A year ago I didn’t know Spanish at all. Now I can speak, write and understand natives in almost all everyday and professional situations. I can talk about my thoughts and feelings, tell stories and even debate in some topics I’m really into. I’m not a magician and I haven’t payed a great amount of money for that – all I’ve learnt was learnt by myself without any teacher. Better say, everybody was my teacher. I just had a strong motivation and organized conditions to learn.
In this text I´d like to share my key learning ideas, which can appeal not only for language-learning but for majority of other skills and competencies.
Motivation: choose enjoying not suffering in every little moment
I strongly Believe that there are two ways of motivation – through love and through pain (which is usually accompanied by fear). Fear works at school, or when you have exams, or when you really need to learn something just to survive. In this case you can learn really fast and it can be super effective. But there is on problem – burnout. As this kind of motivation uses a lot of your energy and resources (as in fight o flight behavior, which activates all our resources in dangeros situations) after some period of time it can make you really exhausted. Learning is a long process, and to get real fluency you need years of everyday training. It´s like a marathon, and if you try to run it as fast as you can as it were just a sprint, you´ll fade away. You can start hating language-learning.
A little goes a long way. So it’s nice if your motivation is based not only on fear but love. In this case you can move slower, but you will really enjoy it. It’s not an easy way either – as you have to be conscious enough to realize what ways of learning and materials fit you better. For example, I can study only with well-designed Anaya books and well-structured materials. I can’t avoid writing in books with colorful text liners, and all my notebooks are extremely beautiful. Moreover I decline many of Spanish podcasts as I hate how the voices of the majority of the speakers sound. But those which are good enough work much better (as I can listen and enjoy).
Another thing: I´m quite an independent learner and I prefer doing it on my own. But lots of people will enjoy it much more with an inspiring teacher or funny group. If though, look for people who are not only learning the same language, but sharing your interests and values.
Add language to your everyday routine
Making a habit of improving language activities can teleport you to the level you need without making too much effort. You don´t need any ¨special time¨ for learning. Listening podcast while on a bus, changing your phone language to Spanish, even changing your region on google – that all works. First you change your life to learn a language, and that the language changes your life!
But be careful, as at the end you can find yourself at a project in Spain, you know:)
Measure your progress, celebrate successes
When we´re in the learning process we never remember where we starded. I often feel like ¨I´m not good enough¨ when I misunderstand a difficult phrase, but I always forget that a year ago I couldn´t understand a word in Spanish. If you´re a perfectionist like me your high expectations can make you suffer. But measuring your progress every month can save you from that shit.
The variety of ways to measure your progress is endless. Once or twice a year you can take some oficial exams. Even if you´re not going to gain DELE certificate you can make a level test at language schools which offer it for those who are planning to attend courses.
Another great way to check where you are is Can Do Statements. I prefer taking a look on it every 3-4 month.
As now I´m suffering quite an intense speaking practice, I´measure my speaking progress every month. That´s funny: Every month I make a video in Spanish to see how my language has improved. First times I felt really stupid, but I knew I´d enjoy watching it in the future.
Learning process is fun. Make it full of play and enjoyment and you´ll success !
Good luck language learners ;P
Hasta luego 👋