As I mentioned in a previous post, next year we are going to be living in the U.S. I’m doing a masters in clinical social work with a specialization in trauma counseling and refugee issues. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know how important these issues are to me. I have already chosen my classes, and I am in the process of finding a field placement to start in September. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I think, if it were next year already, I’d be on my way to learn about human behavior or to meet trauma patients! I’m excited about it.
During these last few months, I am trying to enjoy the things I’ll miss about Morocco (like pomegranates), and to prepare for next year. One thing I’ve been doing is studying Spanish at the local Instituto Cervantes. I studied Spanish in school, but I want to be at a level where I’m comfortable having a conversation or giving information, as I think that will be really useful as a social worker in the U.S. I’m also enjoying the opportunity to study another language now that I have more language learning tools under my belt. Here are some things I’ve learned from studying French (more info on that process here) and from teaching English.
- There is no reason to be embarrassed about making mistakes. When I was learning French, I felt like it was like riding a roller coaster because I would get so emotional about successes and failures. It might be easy to worry whether my fellow students like me or think I’m smart, but it is more important for me to practice speaking Spanish than to not say something stupid in front of a group of people I don’t know that well.
- Motivation is perhaps the most important factor in language learning. Learning a new language takes time, so it is crucial to be dedicated and to put in time studying, listening to music, reading, and reviewing. Three hours a week of class isn’t enough for anyone to learn a language, so it is really up to the student to learn or not.
- Personally, I study best alone. I think everyone needs to find how they learn best, and I make the most progress reading and doing exercises by myself. I love to read, so finding books I like makes a huge difference for me.
- You don’t need to find a special method or spend a lot of money to learn a language. I find that one of the best ways to practice is just to try to describe a situation in my head in Spanish while I’m walking to work. For example, I’ll imagine that my teacher might ask me what I did last weekend, and I’ll go through my answer in my head. Once I get a chance, I’ll look up whichever words I wanted to use but didn’t know. This is a good way to expand useful vocabulary.
- Finally, language learning is a lot of fun. Once I got to the point in French where I was no longer translating in my head but instead was just coming up with what I wanted to say, it started to be so much fun to speak in French. Once I realized that I could read novels or watch movies in French and enjoy them, a new world of culture, literature, film, and friendships opened up to me. I can’t wait to have the same experience with Spanish!