The answer to the question, “Why is language important?” is probably most simply put as “it’s how we communicate.” My answer and motivation to learn a new language is the fact we are soon moving to a region outside of my home country. We are retiring abroad, and as exciting and romantic as that sounds (and it really is), the reality remains: we are moving to Mexico, and I do not speak Spanish! So that is why language is important to me and that’s definitely my motivation to learn a new language!
While our decision to retire abroad has not come easily, I’d have to say that learning Spanish is coming easier than I imagined. I am a procrastinator by nature, but when faced with an impending move abroad, I started to look at my options, sooner rather than later. Thankfully, my husband was already a few steps ahead of me, and he has exposed me to various programs and techniques for learning a second language. I’m super excited to share with you what I’ve discovered over these last few months of preparing for our future.
The Pimsleur Method
I’ve had the opportunity to try a couple different programs, and I’m really impressed with the Pimsleur Method. Because I have a 30-minute commute each day to my job, I have the perfect opportunity to listen to CDs and practice my Spanish acquisition in that form. I was so excited when I found some volumes of the Pimsleur Method in our local library, because we had recently reviewed the Pimsleur Method, and from that review it seemed to me to be a great fit for the spare time I had available to learn this new language.
From the very first CD, I knew that this method was for me. The instructions were easy to follow, the Spanish speakers were easy to understand, and the pace was very accommodating. I’ve experienced different programs where it seemed like information overload. That is not the case with Pimsleur. Each lesson focuses on new vocabulary and word usage, but in a conversational and true to life sort of way. I find myself saying to myself, “yes, I would say that”, or “that’s a phrase I will use a lot”. The repetition is not oppressive but helps me retain the new topics and ideas.
Because the Pimsleur Method is on CDs and I am listening and repeating what I am learning, I am not able to visualize what I am learning. This isn’t a bad thing, because as young children when we learn to speak and use our native language, we are not necessarily seeing the words we are learning as we put sentences together. However, as an adult moving to a new country, it will be necessary that I be able to read the language and not just understand it on a verbal level. I will need to be able to read menus, street signs, etc. It became evident to me that I needed to find another source of learning to help me with the visual. Plus, I am a visual learner most of the time. I like to see and get my hands on things, and that’s when I learn best. I might add that there is a written component with each Level of the Pimsleur Method Series. At least that’s what I’ve found with Level 1, 30 lessons on 15 discs, and the final disc has a companion book that you read and look at as you hear what’s spoken on the disc.
So, to supplement and fulfill my need to “see” what I’m learning, and thus in my own head reinforce my learning, my Spanish language acquisition journey also includes the use of Duolingo on my smart phone. This is a downloadable app, and I also have it on my computer. Duolingo is a simple program to use, and it combines verbal and written language exercises. I remember the first time I did a Duolingo exercise after a lot of “listening”, and I was amazed at what the words looked like. I had pictured them phonetically using my English “rules”. Things are a little different in Spanish, for example the vowel sounds, how the “G”, “H” and “J” are pronounced, and the “LL”, to name a few. And the “V”, I’m never sure if it’s a “B” sound or a “V” sound, and I suppose either are right, but to be correct, it’s really a merging of the two sounds, not the easiest task for my English background. Trying to relax my face, mouth and lips has really helped. All in all, Duolingo has been great to be able to visualize how things are spelled, and by seeing those patterns, it helps when learning new words and phrases because I’m beginning to imagine them the way they are actually spelled when I “hear” them for the first time on a CD.
Another tool in my language acquisition toolkit is EARWORMS Musical Brain Trainer. I love this because I love music, and this type of learning again fits right in with one of my favorite ways to learn (and teach). Over the years, I have used music as a means of teaching Bible verses to children, and to myself. It’s great to teach a new song, and then in the end be able to tell them that they used learned a new Bible verse. This is the basis behind the EARWORMS technology, to pair words and phrases with a musical phrase or sound pattern, and it’s been proven that such pairing facilitates learning. So at night, as I’m falling asleep, or lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I have an EARWORMS lesson playing to lull me to sleep. Hearing the words and phrases repeated in this way helps solidify these words when I hear and/or see them in another context.
There are so many great products available for people to use. So often I’ve heard from people that they took 3-4 years of a language in high school, but even after all that learning couldn’t hold a real conversation with a native speaker. I’m not sure how all of my cramming of the language over these last months is going to serve me, but one thing I know for sure is that there are definitely phrases that stick with me. One I’m sure I’ll use a lot is, “SLOW DOWN PLEASE” or “I DON’T UNDERSTAND.”
Another big motivation to learn a new language is that I want to be able to speak with children, to have piano students again in Mexico. If these little dears don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish, it will be a lot of imitation learning going on. I’m envisioning a bit of a trade…I teach them how to play piano, and they teach me how to speak their language. Out of the mouths of babes, and so I will learn. Like the tables are reversed. We learn to speak as infants and toddlers from adults, and now I will be learning from the children. Such a beautiful thought!
Why is language important to you? Do you have a desire to travel abroad, or perhaps even retire abroad like we are? Why language is important can be different for each person. Maybe you want to have foreign exchange students, perhaps your job requires it. So what is your motivation to learn a new language? Think on that. We should always be ready for the next adventure. So why is language important to me – I want to be communication ready for my next adventure.