Why it’s time to let go of the ‘language learning fear’.

 

With hours of sunshine, beautiful beaches and delicious cuisine it is certainly not surprising that Spain is a favourite holiday destination among us Brits. But despite the fact that so many of us choose to spend time there, there is still a huge percentage of people who can do little else but order a beer in Spanish.

Having had various conversations with lots of people who holiday in Spain, many of them hold the following view: whilst they would love to be able to speak Spanish, something is holding them back. And that something is fear.

Lack of fear is something we take for granted as children. We climb trees without thinking about the possibility we might fall and hurt ourselves, we put our hand up in class and say the first thing that comes into our head without paying too much attention to what other people think. Sadly, as we grow older, many of us lose this care free attitude.

As adults we worry a lot about others opinions of us, we view mistakes as negative experiences rather than learning from them. And lots of us avoid trying things we perceive as difficult or risky. Learning a language combines all of these fears and therefore leaves many afraid to even try.

There are so many benefits to learning another language. Apart from the obvious and the ones which people seem to focus on the most such as: opening up more job opportunities, improving your memory and communication skills, there are others which can actually have a profound impact on your attitude to other areas of your life. One example being that learning a language gives you the opportunity to practise a growth mindset. Understanding that when things go wrong you can learn from them rather than viewing them as a bad experience is something which many people struggle to do. Through learning a language you will make mistakes but will also realise that this is part of the learning journey and without those mistakes you wouldn’t be able to measure your progress.

Many people feel that they just don’t have the time to learn a language. But what they don’t realise is that their interest doesn’t have to mean buying 20 different grammar books and studying every night. It’s as simple as attending a course or learning enough to be able to communicate whilst on holiday.

Learning a language can be fun. Language learning has changed so much over the years. Not only has the actual method of teaching changed, with a much bigger emphasis on communication rather than grammar but there are also so many different resources, apps, courses, books and blogs available. So you can easily find something which works for you. Whether you prefer working alone, by watching videos and completing exercises or whether you enjoy learning with others in a group, you will not regret it.

Ultimately, just trying to communicate in another language is enough. Not only is it incredibly rewarding, filling you with pride and giving you confidence but even if it isn’t perfect your efforts will be appreciated.

Let go of the fear and start learning a language today!

 

For information about our current ‘Holiday Spanish Courses’ visit our events page.

What does the future hold for foreign languages in UK secondary schools?

“But Miss I don’t get it”.

“What’s the point in learning another language when everyone speaks English?”

“I’m just not good at languages.”

“What’s she saying?”

“I can barely speak English let alone another language.”

“Can’t you just speak in English, Miss?”

Sound familiar? It does to me. I have lost count of the amount of times that these phrases have echoed around the walls of an MFL classroom or corridor.

So what exactly is making our students feel this way towards languages? Well the truth is there is no easy answer.

In my opinion the most obvious reason is that many students struggle to relate to languages as they believe that they aren’t beneficial. Unlike Maths, English and Science, which students are constantly told are imperative and will be used throughout their adult life, languages are not seen in the same light. Native English speakers are in a very fortunate position with English being so widely spoken and means that they are able to visit many places in the world without actually needing another language to get by. This leaves many adopting the attitude that there isn’t any point in learning another language. As a language lover and teacher this makes me very sad as some of them will never realise just what they are missing out on.

Another issue which is sure to affect student’s attitudes is the amount of time that is dedicated to languages in schools. Schools are incredibly lucky if they have more than 1 hour a week dedicated to languages at KS3 and 2 hours a week at KS4 . With so little time it’s no wonder students are scared to commit.

Of course there are many factors involved  both on a smaller scale and school wide. Lack of funding, shortage of teachers (particularly for languages), bigger class sizes and packed timetables means that schools are struggling.

With such a complex situation what exactly can we do to keep students interest in languages?

Grammar is great!

Just kidding. 

In all my years of language learning I haven’t met anyone (yet) who has told me that they love learning grammar. Despite this it is a vital part of learning a language so whether you like it or not you need to learn it!

We all have preferences when it comes to the way we learn which means that some of us may like learning grammar by reading through explanations and completing relevant exercises. If that works for you, you can stop reading here. However if you (like me) enjoy learning through using maps, diagrams and pictures (otherwise known as visual learning) keep reading, as I may have something for you!

In one of my earlier blog posts I mentioned The Language Show London, an event for language teachers and language lovers alike. In today’s blog post I am going to be sharing a resource with you which I discovered there.

The suitably titled VerbMAPS does exactly what it says on the tin. You guessed it…maps of verbs (Unbelievable right!) As simple as it might sound, for someone who likes visual representations this book is ideal! Not only does it show you how to form tenses it also teaches verb patterns by using easy to follow diagrams which are colour coded, so learning those all important verbs doesn’t have to be dull or confusing!

You can visit http://verbmaps.com/ to type in a verb and see how it works. Then from there you can easily purchase the book if you like the look of it (There is also one for French).

 

 

 

Españoles en el mundo

“Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.”

Jeanette Winterson

There are many aspects of learning a new language that are difficult however in my experience it seems that two skills that lots of people struggle with are listening and speaking. Of course this is largely due to the fact that when reading or writing we have time to process the information, whereas when listening or speaking this time is limited. This means that many of us feel under huge pressure and consequently can become very nervous or embarrassed when practising these skills, which often puts us off trying. In today’s blog post I will be focusing on the former of the two: Listening.

How can I combine listening to a language with my other interests? 

You won’t be surprised to hear that to improve your listening skills you need to…listen (No way!). But what you might be surprised to hear is that you can actually enjoy yourself whilst doing so! But how exactly can you do this?

Whilst some people seem to think that the extent of listening resources is as follows:

  • specific exercises on educational websites 

In fact the list is far more diverse:

  • radio 
  • podcasts
  • television programmes
  • films
  • youtube videos
  • music 

That’s right! 

So where do I begin?

You can start by visiting sites like the BBC who have fantastic resources for languages and a huge section on Spanish news, TV and radio. From here you will find that you end up on all sorts of brilliant websites to help you with your Spanish. Today I am going to be talking to you about one particular link on the BBC website ‘TVE’ under ‘Spanish TV’, where you have access to (amongst other things) a variety of Spanish TV programmes.

“Españoles en el mundo”

Explained on the website as ‘a programme that approaches destinations around the world through the Spanish people that have decided to settle in another country’ españoles en el mundo is brilliant for anyone who is looking to practise their Spanish listening skills. But it’s not just about the listening. The description continues by telling us what else we can expect from the programme… ‘These “new migrants” offer their particular views on the country and share their anecdotes about what their lives are like there’.

So, from Brisbane to Hamburg, Belfast to San Diego, españoles en el mundo not only gives you the opportunity to listen to Spanish spoken by native speakers but also to find out about so many interesting places from the viewpoint of someone actually living there so is ideal viewing if you are interested in travelling and culture. 

The great thing about these programmes is that in each episode they follow several people, with each one describing and showing a different part of the city e.g music, literature, night life, food, art, scenery etc which means that more often than not there will be something you are interested in. 

Another plus is when I initially watched españoles en el mundo years ago there were no subtitles (so I would have recommended only very confident Spanish speakers to watch the videos-as they are quite quick) however having revisited some of the more recent videos I can see that there are now Spanish subtitles (in Castilian). This means that you can follow what is being said by reading the subtitles and can write down any unknown vocabulary to look up later. The conversation is natural and is full of expressions, idioms and colloquialisms you may not hear in more structured listening exercises. 

Practising your language whilst pursuing your interest in culture and travel. What’s not to like?

To take a look for yourself click the link below and get watching!

http://www.rtve.es/television/espanoles-en-el-mundo/

 

There are plenty more fish in the sea!

You might be looking at the title wondering what on earth you are getting yourself into in today’s blog. However do not fear, I am not going to be giving you dating advice, but instead am going to be discussing an important element of language…idioms! 

So what exactly is an idiom? Well an idiom is a word or a phrase which means something different from its literal meaning, an example in English being ‘break a leg’. Rather than actually wanting someone to break a leg we use this expression to wish someone luck. As idioms cannot be directly translated they are a difficult part of learning a language but are essential if you want to truly feel like a native.

Below are 5 of my favourite Spanish idioms:

1. Tomar el pelo

Literally ‘to take the hair’. Yep, you read that right. Although our equivalent in English doesn’t make much more sense: ‘to pull someone’s leg’. This idiom means when you tell someone something that isn’t true to play a joke on them.

2. Ponerse morado

‘To get purple?’. WHAT IS GOING ON? Well this lovely idiom translates to ‘to eat like a pig’ in English which of course means to eat a lot!

3. Tirar la casa por la ventana

‘To throw the house through the window?’ What do these Spaniards get up to on the weekends..? Well, whilst they are throwing houses through their windows in Spain, here in the UK we are ‘sparing no expense’. This handy idiom means to spend as much money as possible to make something good, without considering the cost.

4. Ser pan comido

‘To be bread eaten?’ What are these crazy Spanish people talking about you might ask? Well in English we would say something equally as strange- ‘it’s a piece of cake!’. If you’re not familiar with this idiom it means something is really easy!

5. Estar más sana que una pera 

‘To be healthier than a pear’. This idiom is slightly more self explanatory than the previous ones- describing someone who is in very good health. The English equivalent (which you may have heard of) is ‘as fit as a fiddle’.

So next time you have a conversation with someone in Spanish see if you can slip in one of these to impress them!

Love will prevail

Before writing a blog post today I feel that I have to acknowledge the terrible events that took place in Catalonia yesterday and this morning. Just two days ago I wrote a post about embracing local culture when visiting other countries and mentioned my own visit to Barcelona earlier this year. Spain is a country which is very close to my heart and it deeply saddens me to see that there has been another attack on innocent people resulting in loss of life.

My thoughts go out to everyone involved.

Lisanne x

Sometimes I feel like I’m in Barcelona.

Visiting a new country or city gives us an amazing opportunity to experience things we haven’t before such as trying food we have never eaten, discovering history we never knew existed and talking to people we otherwise might not talk to. It is the ultimate test of our ability to be open minded and yet some of us still choose to go on holiday and act as though we were still at home.

I have always believed that to fully embrace a language you must have an understanding of the culture that surrounds it. My own interest in Spanish at school extended very quickly to an interest in Spanish culture and developed during the year that I lived in Spain. Whilst living there I was very keen to find out about the people, the food and the customs and my observations are something which I love sharing with my students.

Recently I visited Barcelona for the first time. I love going to Spain and this trip was no different. Staying with a lady living in the area of Barceloneta allowed me to receive fantastic insider tips and advice as well as giving me the chance to practise speaking to a native. Spending days wandering through the city on foot and by bike, tasting local cuisine and embracing the culture meant that I could truly experience everything Barcelona had to offer. Its amazing how talking to someone in their language, trying the food and and taking a genuine interest in the culture makes a visit so much more worthwhile.

So next time you take a trip to a country or city you haven’t been to before think about the opportunity you have to get to know a new culture. Trade your burger and chips for that exotic local dish, swap the overcrowded tourist haunts for the quiet side streets and ditch the English to attempt to pronounce something in the language. You won’t believe the satisfaction you get, trust me. 

What is the best city you have been to? Did you embrace the culture?

 

No hablo español!!!

Picture the scene.

You’re sitting in a restaurant in Spain with some friends. You spot the waiter coming towards you and the panic starts to set in.  As he arrives at your table you scream “LA ENSALADA POR FAVOR!” and he nods. Phewwwwww it’s all over, you did it! Then before you can celebrate he turns to you and says “¿Quieresalgoabeber?”. Your friends are looking at you, the waiter is looking at you and all you can do is laugh and smile whilst in your head you’re thinking…

AHHHHH he spoke too quickly! I don’t understand, what did he say? this is so embarrassing. What do I dooooooooooo????!!!!!

Sound familiar?

One of the most nerve wracking situations for a language learner is the dreaded moment you are faced with having to have a conversation with a native speaker. You start off by confidently asking that question that you have practised 100 times at home and then as soon as they reply your brain turns to mush!

The good news is…you are not alone. I think it is safe to say that most of us who have learned a language have faced a similar situation at some point. The bad news is…you are going to do it again. That’s right! It might have been the first time but it certainly won’t be the last and as much as you feel like apologising and never speaking again, DON’T! Making mistakes is part of the learning process.

So what can you do?

  1. Breathe. Take a second to calmly remind yourself that it is NOT the end of the world and you can easily resolve the situation.
  2. Politely ask the person to repeat what they said but slightly more slowly.
  3. Lip read to see if you can make out any words that are difficult to hear.
  4. Think about the context. You’re in a clothes shop for example. What kind of things might they be asking you?- Do you want a bag? Shall I put the receipt in the bag?
  5. Use actions. Yes you might feel a bit silly at first but if you can’t remember how to say something- point to it, act it out, gesture.
  6. Ask them questions. You know how to say a drink. You think they may be asking you if you want one..so ask them!

But most importantly…

Don’t give up! It can be very tempting to choose the easy option and try to speak English but you would be undoing all the work you have been putting in and not doing yourself justice.

So next time you are faced with a situation like the one above try some of those techniques and just remember..Never be embarrassed. Never apologise. You are trying and you are learning and that is something to be proud of. 

 

Language Show London: 13-15 October 2017

2 years ago I attended the Language Show London for the first time. With its latest event slowly approaching I discuss what it has to offer.

What is the Language Show London?

The Language Show London is an event which takes place every year in.. (you guessed it!) London. The show is for a variety of people from those who are passionate about languages to those working as language teachers.

Do I need to register? 

Yes, to attend the event you will need to register for a ticket. Ticket registration is already open so you can either do this before the event online or if you don’t mind risking the possibility of a big queue you can do it when you arrive.

What is there to do?

The Language Show offers a three day schedule filled with seminars, exhibitions, language courses and much more. Best of all it is completely free to attend! (However you will have to pay if you want to attend the educational seminars).

For more information on what’s on and who will be there you can visit the website: http://languageshowlive.co.uk

Below are examples of two of the resources I bought from the exhibitors during my time at the Language Show: