Practice Makes Confidence
No one can deny that the best way to learn a language is through immersion, but this is not always an easy thing to accomplish. The main reason immersion works so well is because it forces you to practice all day, every day and with practice, you build confidence. So for the unlucky majority that cannot drop everything and dive into another country, you have to find ways to practice. One thing that I struggle with while learning Spanish is my confidence, especially when I have not been practicing. Recently I have been doing a few things that have helped train my ear while still maintaining the hustle and bustle of a busy lifestyle. First, I have been going to Rojas Spanish once a week, attending group classes. This has been a great way to work on my conversation skills and practice with other people on the same skill level. Second, I have started to listen to music in Spanish while doing various activities. Finally, this one has been forced upon me through my Spanish class, but I have been reading short stories totally in Spanish. I have found ways to build my confidence through incorporating Spanish into my daily life.
Speaking in your native language is easy and comfortable, this was one of the reasons why I didn’t practice my Spanish as much as I should have. At the first sign of struggle, I would abandon my Spanish and fall back into my old English habits. This happened time and time again, mainly because I did not have the confidence to struggle it out and force myself to go through the motions, like a child trying to form their first word. Recently I have learned how this has hindered my ability to progress, I was stuck in this limbo of Spanish ability, not know when I would be able to escape. Slowly I started to see the way out, I started to find ways to practice in my every day routine. I felt myself gain confidence and start to speak out loud again, it was an invigorating feeling.
I fell in love with Spotify because they have sections of random music for discovery, all in Spanish. I started listening to the Spanish Spotify channels while driving, I even found a Spanish radio station, although I only get it in certain parts of the state. I also started listening to Spanish music while I work out at the gym, even when I am just cooking or cleaning. It has helped with my ear, I cannot understand everything they are saying and I cannot always follow the songs, but I can pick out phrases and I recognize subjunctive conjugations. The more I listen, the more my brain has to think in Spanish and the more comfortable and confident I get.
Speaking regularly is something I need to do much more. Rojas Spanish and my Spanish classes for my degree have started to guide me on the way back. One thing I have realized is that thinking in Spanish isn’t enough, it will not get you into the realm of fluency. You have to practice, with your mouth, en voz alto, out loud, for other people to hear you. I know this sounds freaky to some, as it definitely did for me, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. When you break that fear of speaking out loud, you can really watch you Spanish take off. Your mouth and brain start to work together and rather than worrying if you are speaking too slowly, or saying the wrong thing, you start to speak without having to think about what to say. This is exciting when you realize it is happening.
Reading is difficult, frustrating, all most impossible at times, but incredibly helpful in building grammar and structure to your Spanish writing and thinking. There is something about seeing the subjunctive in old Spanish cuentos and knowing why it is used, that makes me sleep well at night. For this one great moment of triumph and bliss, there are countless times I want to throw my computer out the window, or rip my printed out version of the story into shreds, but persistence pays off in the end. Also, does reading the same story in English right after I read it in Spanish to see how far off “My version” of the story is.
No matter how you do it, the most important thing to progress in your learning is through practice and building confidence. Everyone leads busy lives; this is not an excuse. You must find ways to innovate and incorporate it into your life, into you. The struggle is real, but triumph and success come through progress.