Upon her return to the US from her summer abroad in Chile, Kjera is settling back into her language-learning routine with a plan to improve her Spanish. With a book suggestion, tips, sweet sentiments, and plans for the future, the coming months seem to be shaping up nicely for our dear Diary of a Language Learner contributor.
by Kjera Nuñez Rigotti
Silence isn’t always golden
Language learning is an adventure (with those exhilarating moments, and the horrifying ones as well). I have returned home safely from Chile, and already miss so many things about it. The sound of the neighborhood, for one. In Chile, there is almost always one neighbor playing some wonderful Spanish (or sometimes “Spanglish” music. It is like there is a rhythm to each neighborhood there, and it is wonderful. I love my neighborhood very much here in Utah, but it suddenly seems so… quiet!
A must read if you’re learning Spanish
I finally completed the book I keep mentioning, Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish. I know, I know, it took an amazingly long amount of time to read that. I am going to use the perfectly acceptable excuse of me being on vacation to get away with that. I have to say, now that I am finished with it, that it is practically a must-read for Spanish students. I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they just say that in my Spanish class?” It is a long book. It can be boring or tedious at some points. But, I now understand so many things so much better.
Activities to keep me going!
I have thought of some fun activities I am going to do to continue practicing my Spanish skills. First, I am going to translate some of my favorite English songs into Spanish (and vice versa), type up the lyrics, and make one of those cute videos people put on Youtube, with nice font and graphics and such. This is something I know I will enjoy doing, and it will also be good practice. Another thing I am really excited about is tutoring. I am going to be volunteer-tutoring Spanish to lower level students. This will reinforce the knowledge I have, as well as be a great review. I have always found that teaching something is the best way to learn it, and I finally feel I am at a level that I could help people who are starting out. Plus, this gives me the opportunity to see things from other people’s point of view, and gives me a little bit of experience with teaching. My most important student will be my son. I am going to design my own lesson plan for him, based on a mixture of ideas I have found online for teaching children second languages. Designing the lessons is something I will have a lot of fun doing, and it will keep me speaking, thinking, reading, and writing in Spanish.
What I do to keep my Spanish progressing.
Here are some extra things I do to help me in my daily language learning:
- Carry 3X5 cards with words I am currently trying to memorize, and pull them out whenever I am waiting for something, etc. I also have some blank ones for words I randomly hear or think of that I want to learn.
- Talk to myself (in Spanish) throughout my day, especially when getting ready for the day (I explain to myself in Spanish what I am doing, what things I will be doing later in the day, and even practice commands, by telling myself to eat breakfast, etc.) A great thing about this strategy is that you can do it every day. The very best, most helpful thing in acquiring a new language (in my one opinion) is using it every day. The more you can find ways to bring it into your day, the better. Daily study, practice, and usage are key.
- A tip that many find useful, although to me it is torture, is watching the telanovelas, to practice training your ear to hear and understand Spanish. I wish this was for me, it is not. Maybe it will be something that you can enjoy, though.
I am where I am and that’s ok.
I read an article recently that really helped me at a time when I needed it. I had been trying so hard to live up to other people’s expectations of how well I should be speaking and understanding Spanish, that I had become incredibly frustrated, and I felt I was on an endless plateau. Everyone, from my siblings who are also learning Spanish, to my teachers, to my relatives and friends in Chile expected me to be at a certain level, and it was a level that I just was not at. Maybe I should have been, with all the classes I have taken, and all the hours I have spent studying, and even the time I had spent in a Spanish-speaking country. But, I just wasn’t, and I needed to stop being angry at myself for not being there yet. Not everyone picks it up with ease. I am where I am with my Spanish speaking abilities, and that is ok. When I stopped trying to live up to other people’s expectations of where I should be, and took a close look at where I really was, I was happy. I have accomplished so much. I do know a lot of Spanish. I am determined to not let other people tell me what I “should” know. I already feel the weight lift off my shoulders, and I see myself rising above this plateau.
To see more of Kjera’s posts, go here.