Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Language Learning Program That is Way Better than Rosetta Stone

Receiving my Advanced Spanish certification 
from El Sol language school in Lima, Perú

I had several jobs where hardly a day went by when I did not engage Spanish speakers or serve as an interpreter. One company gave me bi-lingual pay. Many people, especially native Spanish speakers, believed that I too was from a Spanish-speaking country, and were often surprised to the point of disbelief (and disappointment) to learn otherwise.

I am not a native Spanish speaker nor did I have an abundance of Spanish classes in school. The bulk of my Spanish learning came from self-teaching out of books and the use of self-made flash cards. However, I did have the opportunity to spend my vacations in two different Spanish-language intensive training programs in Cuba (legally) and in Perú where the instructors, tutors, and the families I stayed with speak Spanish only!

Arriving in Havana, Cuba (legally) to attend Spanish language intensive training through Global Exchange, Inc. based in San Francisco, California.

 I once had a supervisor who was so impressed with my Spanish that she asked me to help improve hers. The irony of her request was that she minored in Spanish in college. Why did she need “my” help of all people? The difference between her progress and mine was my constant attempts at immersion. I seized every opportunity available to engage monolingual Spanish speakers in conversation. Even if I only exchanged two words, every little bit helped to build my confidence and level of fluency.

  With one of my instructors at the El Sol 
Spanish School in Lima, Perú

Immersing oneself in a new language will result in much better results than any classroom. In fact, it is way better than the rave being advertised in the mediaRosetta Stone. For example, once I am in a Spanish-speaking country for more than two or three days, my Spanish flows like a river. I even had dreams in Spanish.

This is not to say one should abandon the classroom, Rosetta Stone, or any other mode of study as they all serve as solid foundations for learning a new language. However, I have found from personal experience traveling through nine different countries that the real learning comes through being so immersed in your new that language that you cannot fall back on your English because no one speaks it.

In just about every country, there are immersion schools that are relatively very inexpensive, where you can spend one, two, and three weeks or more with instructors, tutors, and families with whom you will be lodging and dining. They speak no English and will be interacting with you in their own language. This is a powerful way to develop foreign language skills.

Campus of the University of Havana, Cuba where I attended 
Spanish language intensive classes for foreigners

In one of my trips, I crossed the border from Ecuador to Perú by cab where within minutes I was stopped by the Peruvian National Police who seemed to have felt that I was either an illegal alien or was up to no good. Because the officer spoke no English, I was forced to answer his questions in Spanish, which inadvertently boosted my confidence in the language.

As the police officer walked dejectedly back to his patrol car seemingly because he didn't make a bust (or collect a bribe), I shouted to him Spanish, “THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME PRACTICE MY SPANISH!” My cab driver bubbled over in laughter as he watched the officer brush me off in disgust.

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