Updated: Aug 1
Learning a new language isn't easy. It requires effort, time investment, and a desire to learn, but it will be worth it. I've been taking Chinese and Spanish since middle school and have grown to love them throughout my lessons. Knowing these languages (even though I don't speak them fluently yet) has benefitted me in so many ways.
At a summer camp that I attended two summers ago, there was a girl there who didn't speak any English, only Spanish. A lot of the time, she would just sit on the bleachers by herself and watch us play, because she didn't understand the rules well enough to play, and no one knew enough Spanish to explain it to her. I decided that I would find a way to communicate with her despite my limited knowledge of the language. We wound up talking every day, just trying to share what little of each other's language that we knew with each other. We became friends, and I became better at conversing in Spanish.
Learning two different languages at the same time seemed intimidating when I first started in middle school. Chinese and Spanish are very different languages and
I still found myself getting confused sometimes. I had (and still have) some problems with simple words and phrases, particularly time and numbers. I've also had a few funny misunderstandings in which I spoke Chinese to my Spanish teacher or vice versa, and the incredulous looks that they gave me were priceless. I'm becoming better at separating the two languages, and I find myself able to switch between them with less struggle each time I try. Now that I can speak the languages better, I enjoy conversing with people who speak them fluently, because I love the feeling that I get when I know I understand them and they understand me. It's like a click in my brain and I can hear them in their own language, without the strangeness of formal translation, and hear their words exactly as they want me to hear them.
I've always loved language. Being able to communicate with people all over the world is a very interesting concept to me, and I hope one day to be able to talk fluently to people from a variety of places. In fact, I hope to one day apply these language skills as an interpreter.
I may not be a professional Spanish or Chinese speaker yet, but I am an experienced language student. As I have experienced learning languages in a classroom setting, I've picked up on a few things that have helped me to learn the languages more effectively.
1. Develop an enthusiasm for the language. If you aren’t interested in the subject, you won't progress well. I chose to learn Chinese when I was in sixth grade because I thought that the language was beautiful and wanted to know as much as I could about it. I thankfully have never lost the drive that I felt when I first signed up for the classes, and this helps me to stay focused and interested whilst learning my lessons.
2. Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. Podcasts, videos, and movies in that language are all great options, though you shouldn't rely on just listening and understanding the language. Instead, strive to have conversations completely in the new language, even if you don't have an extensive vocabulary. Use what you already have, and more will come as you continue to learn.
3. Keep practicing in your head. Whenever you get bored, translate random sentences in your head. Constantly immerse yourself in the language. You can use flashcards, books, anything to keep it in the forefront of your mind. Stay consistent with these practices, because if you don't continue using the language, you lose important parts of the language.
4. Get out of the classroom. Just learning from textbooks and flashcards won't cut it. Try to get yourself out into the world and meet people that speak the language already. I find that this gets me more accustomed to thinking in the language as well as speaking in it. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know people that speak the language. When I can have a conversation with someone in the language I'm learning, I become familiar with nuances of speech that may not have been brought to my attention from a textbook.
For more information on language programs, visit www.redefinerswl.org or call 813-530-2313.
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