Being in England for 4 weeks I’m aware that my Spanish has tailed off a little. If you don’t use it then you lose it as they say.
I knew this would happen before I came; it did last year too. But I have made a couple of phone calls in Spanish, swapped some emails in Spanish so that all helps.
Now that I am fluent in Spanish (which doesn’t mean perfect by the way) I intend to keep hold of this language for life. That shouldn’t be difficult as long as I live in Ecuador, which I intend to, and even if, at some point in the future, I move away from Ecuador I still think I have the techniques to stay on top of the language; the same techniques we now use to teach Spanish in our Ecuador Spanish course.
I remember wanting to speak a foreign language at a young age, perhaps after watching an early evening movie at the legs of my parents. I also remember lying in bed at night as I ‘practiced’ an imagined fluency in another tongue. As I lulled myself to sleep, a torrent of rhyming nonsensical words burbled softly (less anyone hear my silliness) and rapidly from my lips as I pretended I was speaking foreign languages in far-off lands.
And then I dreamt of nonsense in nonsense lands.
Yet there were two large stumbling blocks. I had no natural ability in languages andthe education techniques used in English grammar schools were not fun.
I have not forgotten the painful experiences I had learning Spanish so now I look for fun ways to teach. It’s an on-going process but you can see how our Spanish Course delegates below have fun as they string out sentences after just 4 days in class. My role was to step back and let them enjoy the process as I take photos as my native-speaking assistants, Carmen and Julio, gently prompt from the sidelines.
Spanish is probably one of the easiest or maybe even the easiest language to learn. I didn’t really appreciate this until I learned from Merri some of the techniques that she had unveiled as she learned Spanish many years ago in Mexico.
The fact is there are roughly 4,000 words which are very similar and some are exactly the same in English. Knowing this is an encouraging start. Knowing just 17 simple rules gives us these 4,000 words and allows us to add those rules to our ‘tool bag’. We learn how to learn the rules.
We have to know how to pronounce the words but again Spanish is simplicity itself once you learn the rules of pronunciation. Spanish pronunciation is simple because there is a profound lack of exceptions to the rules. Every word is pronounced according to the rules and apart from the occasional strange place names there are no funny exceptions.
Consider the English words ‘rough’, ‘bough’, bought’, ‘through’ and ‘though’ – the ‘ough’ part is pronounced 5 different ways … pity the English language learner as they have to decide how to pronounce any new word they come across with ‘ough’ in it.
My aim when teaching Spanish, and even when speaking, is primarily communication. When I taught English for nearly 4 years in Quito, to students ranging from children to diplomats, the most common complaint was that though they could read and write the language they were to embarrassed or afraid to speak the language. I nearly always found this was because they were confused after having ‘swallowed’ too many grammar pills.
Granted, some grammar is necessary but I keep it to the absolute minimum. We do this by using about 15 starter phrases and learning how to say ‘I’ or ‘you’ in these phrases and then working with verbs in their base form such as ‘to eat’. We also learn ‘finishing phrases’ which are normally expressions of time and places. So we learn quickly how to say “I want to eat lunch now”, or “Do you want to visit the doctor later?”
This is communication at it’s most basic, but what I’ve found is that as in most endeavors in life, success breeds enthusiasm and confidence, which in turn breed more success. There’s nothing more dispiriting than not being even able to spit out a sentence after 2 or 3 months at an evening school apart from “My name is Steve”, “I live in Ecuador” and “I am ?? years old”.
On the other hand, we learn how to ask questions, express our desires, needs and preferences by the third day of a 5 day course.
Then of course, we have to remember what we learn. Advanced Learning techniques were first brought to the world’s attention by Lozanov, the Bulgarian master, who the SuperLearning books were famously written about.
As far as I’m aware we are the only people who offer a beginner’s course in a Spanish speaking country that incorporates Lozanov’s methodology to relax and aid speedy learning. We also emphasize getting out into the community to practicing what we learn AND incorporate a simplified content to get you communicating many times quicker than the normal.
I’ve taught all age groups from teenagers to eighty year olds. One of my aims is to build confidence and enthusiasm so that when you leave you are motivated to continue studying.
This is what S and K said after our course in June. They are a couple 78 and 64 years old and tour in Spain virtually every year but had always had difficulty mastering the language.
“We loved the property tours and found that the Spanish course was just right for us. Indeed, we have both been motivated to learn more. We have bought little mp3 players and we each have all 6 of your Super Thinking Spanish CDs already downloaded and in use …. I’m also going to get hold of a Michel Thomas course and put that on as well. So thanks again for providing such an inspirational starter course. (Of course, major thanks to Merri and Gary for having the knowledge to make it possible – but your delivery of it all was just right)”
Even as I contemplate the mystery of how I learned a language and then the even more amazing transformation (for me) to teaching a language, I just give thanks that through a series of synergies I’ve been able to find support, techniques and methods, not to forget a wonderful location in Cotacachi, where it’s all come together and I’m able to help others to communicate in Spanish.
We have one more Spanish course this year next month in September.
Sept 23-27 Ecuador Spanish Course
September 17-20 Ecuador Coastal Real Estate Tour; Quito Real Estate Tour
Sept 28-29 Imbabura Real Estate Tour
See discounts for attending more than one Sept. course
Oct 14-18 Ecuador Import Export Course
Nov 7-9 International Investing and Business Made EZ Ecuador
Nov 10-11 Imbabura Real Estate tour
November 12-15, 2008 Ecuador Coastal Real Estate Tour; Quito Real Estate Tour