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The Truth: Speaking a New Language Takes a Lot of Time

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We are tired of seeing it everywhere. A lot of sites on the internet, as well as gurus, books and methods, state without hesitation that they can get learners to speak a language fluently in such a ridiculous periods of time as three, six months or a year. In view of this, I can say without doubt that we are in front of a commercial strategy and we shouldn’t trust it much, because the truth is that:

Learning a new language is a slow process and we have to pass through some phases

Once again we have to go back to the beginning, to that epoch when we were children and learnt our mother tongue with total effectiveness. From the moment of the birth, a child is completely exposed to the language of his surroundings; however, they don’t say their first word till one year passes. Moreover, those first attempts are still very far from the true command of a language which, much we may resent it, takes some years.

That is because before we are ready to talk, we must go through an assimilation phase in which the language is slowly integrating in our mind, so that, the first step of the process is comprehension. To speak a language, it is necessary to understand it and once we have achieved it, the rest comes naturally. In fact, children start talking on their own and they do it exclusively when they feel ready for it, regardless of their parents’ wishes.

That is why I don’t recommend starting to talk for the first year

What is more, I don’t even recommend it till we feel ready for it, regardless of the time it takes, just to keep the great enemy of the learning languages process away: pressure. In fact, a lot of people fall prey to frustration and abandon their studies because they don’t see fast results, and that’s why we need to be clear how things work, accept it, understand it and set long term realistic goals, even if they take some years. With this in mind, we are certain to be successful.

So, the next time you think about the process, keep in your mind the image of the children, the best learners of the world. If they need five or six years to speak fluently a language, and that being immersed in it, imagine how much time it can take for the rest. But I also have to say that to speak a language we don’t need to be perfect and, of course, it is perfectly appropriate to jump to it in spite of our failures. Even children do it at the beginning. Knowing this, we can always shorten the timeframe.

Before all of this, we can get inside the conversations, if possible with the guide of a tutor, but knowing what we are likely to achieve and with the right expectations. I mean, if we are realistic, an adult with less than an intermediate level can have talks such as “mi favorite color is blue” or “hello, mi name is John and I work as a teacher”. While this is not bad, we have to admit that basic levels are not suitable to keep an entertaining conversation between adult people, which can lead us to boredom or what is worse, to feel frustrated for not being able to have a normal conversation. That’s why I say again:

Speaking well takes a lot of time, so it is better to release the pressure and start doing it when we feel ready and comfortable. 

Lately I have noticed that a lot of people with beginner or basic levels are looking for Skype pals to practice and this leads inevitably to failure. Unfortunately, when those students realize that are unable to develop a conversation, they think they have to give up, and this can cause them to abandon learning definitively, which is even worse.

We don’t learn because we talk. On the contrary, speaking is the consequence of having learned.

Nevertheless, in reference to this topic, there are still some appreciations to make:

  • Not all the languages are the same. If we choose a language of the same linguistic root as the one we talk, the process will be obviously faster.
  • Not everybody is the same, each one has their own pace and there are some who fell comfortable earlier. That’s one we have to consider individually which the best time is for us.
  • There are personal facts that make us different, which means that while some individuals may need a good background to start talking, other ones aren’t worried about making mistakes and prefer to start practicing.

To summarize, we could say that, as in other facets of life, people would like to know how to obtain fast and miraculous formulas, but these rarely exist. The good news is that with patient and will, we can get it, so forward!

 


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My Most Recent Book Is Already Here!

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My Most Recent Book Is Already Here!

As those of you who have been following me for a time already know, basically due to the annoyance I caused you, that this summer I had the chance of taking part in the interesting contest organized by Másquecuentos. This contest, which resulted in both a passionate and intense experience, was aimed at presenting a number of stories to the public for them to select their favorites with their votes. They were two very moved months in which I had no other chance to ask and beg my acquaintances for daily votes and this, for a reserved person as I, was a difficult task. However, without any doubts it was worth it, not only because of the publicity I achieved, but to test the support I have. Finally I ot a satisfactory sixth position among a sample of more than eighty works. So, I can only say one thing, thank you very much all!

But, as if this wasn’t enough, the good news didn’t end there. Maybe my sixth position wasn’t enough to win one of the official prices, but the organization team had the great idea of giving an honorific mention to the best participants according to their criteria and decided to publish a book with the 25 best stories, as a reward for the two months we spent there working. And here is the good part, I am there!

Therefore, you can reach my work and take a look at it if you haven’t done it yet. Moreover, you can enjoy a set of works from a selected group of authors that will not leave you indifferent. The book comes in two formats:

  • Free digital book. Yes, it is free. Personally I appreciate this presentation more because, from my point of view, it represents more the spirit of showing us to the public and performing a cultural group action. You can download it from this link: Free Digital Book
  • Physical paper book. The event organizers have decided to continue with new contest the aim of which is to develop a unique work encompassing different arts, such as images, music, design, etc. To sum up, it is an original project consisting of the creation of a modern book, interactive and adapted to these times. To cope with the expenses, they have initiated a crowdfunding campaign and this published book is the object that you will receive in return. If you want to cooperate with the cause, you can find the information here: Paper Book

As you can see, there are options for everybody, so if you have curiosity about reading my work, you can now do it easily J. Just to clarify it, the order of my surnames was badly written in the digital book, a sad misprint. Fortunately, this mistake was corrected in the paper book. As for the rest, exceptionally this is one of those occasions in which I would appreciate every act of copy, distribution and deliver of the digital book. This is because, as I said before, the beautiful thing about this story is the fact that it helps us to be known. So go ahead, download!

 


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Linguistic Challenges

linguistic-challenges

In previous posts I commented on the great importance that motivation has when learning languages, in fact, it is one of the most important factors, see: 3 Keys to Effective Language Learning

A lot of people have a high level of motivation on their own, up to the point that they have made this learning one of their main hobbies. Those privileged don’t need more advice; they are going to do it well for sure. But the rest would certainly benefit from a bit help, and extra dose of motivation that help them achieve their goals.

How to get more motivation?

First of all, we should ask to ourselves, because nobody can know what we really like as well as us. In this manner, it would be advisable, when you want to learn a new language, to focus in those parts of the culture of the country you like the most. If there are some countries where it is spoken, then you are lucky to have a great range of possibilities to find something you like: Music, series, people, etc. If there is something about the local culture that interests you, use it as foothold. This is very personal and depends exclusively on you.

However, leaving aside our own interests, there are also some resources we may turn to get more motivation. Today I am going to talk about one of these resources: Linguistic challenges.

What are linguistic challenges?

Challenges are, overall, objectives to be achieved. They are defiances, games, incentives that invite us to take action. This, at a linguistic level, could be done in so many ways, but the most important thing is to have an aim, or in other words, something we really want to achieve. Then we only have to find our wish. Some examples could be:

  • One degree or certificate.
  • Travelling to the country whose language we are learning and being able to speak to people from there.
  • Reading a book saga in the original language.
  • Finish all the levels of one application.
  • Watching a full soup opera. One thousand hours of listening!
  • The only limit is your imagination.

All these good purposes can help a lot. Nevertheless, if you are studying a language, it is certain that sooner or later one plan will show up in your mind. Ideas usually appear on the fly and most of the times the only thing you have to do is to move ahead. Then things may appear suddenly.

Nonetheless, it is possible that you are studying just because you have to; maybe you need languages to find a job. If you live in Spain you know well what I am talking about. If you don’t please share with us the experience in your country J. And yes, I also think that the requirements to get a job are excessive these days. The point is, we always put more passion in the things we do just because we like and no when we are forced to. However, we can always find a challenge in our way that can make things change.

For my part, right now I have a couple of challenges in view. The first one is to take the exam to get the well-known Proficiency or CPE, how it is named now. I am thinking of doing it by the end of 2016.

The second one is another Proficiency, but this one not that acclaimed. I want to take the test that the well-know application Duolingo provides, this time in Portuguese. Yes, this certificate is not as prestigious and I don’t even think that is proves much about your real knowledge of the language, especially taking into account the level of the “the butterfly eats the elephant” app. However, I have notice that in certain arenas this game-application certificate is recognized, so now I have a good reason to pass all the levels and learn more and more. Whatever happens, I have nothing to lose but something to learn. I will talk about this experience in more detail in the future. Regardless to the date of the event, it is still to be determined, I am just a beginnerJ.

And what about you? Have you had your challenge yet? Would you like to share it with us?


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Castilian or Spanish

castilian-spanish

Most Spanish learners will discover sooner or later two terms that refer to the same language. The election between one and another is somewhat controversial and will bring up some doubts to all the people interested in the Hispanic world. Because of this the logical question comes up, what is the right word?

To introduce the subject, let’s review the origins. The word Castilian comes from Castile, in other words one of the historic regions that form the Spanish lands. Castile is known for being the cradle of the Spanish (or Castilian) language. Castilian appeared in the Middle Ages and was based on Low Latin which also received the linguistic influence of the people present at that time in the kingdom: Arabs, Basque and Germanic-Visigoths. The language spread to all the peninsular land due to the Castile’s supremacy over other kingdoms and became the most spoken language, although some other tongues coexisted.

The conquest of the Americas resulted in the spread of the language to a large part of the continent and currently it has become the second most spoken language in the world.

Now we can see the historical origin of the word “Castilian” and understand the beginning of the divergences.

At a linguistic level, both terms are not only right, but synonyms, which means that you can use them interchangeably. The problem arises because due to political issues, there is a dispute with respect to the use of one or the other.

With regards to Spain, there are three other official languages apart from Castilian:  Catalonian, Basque and Galician. Thus, to avoid giving Castilian precedence over the rest by calling it “Spanish”, it remains as “Castilian”. It is something similar to Switzerland where four official languages exit at the same time but none of them is considered “Swiss”.

In Latin America, there is a balance among the countries that use one option or the other. In the south of the continent, except for Colombia and El Salvador, the term Castilian is more widely used. It is even included in some constitutions. However in Mexico, Colombia, Central America and the Caribbean, Spanish is more likely used. The reasons to pick one or the other change depending on the way each country explains the differences between its language and “what is spoken in Spain”.

To get an official point of view, let’s see what the Panhispanic Dictionary of Doubts says about this subject:

 

Spanish: To designate the common language of Spain and some American nations which is also spoken in other parts of the world, the words Castilian and Spanish are equally valid. The polemic about which of these designations is more appropriate has been left behind today. The term Spanish is more advisable because it is free of ambiguity and refers in an unequivocal way to the language which is spoken today by four hundred million people. Furthermore, it is the internationally used designation (Spanish, espagnol, Spanisch, spagnolo, etc.). While being also a synonym of Spanish, it is preferable to use Castilian to refer to the Roman dialect born in the kingdom of Castile  during the Middle Ages or to the Spanish dialect spoken in that region nowadays. In Spain, that name is also used when we want to make reference to the common language of the country in relation to the rest official languages in their respective territories, like Catalonian, Galician or Basque.

Panhispanic Dictionary of Doubts, 2005, pages. 271-272”

 

Despite the regulatory role of this publication, I have to say that the polemic is far from having been decided. Nevertheless, what is true that Spanish learners don’t have any need of getting involved in such political questions and can use without hesitation the word “Spanish”, which is perfectly valid and universally admitted.


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Interesting Future Topics

languages-learning

Dear readers and followers,

First of all, I would like to say thanks to all the people who came through here, especially to those who decided to follow this blog or liked one of these publications. I have to say that these small details help us authors a lot to move forward in our professional careers.

I must admit that, although my dear blog is nearly always in my head, I am not publishing as frequently as I would like. This is due to a new professional experience I am trying right now, which is quite time-consuming; it is not easy to break through. Now, I don’t know where this new way is going to lead me, not even if I will ever get results, but is something that I want and must try. However, I will try to come back to this small space whenever I can. Regarding to this last point, I am preparing a short list of topics I would like to deal with, these are the following:

  • General articles about language learning.

  • Analysis of learning applications which are available on the internet.

  • More frequent doubts about Spanish

  • Free topic articles about whatever subject I consider interesting. I keep this small independent space to me because, as a writer, I like having creative freedom, and, if something is very good, why not to talk about it?

In broad outline, this is what my blog is going to be about. Obviously, if I happen to have new interesting ideas, I can add them to the list.

This is not a long post, but now that I have the topics more or less decided, I wanted to share them with you. Moreover, I was thinking in giving a personal touch to this blog, to prevent it from being too boring or technical.

What do you think?