On your mark, get set, GO! Start, run towards your Spanish speaking goal…just do it! Stop using the future tense so much and try using the present tense: Estudio ahora (I study now); or maybe the present continuous: Estoy estudiando ahora (I am studying now); or maybe even better, present perfect: ¡He estado estudiando desde hace tres meses! (I have been studying for three months!).
The hardest part about starting or continuing a project is just simply doing it. For the 5% of you who don´t have any problems with procrastination, Congratulations! But for the 95% of us who are professional (or amateur) procrastinators, we need to get it together! Focus, Focus, focus.
The good news is that when learning a language one must immerse oneself as much as possible in that language. Because most readers are expats living in Mexico or thinking of living or doing business in Mexico, you will be surrounded by Spanish and will inherently start to learn some words and phrases just by osmosis. The bad news is that the expat community is HUGE and it is very easy to just communicate in English with others who don’t speak Spanish. On top of that, most Mexicans want to practice their English with you. Curses, foiled again!
In my experience as a language teacher (English and Spanish) for over 18 years, I have come to the conclusion that learning a language is much like losing weight. There are no fancy methods to becoming fluent in 2 months nor is there a sustainable way to lose 20lbs in 2 months. In order to lose weight the bottom line is you must be disciplined and stop eating and drinking excessive amounts of calories and you must get out and exercise. Period. End of Story.
In order to become fluent in a language, you must dedicate time, at the very least one hour, everyday to studying that language and you must practice speaking with fluent speakers as much as possible. Period. End of Story. Also, everyone, no matter the age, can lose weight and everyone, no matter the age, can learn a language.
The first step is to set a practical goal. You know what a practical goal for yourself is. If you tell yourself you will spend 2-3 hours studying Spanish every day, chances are you won´t do it. If you can do that, great! But most likely you have many things to do in your day, so let´s keep it simple at first. If you actively practice for one hour each day, I guarantee you will start to see results.
Your first task will be to choose an hour time block in your day. Look at your calendar, schedule it in, set an alarm and when it´s time, concentrate and do it. Most spend more than an hour browsing silly memes or political posts on Facebook each day!
The second step is to find a method of learning that works for you. This is where the language professional comes in. Each learner learns in different ways and each learner has different needs. Some need Spanish for international business, some for basic conversation and cultural immersion. After pinpointing your need, the best option is to find a language specialist who can create a program for you to follow.
In this column, I plan on sharing some tips, anecdotes and methods of learning language that have worked for me as well as the thousands of students I have worked with during my 18 years of teaching Spanish and English. Learning the language of the country you live in is imperative to understanding the people, their idiosyncrasies and culture.
One never truly understands a people without speaking their language. So no more procrastinating or amateur-crastinating! It`s time to continue challenging yourself in your efforts to acclimatize to what is the real Mexican experience.
By Steph Carmon
Stephanie Carmon, “language lover” is an English and Spanish language professional with over 18 years of experience teaching and providing clients with effective communication skills. She works both online and in person with companies and individual learners and from Mexico, Russia, U.S. and Canada as a freelance language consultant, translator, interpreter and teacher. She currently lives in Mérida, Yucatan.
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