I Want To Learn Spanish…Again!

I want to learn Spanish

“I want to learn Spanish” again.

That’s what I told myself looking in the mirror one morning the other day.

A few years ago I failed miserably at trying to learn how to speak Spanish.  I dabbled at it… metaphorically poked a stick at it.  So it was no surprise I failed miserably.

Yes again.

I tried a few years ago as a way of seeing how easy it was to learn the language just using free resources from the Internet. My attempt lasted for just 33 days.  I even kept a video diary to record just how I was getting on.  As part of my effort I compiled a list of the best resources I found that were free.

Having declared “I want to learn Spanish”, things appeared to start quite well.

But it was a struggle and I learnt a few words but the biggest lesson was how difficult it appeared to be.  If you followed the herd and did what everyone else did then it appeared difficult.

But I Am Going To Have Another Go

Anyway I find myself here again with that same thought going through my mind:

“I want to learn Spanish”

Back then it was for learning purposes to support my memory improvement work.  Now I am going on a trip to Spain and so there is a genuine need for me to learn the language.

I have booked a week at a fabulous retreat in Southern Spain.  It’s a great place and I have been there twice before.  I had a really great time relaxing and eating great food in some glorious weather in the shadow of the beautiful Sierra Nevada.

This time though, instead of flying, I am riding my motorbike.  I am going to ride down through Spain to get there and then of course to get back.  So I have about a week of restful holiday and about 10 days of travel through the country.

I am taking the back roads and either camping or stopping in a hostel overnight.  Which means I shall be off the beaten track and therefore being able to speak at least a few words will be really helpful.

So instead of “I want to learn Spanish”, it is more like “I HAVE to learn Spanish”.

As I write this now it is the 11th March 2017 and I am heading out on the outward leg of the trip on the 30th July.  So I have 4 1/2 months to get ready.

Now the other reason I am doing this is to support the work I do in Memory and Learning Development.  I have a passion for finding ways to learn (and remember) new information.  It stems back to a time when I thought I had a bad memory as a teenager.

To cut a long story short, I bought a memory course, and found a few techniques.   I got good at them and then won the Silver Medal at the World Memory Championships.  Since then I have been helping people improve their memory and learning skills.

I Am A Failed Language Learner – Multiple Times!!!

And of course the subject of learning a second language always comes up.  Now I don’t have a good track record of learning languages.  At school I dropped French after 3 years and then failed my German GCSE equivalent with an “unclassified”.

It was mainly because I didn’t get on with the teacher and I found the way the topic was taught extremely tedious.

Whilst I was on a school trip to Austria in my final year at school, I discovered the possibility of communicating in another language.  I used one or two of the words of German I had retained from the lessons.

In that moment, I suddenly realised how important it was to be able to communicate in another tongue.  I think all that sparked it off was saying “Danke” to a bus driver and he replied “Bitte”.

I had communicated in another language!!!!

It was only a two word exchange but it sowed the seed for the desire to learn another language.

So over the years I have dabbled in trying to learn German again;  I tried to learn some Russian for a trip to Ukraine (bit of a cultural mistake!) and have experimented in French.  And I tried to explore the “I want to learn Spanish” urge again.

None of these attempts have been successful with initial bursts of enthusiasm tailing off quite quickly.

In fact I had become a serial language learning failure!

But this time it is different.

I Have A Powerful Reason To Learn

Because being able to speak Spanish or not could in extreme, be the difference between life and death.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic – certainly it could be the difference between hungry and not. Or perhaps the difference between lost and located, or maybe the difference between a drink with a pretty senorita or not.

Additionally though, I have a professional interest in gathering ways of learning languages FAST and finding out what works and what doesn’t.

I am excited by the process of discovery.  There is less excitement about the inevitable trial and error and potential embarrassment of getting it wrong – but maybe that is part of the process too.

And of course then I want to share my experiences of that with you.

Because I know there are plenty of people like you and I who want to learn Spanish, who have tried to learn Spanish… But who have failed miserably.

But it need not be like that because there are people EVERY day who have said to themselves “I want to learn Spanish” and who have actually done it.

So that is the journey I want to take you on.  My route from (relative) beginner to…

…well let’s see at the end where I would put myself.

Here Are Some Things I Know Will Help

A few things come to mind at the beginning of my journey.

Another thing I know is that listening to Spanish Radio is really going to help.  In a previous existence I used that as a way to become familiar with the music of the language.

It helped back then, though I didn’t do much of it because the resources we have now on the internet just weren’t available back then.

I tuned into my first Spanish station today and just had it on in the background.  Of course it was a fast paced gobbledygook that I barely could make out let alone understood.

However I started to hear repeated words throughout the session – todos, para, como all appeared regularly as well as some words I knew were numbers.

I find this is encouraging.  The fact that I am beginning to make distinctions already.  With the wrong mindset it would be very easy to focus on all the words I don’t understand which at the moment is 99.9% of them.

This is what probably puts a lot of people off.

However, knowing what I now know about learning (more of that later), I realise this is part of the process.

With time and effort, the language will start to reveal itself to me.  At the moment I might find it difficult to comprehend the situation where I can understand what I am now hearing because it is so different and new.

But I know there will come a time when I will forget that I have ever NOT known how to understand.

I just have to remember it is a gradual and evolutionary process and that my brain has the plasticity to be able to adapt and grow.

My brain will change as a result of the learning – just perhaps not to my timetable or demands.

Fluency will be an emergent talent that will get more and more refined and sophisticated as long as I keep putting the effort in…

…At least that is what I am hoping will happen.

At the moment it seems so far away; such an alien concept; to be able to speak and understand Spanish fluently.

Listen To More Than One Programme?

Another tip I think is important is to listen to more than one Learn Spanish audio programme concurrently.

It is so easy to get sucked into the one way of doing things if you align yourself to one programme.

However there are more ways to say the same thing.  What will happen if you listen to two or even three, is you get different reference points that will not only confirm things you know, but will also give you alternatives.

It is like taking one-dimensional learning into a second and even third dimension – at least that is my hypothesis.  Perhaps the next few months will prove that.

I was listening to one of my audio programmes by Michel Thomas this morning when the “I want to learn Spanish” kicked off my usually enthusiasm.   I heard him mention something about the number of words the New York Times uses in one edition of its paper.

He says a study established the average copy of that paper only has 600-1500 unique words.  So if you know them then that is all you need to have to be able to read and understand.

It is a common “fact” touted by many who talk about learning another language that the functional vocabulary of any language is in this range.

I think there is a slight twist here.

Whilst we may only use 600-1500 words in our own vocabulary, we probably need many times that to be able to understand what is going on around us…but time will tell.

And that is where this journey starts.

So if you have ever said “I want to learn Spanish” then keep coming back so I can look forward to sharing my experiences with you along the way.

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