Kjera is off on her grand South American adventure. For her second Diary of a language Learner installment, she tells us about how she’s getting along with her intermediate Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country, and shares some tips and resources that are helping her, even while she’s away from home.
by Kjera Nunez Rigotti
Well, Chile is a beautiful country, and I feel so lucky to be here. People say that the best way to learn a language is to visit a country that speaks the desired language. I definitely think this is true as far as learning to actually speak the language. I always wondered how well one must know the language to be able to get by in a foreign country. I now feel like I have a pretty good idea of how to answer this question. I am currently somewhere between a beginner and intermediate level with my Spanish. I am the cautious type, so normally I would not have the courage to have attempted an extended visit in Chile at this skill-level. However, I had the “safety net” of my bi-lingual husband, so I came with no worries. Now that I am here, I feel sure that at this level, I would be fine, even without my “safety net.” So, my answer would be: if you are going to a not-so-touristy area, being at an in-between-beginner-and-intermediate-level is fine; although, if you are going to an area that is more accustomed to tourists, you could survive with less. I want to warn that if you are going to an area that may be considered as dangerous, it would probably be recommended to have at least a good intermediate level of proficiency. This is just my opinion. I am not an expert or anything.
If you can’t travel…
Traveling to a foreign country is not an option for everyone. Obviously, there are costs involved with the tickets and housing, etc. For those of you, who cannot travel to practice your desired language, don’t worry! There are plenty of other options out there. I always like to use more than one method. This is because, for me, I have to learn everything in Spanish at least twice before I will remember it. Also, using different sources for learning a foreign language can be great, because things are usually explained a little differently, so the chances of it finally “clicking” increase.
Language Resources on the Road
I am still slowly working my way through “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish.” I really love the way information is given in this book. The author points out how much you already know, by showing the similarities between English and Spanish. I also have begun working in my textbook for my next semester of Spanish class, to try to get ahead. The text is called “Revista.” I am not a huge fan of it so far, but it does have a different style that some people really enjoy. One day, I just didn’t feel like going through either of these books, but I wanted to try reading Spanish. So, I got out my tablet, and went on my Kindle app. I searched “learn Spanish free”, and quite a few options came up. I downloaded a few of the “early readers.” I have to say that this is a nice way to practice comprehension. These are compilations of short stories that are easy enough that I am not frustrated the whole time, but difficult enough that I am still challenged a bit. Some of them are cute, so I share them with my son (like The Three Bears). I found these rather easily in Spanish, and I am sure that they have similar options in other languages. Another thing I really enjoy doing sometimes, when I am online using Livemocha, is the chat option. I have gotten a lot of really great practice this way, as well as making some awesome new friends!
OOPS! What I meant to say was…
I had a recent little flubber in an attempt to speak Spanish this week. We were listening to the radio at home, when an English song came on that happened to be one of my favorites. I got really excited, and ran through the house looking for my husband, to tell him I loved this song, and was amazed to hear it on the radio in Chile. I could not find him, so I tried telling my mother-in-law, who only speaks Spanish. But, in my excitement, I accidentally told her that the song was about comida (food), rather than a comedia (comedy). She looked at me like I was crazy, so I continued to try to explain, only causing further and further confusion. Eventually, she pretended she understood me, so I would feel better about it I assume. I went back into my room wondering why she had not understood. Then, I suddenly thought to myself, “Did I say comida instead of comedia?” No wonder she thought I was crazy, to be so excited to hear a song about food. This reminded me of something that I (as a shy person) do a lot. I am almost always more willing to take the risk of actually speaking Spanish with strangers than with people I see every day. It might seem odd that a shy person would rather talk to strangers than to people I know. This is because, if I make a ton of mistakes, and sound like a crazy duck, I will never have to see the person again. I know that my Spanish-speaking family would never make me feel bad for my mistakes while attempting speech; I just feel a certain comfort with the idea that the strangers will forget me and my mistakes very quickly. It also helps me to experience different accents from different native speakers: double bonus!
Here’s to saying helado (ice cream) instead of hielo (just ice), morir (to die) when it should be mirar (to watch), and laughing it off and trying again!