|College Spanish Classes: Did They Work?
||[Jan. 4th, 2017|08:34 pm]
Short answer: No. I am not a fluent Spanish speaker.
My friend Amy from undergrad said they did work, so maybe my undergrad was better than the local community college, where I took my Spanish classes. And that could be, if the classes were smaller and they did a lot of talking and the students kept up with the work. I took two other languages there, however, (though not for as many semesters), and I'm going to say that their classes were not better.
My Spanish IV classmate who has learned many languages said that he found taking classes to be the worst way he has tried to learn a language. (And yes, he was one of the better students.) He prefers to jump in and interact with people who know the language. He is a cool and amazing dude and very, very different from me!
So, on to the long answer.
I still can't read the ¡Ahora Sí! newspaper without looking up a bunch of words. In fact, I don't feel any better at this than I did before I took these classes (after having taken three years of Spanish in high school and doing additional self-study after that).
One exception: My grammar knowledge is much better, and I do understand verbs better than before. I pretty much always know what tense they are, which is very, very nice. And in books that are mostly English but have some Spanish in them, I almost always understand the Spanish now.
I still cannot understand Spanish spoken in the wild except for the occasional word or phrase. And sometimes entire sentences (generally spoken by or to three-year-olds). That includes the Spanish spoken in mostly English movies. But I am much better at understanding the simple and clearly spoken Spanish on DuoLingo because I now know most of the words well enough to understand where most of the word separations are.
Talking is much easier than listening because I can use only vocabulary that I actually know. And I now have enough vocabulary that I can often figure out ways to say things I want to say to people. For example, I wanted to ask "Is there a post office nearby?" I don't know how to say "nearby" but I do know how to say "near here" and "around here." I wanted to ask, "Do you know a good place around here to buy stamps?" But instead I settled for, "Can I buy stamps around here?"
But sometimes talking takes a while. Example: Here's what happens when I want to say "The children were six years old."
Head: The children = Los niños
Mouth: "Los niños"
Head: are = ser or estar? No, wait, we say "had six years" instead of "were six years old" in Spanish. Which past tense, though? Having six years is still happening, so tenía. No, it's plural, so that's tenían.
Head: six years = seis años
Mouth: seis años.
Nevertheless, I now have to guts to try to speak Spanish to Spanish-speaking restaurant workers. This is big! There is one lady in particular who is often at our favorite restaurant. She will talk for ages with other people in my class who we have dragged to the restaurant, but I can also have a short conversation with her involving a few halting sentences.
I am very good at spelling and writing things in Spanish, once I figure out how to say them. Spelling is so much easier than in English. It really is almost perfectly phonetic, though there can be more than one way to spell a certain sound.
I need a lot more vocabulary. And I really only do well with flashcards and by finding patterns (for the latter, see, for example, my blog posts on agent nouns, reflexive verbs, and compound words).
After that, I will also need to learn a lot more about how to make phrases, for example, how to choose the right preposition. I think this will be most easily learned from broad reading and watching movies. But meanwhile, I think I could also benefit from more crutches such as Zen Language, a system compared to DuoLingo.
Reasons to study a foreign language
And on a slightly different note, there are a lot of lists out there on reasons to study a foreign language. They mostly go on about how it will help you in your career in international business. Here are the benefits I would list (besides being able to interact with more people and media).
* learn a cool accent
* increase sympathy for non-native speakers of your own language
* learn specific strategies on how to help non-native speakers; ones I've learned include:
--- speak more slowly
--- pause between words; word breaks are not obvious
--- try different ways of saying things instead of saying the same thing over and over
--- use more hand gestures
* learn better grammar
* increase your vocabulary in your native language (for English, this especially true for Germanic and Latin languages)