect. We have a couple of options to express this in Spanish:

“Me gustaría hacer una pregunta.”
“Me gustaría preguntar algo.”

2 – “Mi hermana puede hablar español.” – My sister can speak Spanish.

In this example, the problem is “can”. When someone has learned something and has acquired a skill, like being able to play the piano, to speak another language or to surf, we should use the verb “saber” instead of “poder”. Thus, the sentence should be:

“Mi hermana sabe hablar español.”

3 – “Busco por mis llaves.” – I’m looking for my keys.

In this case, the mistake is attaching “por” to the verb. Many students translate “to look for” as “buscar por” (or “buscar para”), when “buscar” actually has the “for” built in. Buscar = To look for. The right way to say this is:

“Busco mis llaves.”

4 – “Mi madre es corta.” – My mother is short.

In Spanish, people are not short, people are “low” :). The correct way to express this is:

“Mi madre es baja.”

5 – “Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…Actualmente, no estoy seguro.” – I think I have bread in the house. Or maybe not…actually, I’m not sure.

The sentence above has a classic mistake. The word actually doesn’t translate as “actualmente”. It’s very misleading because it looks like a correct translation, but it’s not; it is a false cognate. “Actualmente” in Spanish means currently or nowadays. You have several options if you want to use the word actually when speaking Spanish, like “en realidad”, “en verdad” or “de hecho”:

“Creo que tengo pan en casa. O quizás no…En realidad, no estoy seguro.”

 

This is it for this week, everyone. I hope this blog entry helps you, and if you are still interested in a third installment of the mini series “common mistakes” (or another topic), let me know in the comments section for the blog on Facebook.

Besos y abrazos!

Octavi

 

If you missed last week’s post: 5 common errors Spanish learners make

Common errors made by Spanish learners

Hola, estimados [email protected] :)

This week I’d like to talk about some errors that most students make. These erros are very common, because they are caused by the fact that English is the mother tongue of most of the Spanish learners that come to PBO. The problem is that students might not know that some structures that are correct in English, can’t be used exactly in the same way in Spanish. Let’s look at some of those mistakes:

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1 – “La semana que viene estoy yendo a casa de mis padres.”

Next week I’m going to my parent’s house.

The sentence above in Spanish is not correct. In Spanish we only use the Present Continuous/Progressive (for example; I’m talking, you are sleeping, she is going) when the action is taking place in the present time. Therefore, using it for future actions is a mistake and we should avoid it. To express future actions, we have two options in Spanish:

“La semana que viene voy a ir a casa de mis padres.”

“La semana que viene iré a casa de mis padres.”

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2 – “Después de tomé café fui a trabajar.”

After I had coffee I went to work.

In the case above, the problem is the conjugation of the verb “to have” in the past tense. In Spanish, verbs are never conjugated when they come after the words before (antes de) or after (después de), or any preposition for that matter, regardless of the time in which the action takes place. Instead, we use the non conjugated form of the verb:

“Después de tomar café fui a trabajar.”

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3 – “Mañana tendré el desayuno y pasearé.”

This time, the problem is the fact that we are using the verb “to have” with a meal. In Spanish we don’t “have meals,” we have verbs that express the action of having breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Thus, we can use just one verb to express that. This is what you should say:

“Mañana desayunaré y pasearé.”

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4 – “Me levanté a las 7 en la mañana.”

The mistake we see here is a small one, but I realized it’s hard to fix the habit of using it. Try to remember that in Spanish we never say “en” after a certain hour and before a time of the day. We should always say “de”:

“Me levanté a las 7 de la mañana.”

,

5 – “Lo siento, estoy tarde.”

When students are late to class, they usually say this. However, that is not the correct way to express that we are late. In Spanish, we are not late, we “arrive” late. Besides, in most cases we shouldn’t use the present tense once we get to a place, and we say that we are sorry for being late. We already “arrived”, so we use the past tense:

“Lo siento, llegué tarde.”

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You probably know some of these mistakes, and I know it’s hard not to make them when we are talking. Try to challenge yourself to get used to not making one or two of the things we’ve looked at here today, and slowly you will not make those mistakes. In my opinion, the point is to pick only one or two and work on fixing the habit of saying those wrong. Over time, you’ll get used to saying them correctly, and then you can work on one or two other common mistakes. One step at a time, my friends! :)

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Un abrazo a todos!

Octavi

PS Join us on Twitter for sayings/expressions/idioms in Spanish!

Our in-house polyglot shares his language learning routine!

¿Cómo están hoy, queridos alumnos?

For several weeks, I have written about how I learned the languages that I speak. The time has come to share with you the different things I do to to keep my language skills fresh. I’ll be honest; once you decide to learn a language, it is pretty similar to going to the gym: you need to keep exercising, or else you get “out of shape”. Therefore, when you speak a language, you have to commit to it and practice regularly. In my opinion, you’re basically adopting a new lifestyle, as that practice becomes part of your life.

The next few things are strategies or techniques that I use that work for me. Some of them might not work for you, or you might not like them. Hopefully, you will like some of them and try them out, if you aren’t already doing so. Ok, here we go!

 

1 – Speak at least one hour a week

This is essential. I make sure I speak French, Italian, Japanese and Korean every week. I speak English at home all the time and Catalan and Spanish at PBO. If you are busy and can only do one thing, speak for one hour or even just 30 minutes every week. A little bit is better than nothing.

By the way, be sure to listen carefully to the native speaker you’re talking with. You learn by speaking, but also by listening. Pay attention to the expressions they use, the sentence order, the filler words, etc. You learn a lot by listening. Oh, and repeat corrections!

 

2 – Read books

I like reading, and I like reading in foreign languages even more because you also learn and practice at the same time. When I read, I look up one or two words that I don’t know and I write them in the last page of the book, which is usually blank. When I read the book the next time, I review the list of words in the last page before starting.

Make sure you pick “useful” words, meaning: words that you have seen several times while reading the book, words that seem important, etc. You shouldn’t try to understand every word, because you will end up forgetting all of them and not reading at all. Just getting the core of the story is enough. Now since understanding the story is vital, you should pick a book in which you understand 70% or 75% of what you read, at least.

 

3 – Watch TV

Nowadays we are lucky to have services like Netflix that provide countless shows and movies in several languages. I love watching Netflix. I watch shows in the languages I learn and also American shows dubbed in foreign languages. In case you like a show from the US, why not watching it dubbed? Obviously, the original version is always better, but you could enjoy a program that you love and want to see, and learn Spanish at the same time.

Also, put the subtitles in the matching foreign language. This enables you to learn new words and to get used to the pronunciation and even the normal speed at which natives speak while having the support of the written dialogue.

 

4 – Listen to podcasts or Youtube videos

When I go to sleep I put my earphones on and I choose a video on Youtube. It usually is a video in which someone speaks constantly, like an audiobook in Japanese, or a speech in Korean about China’s economy.

This is the best moment in the day to do it, because everything is quiet and I can focus in what I’m listening to. Since I’m not reading any subtitles, I also practice my listening comprehension. Always make sure to choose something you like, for it is hard to focus, at least for me :)

 

These four things are what I do on a weekly basis. Sometimes I don’t feel like reading and sometimes my teachers have to cancel our hourly conversation class. Reading and watching TV are not super important to me, but conversation is. That’s why when one of my teachers is unavailable one day, I try to find another day or time in the same week to talk with them. You know what I always say: consistency and speaking are the most important factors when learning a language.

 

Besos y abrazos

Octavi

 

For the last month, our in-house polyglot Octavi, has been sharing his language learning journey with us. He told us about the seven languages that he learned, but there was one he didn’t mention. Today he shares that experience with us:

 

Bienvenidos al blog una vez más :)

Today the blog is going to be about the language I studied for several years but I don’t speak.
That language is German. Let’s get started and see why I don’t speak it despite years of study.

How did it Start

Those of you who have been reading my blogs will probably remember how I got interested in the Japanese language. A similar thing happened with German. My Dad decided to go back to learning German, (he and my mum met in a German class!) so there were a bunch of notes and books in German in the house. My dad also spent some time watching German TV during the weekend, so I got curious and decided to add German to my list of languages.

Four Years in College

Some of you might also remember that I studied Translation and Interpretation in Barcelona. All the students were required to choose two foreign languages. Mine were French and German. The first one had to be a language that we already knew, and the second one could be any language we wanted, as we would learn it from scratch and throughout the fours years of college.

I studied German for a long time. What I was taught in the classroom wasn’t enough for me, though, so I tried to be active in the learning process, and looked for language exchange partners. I did all I’ve always done to learn a new language: be consistent, read books, watch TV, find language exchange partners, etc. But this time it didn’t work.

What went wrong? Why didn’t I learn how to speak German?

First of all, I realized that I wasn’t really interested in the countries where German is spoken, or its culture. I think it’s fundamental to be interested in something beyond the language itself, otherwise we don’t have the motivation to learn. Furthermore, I might have been unlucky, but the three German language exchange partners I had were boring and not very talkative. I wasn’t looking forward to meeting with any of them at all; ha, ha, ha!

The couple of things I’ve mentioned above were the biggest reasons why I gave up on German. To me, no matter how big a language is, how useful, how necessary it might be in the future, etc… If I’m not interested in something beyond the language, I know I’m not going to learn it. Why didn’t I learn Mandarin instead of Korean or Japanese? I’m just not as interested in Chinese culture, music, or its TV shows as I am with other cultures and their offerings.

So, you see, when you choose to learn a new language, you need something that keeps you motivated and excited about learning it throughout the years, otherwise you will probably give up.

All right, everyone; next week I’ll write again, and this time I’ll tell you how I practice the languages I speak and some of the techniques I use!

Hasta pronto!

Octavi

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