‘Tips from our teachers’ is a regular series we run on our blog where we ask our teachers to shares tips and advice on improving their language skills.
Culture is an important motivator for learning a language
Everything that has to do with the Spanish language fascinates me: its structure, vocabulary, grammar, and so forth. But, in addition to language, I also love to teach my students aspects of our culture, small notes of history, curiosities of my city or words that are used in a more colloquial way. This creates a strong connection between the language and the world that surrounds it, creating motivation to find out more.
The most important thing when it comes to learning a language is to “want to”. Motivation is the engine of any learning, be it a language or anything else. Once we begin with the learning process it is best to work together with the teacher to find find what are the mechanisms with which we feel more comfortable to learn and understand the language system: conversations, videos, interactive material, written exercises … etc. and use them in classes.
Another very important element is to surround ourselves with music, films, books, … etc. written in that language to encourage immersion. This also ties culture together with language learning and help to keep the student motivated.
Homework and speaking are the best ways to keep improving
For me, the best way to learn a language is with an individual tutor who will teach me the basis of my target language. From there, meet Spaniards, friends, co-workers or cinema in Spanish, or listen the news in Spanish TV. Speaking in Spanish is a very effective way to face the challenge of starting to produce your own speech in Spanish. Language meetings can be another way to improve the language. But all of that must start from a correct and strong base work.
It is also very important that my students do some small exercises that we agreed to after the classes. It is a way of staying with the language when they are alone. Also, I always recommend watching subtitled films (if possible, in Spanish with Spanish subtitles), listening to songs in Spanish or looking at magazines of things that interest them.
In addition, it’s important to try to do the daily routines alone if they are in Spain: buy bread, go to the bank, go to the pharmacy and try to use Spanish as much as you can and… listen, listen and listen!
Even beginners should start speaking fast
Even when with beginners, trying to communicate helps take away their fear and speak more spontaneously and without prejudice. Start with acquiring some basic words for your vocabulary. In Spanish, for example, the student always knows more words than he believes and then, build the foundations of language with the practice of small daily conversations and some knowledge of grammar.
If you’re afraid that as an adult you won’t be able to learn Spanish that quickly, I recommend starting with no hurry and trying to be patient at the time when very fluent phrases cannot yet be developed until a degree of autonomy is acquired.