One on one is key, but not without vocabulary!

By Helena Rainert

One on one lessons are the way to go if you want to have a real shot at learning a language. Both you and your teacher are able to work together at a pace that suits you and you are able to identify where you are struggling.

This is what I realised in my second lesson with Spanish and Beyond, it has allowed me to see where my weaknesses and strengths lie when speaking Spanish.

Whilst I am good at structuring my sentences, where I need a lot of help is with my vocabulary. I find that I am able to convey what I mean quite well in English however when it comes to translation I lack the correct terms. ago2016_11

The conversation sheets my teacher and I covered today were very useful in trying to get my words out into coherent sentences. Whilst heading straight into conversation worksheets is intimidating for someone lacking in vocabulary these sheets helped to guide me as they included glossary terms so I could identify the words I didn’t understand, they also gave suggested sentence starters some of which I have never seen before these allowed me to think about how to say what I wanted to say in differing ways.

In speaking with my teacher I’ve learnt that vocabulary is extremely important to learning a language. While its all well and good to get the basics under control grammatically and structurally, I’ve realised that I need to branch out a bit more and try to speak about different topics rather than just going over what I already know.

A great way to do this is by exposing and immersing yourself in the language, this can be through music, by listening to songs in Spanish or even by watching movies or TV shows in Spanish.  By listening and watching you are able to identify some words you already know and then look for the meaning of words you don’t know, all to do with specific contexts.diciembre-011

Through exploring and trying new things your vocabulary will increase, its almost like learning to speak as a baby, except this time its in a new language and you have the problem of already being fluent in one language and trying to express these fluent thoughts in the second language. It does get quite complicated and confusing. Sometimes I find that in the middle of a Spanish sentence I’ll accidentally say a word in English without realising. This is what happens when you’re juggling two languages whilst trying to translate in your head. However with a lot of practice I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

Practice is key to fluency and comprehension. I have signed up to WhatsApp with Spanish and Beyond and now receive audio recordings of questions in Spanish particular to my interests. These audio recordings allow me to study and hear the pronunciation of each word and where the inflection is in the sentence structure, I am then able to record myself repeating these questions as well as answering them to the best of my ability in Spanish and send them back.  This is great as it allows for a focus on my pronunciation techniques and correction of my accent. By working with another person – the WhatsApp recordings and the Skype lessons- mean that I can iron out any mistakes I make, rather than simply repeating and learning the wrong ways to say things, when I’m practicing alone. febrero-08

By taking part in the Spanish and Beyond lessons I find I’m much more engaged and immersed in learning then in class, as in a group its often easy to get lost and fall behind. The one on one lessons are showing me where I need to improve as they’re quite individually catered and I feel this individual assistance is key to being able to master a new language.

Hesitation of first Spanish lesson…. turns into a drive for more!

By Helena Rainert

When you say to people that you study Spanish (or any language) as part of your degree at university, there is this pre conceived notion that all of a sudden you’re a linguistic genius who can understand anything that they decide to put in front of you. This I can tell you is not true, especially not at all for a beginner like myself.

My total exposure to the Spanish language before I began studying at uni can be summed up by having learnt the lyrics to the song ‘Ayer’ by a Mexican band named Disidente for a high school talent show with my Best friend.  blog-1

I’ll admit I thought I did pretty well and my best friend who is part Mexican, said my pronunciation was quite good. This however did not prepare me at all for the undertaking of learning a second language as an adult.

I think we take for granted how easy it is as English speakers, due to the universality of our language to converse globally, and so feel there is no need to learn a secondary language. However, knowing and being able to converse in a second language is an extremely beneficial skill to have and a language with a wide international reach such as Spanish will, as my mother says ‘open doors to you!’ screen-shot-2017-04-20-at-1-42-57-pm

I study Spanish as part of an International Studies degree at UTS and next year I will be travelling to Spain to live and study for a year at one of their universities.

I began language classes at the start of semester one in 2016 and overall have completed about 100 hours of Spanish language, which is the scheme of things isn’t much! I know this because I have an uncle from Chile who, since finding out I have begun to learn Spanish will try to hold a conversation with me, where I flounder about trying to get my words together in order to speak in coherent sentences and end up looking as though I haven’t done any practice.

It is really disheartening being unable to converse, especially after all the time and effort you’ve put into trying to learn the language. It is also extremely stressful when the departure date for your year abroad is drawing closer and you feel like you can’t hold even the simplest of conversations.screen-shot-2017-04-20-at-1-42-51-pm

As a result of this I was extremely nervous and apprehensive about my first online Spanish lesson with Spanish and Beyond, I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was worried it would be me sitting in front of a screen with some unapproachable stranger on the other side expecting me to fluently express myself. Should I have prepared material in advance?

What I experienced however was something completely different. My teacher and I were able to hold conversations with a mix of English and Spanish sentences. I was able to tell her about my concerns with conversational talking and how I felt more comfortable with reading as there was more time for translation then when I was trying to speak. The first lesson was about assessing where I was at with learning the language, having come away from that experience I am already feeling more confident in my ability and feel that the goal of becoming fluent is achievable.

I thought that hosting the lesson over Skype would be uncomfortable as the teacher would be watching my pronunciation and my face as I tried to think of what words to say. But this is exactly what makes these types of lessons work and much more beneficial than just simply conversing on the phone with my uncle or best friend. My teacher is able to correct my pronunciation and I am able to watch hers and learn.

She can also see when I am finding it difficult to express what I want to say in Spanish and so knows that when I revert to English it’s not because I am lazy.

Spanish is a very fast language and it’s easy to lose track of what people are saying when you can’t see them saying it. My teacher and I are able to work through the work sheets together at the same time allowing me to raise any concerns I have with word meanings and verb conjugation instantly as she is just on the other side of my screen.

I am more comfortable now with the idea of learning Spanish through Spanish and beyond, my teacher understands where I am at and can tailor the work to a pace I find manageable. I’m not expected to have an almost fluent grasp of the language and the lessons are really fun and welcoming.

I was surprised by how fast my hour with my teacher flew by and how much content we were able to cover in what felt like a short time span. I was able to connect with my teacher Natalia and found that the person on the other side of the screen was not an unapproachable stranger, but someone there to help.