I am a Linguist. It’s part of who I am, and part of my Interdisciplinary Studies major. The other part of my major is Spanish.
Being a Linguist, I have a deep love for languages. I guess you could say it’s in my blood, mainly because that sounds cooler than, “it’s in my head.”
My first exposure to Spanish that I can remember was when I was a youngin’… maybe 4 or 5. My dad was teaching me to count in Spanish.
Ever since then I’ve been hooked on Spanish.
Second grade, my teacher (who was and is such an inspiration to me!) taught us some Spanish words to help acclimate the classroom setting to our foreign classmates. I remember having a huge smile on my face when greeting one of the new students, Jorge, with an, “hola!” We immediately became friends and were constantly trying to out-do one another on the monkey bars. He was always better than me because he said he had had a playset in his barrio back in Guatemala. When he told me stories of his home country, I was amazed. I had never met anyone who wasn’t from my country and spoke my language. Regardless of the language barrier, we both tried to communicate with one another, therefore the first time I actually used my Spanish to speak to someone was in second grade.
Fourth grade year, a classmates’ mother came in and taught us German. It was a once a week, an hour a lesson, type deal so I didn’t learn too much. Gutentag is something I will always remember though. Funny how random words, when used enough times, become branded into your memory. We learned a song about a duck and I can hum you the tune but can’t sing it. We didn’t use enough repetition in that classroom :p
Sixth grade, we were required to take a foreign language- Spanish or French. Of course I chose Spanish and reveled in the fact that for the first few months of class, I already knew the material (ABCs, greetings, numbers, simple sentences & words). It just came naturally, I guess you could say. I did learn lots more that year, and by the time the following school year rolled around, I was ready to move up to Spanish II! Only my middle school didn’t offer anything above level I. Which meant the following…
Seventh grade was a repeat of sixth grade Spanish class, with more movies added in.
Eighth grade was a repeat of both years before it in Spanish class. Every year I had a different teacher, and every year I learned a tad more, but not much. I think eighth grade was the year I read half of Tuck Everlasting or Tuck Para Siempre during class time. Such a good book. Those three years really hindered my Spanish because I didn’t add on to what I learned and I really didn’t have much practice… language teachers, please stop using so many worksheets and work on speaking activities!
Ninth grade I was moved to Spanish II (with all the juniors!) because I passed a Spanish I test with flying colors. (Not trying to be bragadocious but of course I passed. I had been studying the same material for three years!) I liked the class and learned a ton and even warmed up to having class with older students.
Tenth grade I had one semester of Spanish III and one of Spanish IV. III was kind of a blur because our teacher was horrible and we only did worksheets the whole class. And the people around me always tried to copy my answers. Second semester was great! I was, once again, in a class with upperclassmen who were surprisingly bad at Spanish. You were required to take four semesters of foreign language back in the day, so I guess they had barely squeezed by the previous three semesters. Regardless, it was my favorite class. Sure I got extremely nervous when I had to correct my partner’s answer on a group project, or when I had to answer a question and all 25 pairs of eyes were on me… but I loved the class. That’s the year I was introduced to Juanes and Shakira, and my music world was forever changed.
Eleventh grade I was homeschooled but I had a Spanish tutor. It was a conversational class but she would bring Spanish folk tales for me to read, and we started a textbook with stories and questions after each. It was great, I benefitted from the one-on-one more than I thought I would have. My tutor lived in the Dominican Republic for a few years so she knew a ton about culture and the language!
Twelth grade I was dual enrolled in high school and a community college. Of course Spanish was on my list of electives I wanted to take! I started in Spanish I because the college couldn’t move me until I had taken the placement test. I remember my first day of that Spanish I class with ages ranging from 17 (me) to mid-40s…I was so nervous but then I was so frustrated and bored. Half the students couldn’t even pronounce, “hola” correctly [“ooooh-laa” “ohhh-la” “holla!”] which really ticked me off. After that 50-minute class, I was desperate to get out of there! When I passed the placement test once again with flying colors, I was moved to Spanish II. Not as great as Spanish IV or V, but hey, I was ready for an exit door from Spanish I! My professor was Columbian and oh so fun. I did have some creepers in that class, and when everyone found out how old I was and how smart I was, they always wanted to be my partner and work on homework together. Ugh, crazy. But, by the end of the semester, I had made friends with my classmates and the prof and for my final he asked me all sorts of questions one-on-one (the environment I work best in!) and I passed with an A+.
Freshman year of college I registered for Spanish. Guess where they put me despite my Spanish II credit? Yep… Spanish II. Once again, I tested out and into Spanish III. Worst class ever. The students were annoying, the prof was extremely pushy, and I was way out of my comfort zone being the only freshman in a class of juniors and seniors. I braved it through though, and had to give an oral presentation on Argentina as my final. Second semester, naturally, I was in Spanish IV. Different professor, better group of hardworking students, better atmosphere & material. I learned so much! The prof was from Cuba but had lived in Spain for years and was so…. I don’t have a word to accurately describe Mirabal, so I’ll just say he was great! I learned culture, accent, words, phrases, travel information, and so much more about Spanish!
Sophomore year I had a conversational and grammar class, one each semester. Such hard material to cover, but of course I made it out alive and thriving in Spanish.
Junior year brought another grammar class, conversational class, Spanish poetry class, and a dreaded writing class…but I lived 🙂 At the end of that year, I feel like my Spanish had peaked. Plus, after spending a month in Peru and speaking Spanish constantly, my Spanish had taken a turn for the better… and I started thinking in Spanish more than in English. Then, after moving back to the States and being immersed back in English, my Spanish slowly slipped away…
Senior year I had only a Spanish Masterpieces class which consisted of reading two plays. I was also inducted into the National Spanish Honors Society which was a big deal at our school.
Suffice it to say, Spanish is a part of who I am. It’s in me. I love that language with all of my heart and I get so excited when opportunities arise and I have to use my Spanish. Love love love it! But now that I am back home, working, volunteering, going to church, I hardly have any opportunities to speak it! I know there are places in Durham (hello Latino community!) that I could go to practice Spanish, I just haven’t made the time to do so.
I learned my second language through lots of repetition, but mainly through immersion. Being in the classroom for years helped me learn vocabulary and grammar, but ultimately it was all put to use when I was forced to use it to ride a taxi, eat, or find a place to stay in Peru. Immersion is proven to be the best way to learn a language. (Trust me, I studied immersion vs. classroom in lots of Linguistics classes! 🙂 And if you think about it, immersion is how we all learned our first language… our parents spoke it to us, we heard it out and about in the town, and therefore it came naturally and we picked it up through being around it constantly.
My tips for learning a second language-
Immerse yourself in it!:: Whether that means traveling to the country that speaks the language, watching tv shows in the target language, or listening to music… get it in your head!!!
Practice it!:: Whether that means commenting on a friend’s facebook page in the language (I have lots of amigos who speak Spanish, so it’s doable for me), ordering in the language at a restaurant (most every city has tons of different cuisines and languages!), or just finding somewhere to practice it- a local church, a store, or an online group… practice makes perfect!!!
Make mistakes!:: Self-correction helps reinforce learned material and helps you remember it, but being corrected by someone else is also helpful. It’s hard to make mistakes and feel confident about it, but when learning another language, sometimes it’s best to make mistakes and be corrected! This is important because sometimes words are different in the country/with the locals, than what you find in the dictionary. Take for example the many words for a bus in Spanish–> autobus, guagua, cumbi, omnibus, bus, etc. Or take for example the different verb tenses in Spanish–> sometimes I would get them mixed up and then get corrected, which overall helped me more than just not speaking in the first place… Mistakes are ok and they help you learn!
Do you know a second language? If so, how did you learn it?