So this is my story as a language learner.
I was born in a Spanish speaking Caribbean country. In my country we start learning English as a foreign Langeuage in Preschool, (3rd grade to be precise, at least in most Private Schools) we also start learning French in 5th grade. My experience with these two languages has been extremely disappointing, however; I must say, I have no one to blame for that but me. As a kid I though that learning languages was stupid and a waste of time, I mean I was only about 8-9 years old so it’s not like I know what the heck I was talking about. In my private School both English and French were actually really good, they even had international teachers and all, but I never really cared about any of those subject while I was there. I was very stubborn, my dad sometimes would make me watch movies in English with Spanish subtitles and I would start begging him to change the channel and start crying until he finally gave in and put something else in Spanish. So overall, I the my attitude toward English was mainly: -“why bother I don’t leave en England so there is no need for that.” I attitude toward French was even worse, also very close-minded, even for a child. The only real reason we are, forcedly I used to say, taught French in School is because there are a lot of French speaking immigrants in the country from the Lesser Antilles and Haiti. I I always felt that I should not be forced to leaner a language in order to speak to a foreigner in my own country, and I remember always thinking “it’s so unfair, why don’t THEY learn Spanish!” I feel ashame now for thinking tha way. I used to be such a brat that I can’t even begging to describe how disappointed I am at my former self for not taking the opportunites I have to learn more than one language. Then again, part of it was also as a direct result of all the nationalistic propaganda in the media during the 90’s. They used to think back then that French speaking Immigrants were going to take over the country and invade us and what not. (You have to study our history to understand that part).
I must say though, even with all that recenment I have for learning a foreign language, I was actually making little stride with my English, by the time I was 11 I was able to make small talk with my teacher and classmates. I guess 1 hours of English classes and 1 of Watching Blue’s clues at the School Library every day would do that to you. French, on other hand, was not a priority in my school so I was only taking 2 hours a week but not Like I care at the time anyways.
By the time I was in 6th Grade, I started to take English a little more serous, I don’t know how, or why but somehow it became some type of competition in class with all of my classmate. We would make fun of one another for mispronouncing a basic word, we would brag about who got the best grade Exams, etc. And Weirdly enough that was actually a good motivation for me, apparently , childs don’t want to be made fun of, who knew.
During most of my time in that School I was usually a B Student, not because I wasn’t able to get straight A if I wanted to but because I always felt as a kid that, why should I spend my whole afternoon studying for school and get an A, when I can just pay attention in class and write notes, and once I’m home I can spend my entire day playing ball with my neighbors at the park?, after all a B was also a passing grade. Anyways, This is only relevant, because of what I’m about to tell know guys now; After 7th grade, my school was bought by a University, which converted the school in an outreach University campus. That meant that I was forced to change schools. Right about that time, my dad had lost his job, He was actually my school’s principle, talk about being made fun of in school LOL, so when they closed the school he had to find something else to do. We weren’t in the best of shapes, money-wise so that meant no more fancy privet school for me. I ended up in a Public school, (yuck!! I thought). Needless to say, English taught in that excuse of school was just horrible, HUH-RARE-BOLL, like Sir Charles would say. And French, well, what can I say they didn’t even teach French there until High School. The reason why I talked about my grades earlier was mainly because when I arrived there I all of the sudden became an A student, funny thing about it is, I was studding less, partying more, paying less attention in class (I used to bring a gameboy to class and sit in the back, I beat Mario Bros in only 3 weeks son!!!, represet ya ‘no im sayin’) but somehow I was all of the sudden the school prodigy, the best student, the one who knew everthing. And the reason for this for pretty obvious, How many years do you need to study the verb “to be” or the colors or to count to 10 in school to finally learn them? Well, as I found out in my new school, not that many. Every year they would rehearse the same material from the year before and teach us the same, pardon my freach, douche, again and again and again. By the time I was moved to a different school I could conjugate the heck a of the the verb “to be” with my eyes closed and my hids tied behind my back, I swear I could.
It was really bad for my English overall and I forgot most of what I had learnt before; and my French, well lets just say that , there isn’t a “my French” anymore, that poor guy died a long time ago, and I could not resuscitate him, no matter how much CPR I tried on him.
My dad being a former teacher himself, who had self taught himself some basic conversational French, (he’s family was from France but migrated to the Caribbean during WI) was quick to notice that I was getting worse by day, so he signed me up for some some classes at the American Embassy School (““thank you so much for making British Accent incomprehensible for me””) during the summer, and then also after school. I had to start from zero again as a false beginner, which was rather frustrating because I always felt the classes were so slow and boring but regardless, my English started to take off again.
When I reached sophomore year my dad got a job at a very respectable Bilingual school and he decided that I would benefice from going there. After a lot of arguring and telling him that he was the world worst that every time I had the chance, sorry pops, I was off to a new school. English there was so advance that I needed a private tutor, just to catch up so I wouldn’t fail school, which I did anyways al least my English literature class, I had never failed a class in my life so that really scared me for good. I again became a rather average student, at least that’s the story what my grades told, funny (or not) enough I never felt like I worked so hard in school before as when I was there, I guess that how you know you are in a good school.
Long story short, by the time I graduated from school high I had decent intermediate English level but I was able to talk about anything for an extended period of time in that language, mind with a very limited vocabulary.
French, I was never able to learn actually, I had to cheat my way through high school in this subjet, (you do what you gotta do LOL). After High School I was set in going to one of the best Universities in the country, Long story short (I have to stop overusing this phrase), I didn’t, I could not afford it. I had send an application to an American University in the USA, with little hope of ever getting in, not sure why though, it wasn’t that competitive school anyways, it’s not like I wanted to go to Harvard. Either way, when I found out that I got in I made it my mission to immerse myself in the English language before I even set a foot in the USA. I stop listening to all my favorite spanish music (See you latter Alex Ubago) and started only listening to English music (Hello Nickelback, just kidding, not in a million years), I even bought and IPod (back then they were cool, you know) just so everywhere I would go I could be listening to the Languae nonstop, I would even put it on with I would go to sleep. That summer I found out that the brain is supprisingly a mussle too, and juts like any mussle it can get very tired, and supprisinly again, sore, (yeah I inflicted pain on myself by listening to music, and here I thought only Justine Briber could do that.) I would only watch American TV, which we actually had ton of in my country, and for some reason I never thought that would be a good way to learn English before. By the way, I can’t believ that Dawson and Joey did not end up together, they were perfect for each other.
By the time I was in the USA, my English had never been better, I started to hear sound that I didn’t even know existed in the language, and felt embarrassed for taking me this long to realized that I was mispronouncing 90% of everything I was saying. The thing about learning a language in your own country is that they never teach you phonetics, they just teach you how to mimick a foreign sound using the similar sound you already have in your mother tongue, like saying the “soft” (or is it hard?) the sounds like Spanish Z instead of treating the new sound as just that new sounds. A technique only makes you sound like a banner who just crossed the boarder. (I can say that, I’m Hispanic) Anyways batman, Im not here to talk about techniques I know I will ended up being embarrassed in a forum like this one if that ever cross my mind. (But just for the fun of it, with I’m stating here that I will learn native-like Basque in 3 month!!! Before yo can even say , “say what?” pls Steve don’t ban me LOL)
Ok, so after getting a little of topic and after my telling you my language learning odyssey, I am getting to what I finally wanted to say. German, my archnemesis.
So my story with German begins like this, after somewhat succeeding with my English (I still had to take some stupid remedial English classes for international student at my American University, which I totally aced even though I only attended classes the day I had a test and never ever opened a book, which just says how useful there these classes they made me pay for are, nut that’s another story) and totally failing French to the point that I can not even recall a single word I ever learnt before. It was recommended by my English Composition Professor (you know the one English class native speakers usually have to take and later get embarrassed on by some Chinese student) that I should try to study German, not to become fluent but because I would make me a better English Speaker and expand my knowledge of the language and help me with pronunciation. I gotta say that at first I was a bit confused, what does German has to do with English and how learning a language with help me with a totally different one? But I did it any ways cause, you know, she is a university professor, I’m a nobody so she should probably know. After I started self teaching myself German I finally understood what she meant. I felt like my English vocabulary and understanding the grammar was growing so fast just by studying German.
And then it happened. I felt in love with the language, I was no longer studying German to expand on my English but to one day become proficient. I was studying German for no other reason that because I wanted to study German. As a Spanish speaker I was amazed at how easy it was for me to pronounce the language; Though, grammar and sentence structure, were a different animal all together. I started learning German with Pimselur’s because it had a lot of English in it recording which I liked, that way I felt I was studying both German and practicing my English at the same time. I would listen to a lesson 4 or 6 times a day before you would go to the next lesson, I would then listen to Michel Thomas, and whenever I had time I would play around in LiveMocha and Byrk Transparent language, I think it was called (a free software, Rosetta Stone copycat type of thingy). I don’t want to make my story about German long, I still have nightmare about the Germanic Devil visiting me in my sleeps so I let me just finish with this, after a couple of months I just left like I was not making any progress, I felt unmotivated and I just could not keep studying the language anymore. It was unbearable, my love for the language had vanished, I felt like Pimsleur’s was painfully slow, and I hated the whole grinding-your-way-to-a-native-like-accent method. Michel Thomas was little better, but I just could not retaining anything from his recordings, he went to fast, and I don’t know how to explain it but his English accent made me sleepy, I really don’t know why, but Michel Thomas had the gift of putting me to sleep a A matter of seconds. LiveMocha to me was more a tool to find othe rpeopel interested in language than a method I would use to learn.
So I decide to start learning the Language the way I finally leant English after all my failed mass attends, by watching movies and listening to music 24/7. But that failed too, it was simply impossible to find anything in German in the States without paying a fortune. Yeah I wanted free stuff, go ahead crucify me. I could only find copies of German Movies (not Hollywood movies in German that would defict the porpuse) on VHS tapes format and in bad condition on Ebay, with no subtitles at all. I could not find anything in my public Library here in the States and waiting for a copy to be deliver from a different state could take months. I would listen to music on youth but to find the lyrics was also a mission. So I finally, gave up German for good. I never even reach beginner level, if there is a level below beginner, well, that was me.
So German was also another huge mass second failure for me, just like French, I least I never actually liked French, so with German I took it a little more personally. After that I never tried to learn another langue. Until now.
I’m now in need of learning a new language, Portuguese. But not because I like it to want to go to Brazil for vacation or anything like that. You see, after I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality I got a job at a Hotel in Miami Beach. If you now anything about Miami Beach is that about 60% of the tourists here are Brazilians, most Brazilians speak really bad English or don’t speak it all all, so knowing Portuguese would give me an advantage in this current market. Besides, I am tired of people coming to me the frotn desk and asking me in a perfect Spanish accent if I speak Spanish , and after I say yes, start bombarding me in the most rapid Portuguese humanly posible (I really find that so rude) like I understand a word they are saying, and the funny thing is that if I asked then to slow down or repeat themselves the get mad at me and demand to speak with a “real” Spanish Speaker. LOL I guess I have been faking my native language the whole time, who would have known.
Anyways, I just want to learn Portuguese know after totally and miserable failing in my attend to self teach myself German, and my high school French bad expereicens, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes.
My point with this whole post is, basically after telling you guys my whole life experience with learning languages and how it has not worked out at all for me, except with English (but that does not count, everyone speaks English anyways) what do you guys think I might have done wrong and how can I avoid doing these same mistakes again?
What do you think I did right? And base on your own experience what will guarantee that I don’t end up quitting Portuguese too, like German? (I least I have been able to find some Brazilian movies with subs on DVD format so that’s a start. I love you Cidade de Deus!!!)
Also, I was thinking of learning Japanese side by side with Portuguese, and dedicate about 80% of my time in Portuguese, and about 20% in Japanese, so I am doing that so I can stay motivated, because I get bored very easily when I focused on one sigil thing for way too long. I need more variety in my life so I don’t feel suffocated. DO you think this is a good strategy?
Please feel free to critic and criticizes me and my method of learning languages as much as you want, I will not get upset. I just want constrcutive criticism and your honest opinion.
so to sum it all up basically I guess what I’ really asking is what is wrong with me? why can’t I learn a foreign language?
Other thing you should know about me is that I am really bad a summarizing thoughts and I like to write, lol I’m sorry I didn’t know it was going to come out so huge