I remember my first interactions with other languages (in lessons, watching movies, exchange classmates at Uni). I often thought how strange it is that one sound can represent different things, and that we all secretly tacitly agree on the meaning of sounds, when in reality these stimuli mean nothing. In my English or Japanese classes in Chile six years ago (even though I sometimes did the bare minimum), I frequently got lost in thought and meditated on what is hidden in what we say; what remains invisible and ineffable in our words? Languages and communication have played a big part in my life ever since.
I learned about linguistics at university, an unavoidable subject for psychology. I found a repertoire of peculiar concepts that try to portray (barely) the complexity of reality. And there was something about these theories that struck me: reality is unattainable, and probably the meaning of things too. We are tied to signifiers, chained to words that forcefully distance us from the reality we observe.
This reflection blew my mind. I soon understood that languages are poor attempts to reach the reality of things, the most intimate essence of nature. They are our strategy to avoid falling into madness, they are a lifeline that keeps us afloat in a hallucinatory river. We are shipwrecked in an ocean we don't understand and words are all we have.
We learn and teach languages to acquire more words, to add links to those chains, and feed that unfortunate illusion of being closer to truly understanding things and fill the void with meaning. It is captivating that in other languages there are more concepts to describe emotions or gestures, or more words to talk about nature or the universe, or hierarchies and sounds. Each language shows us new ways of understanding the world and tells us which areas are a priority for each culture. In that lexical whirlwind, I am looking for a word that quenches that thirst for understanding, a word that will erase me permanently.
Studying languages, these have been my most significant findings:
Avec le français j'ai l'impression de visiter la face cachée de la lune. Tout est si familier et si sombre à la fois. Avec le français j'enseigne la profondeur à mon âme.
O português me faz sentir em casa, como se eu pudesse ser eu mesmo mas com uma dança diferente. É a minha língua sem disfarce. Eu revivo a história do meu sangue estrangeiro.
Parlare in italiano è tessere spartiti, infrangere il significato, recitare poesie sull'impossibile.
El español es mi arma para derrotar la intimidad del verso. Arar con espadas versos sanguinarios, porque el destino de la poesía es agotar el sentido, hasta que toda la humanidad sea enmudecida.
It is an enriching opportunity to talk about personal experiences regarding languages and social interaction. Throughout the learning process, we get the chance to know about others’ opinions, interpretations and worldviews. Also the gratitude of those who enjoy learning as I do.
For many students this is their first time studying an additional language. This can mean that they feel insecure and have difficulty adjusting to conditions and activities in the classroom. There are a lot of linguistic concepts and vocabulary that they often do not know and that must be acquired during the course. It can be difficult for the teacher to manage the expectations of the students regarding their speed of learning and their short- and long-term goals. I always suggest that they try to make the most of every moment and enjoy both the negative and positive aspects of learning something: the confusion, the faux pas, sudden discoveries, etc.
Most students are afraid of making mistakes when speaking which is quite anxiety-provoking. I can relate with that as we have all gone through that situation in which we are asked to respond quickly and we just go blank for a few minutes. That fear is partially appeased when we focus on communication, when we feel at ease speaking about a topic we are keen on, or when speaking with cordial people. Mistakes will still be there, but they will not seem as bad as they used to.
It is advisable that students read relevant vocabulary before every class and complete the tasks contained in the homework regularly. Taking notes about spontaneous questions or insights that may arise daily (outside of the class) can ease someone into sharing during a lesson. It is important that grammar be given priority when practicing any language, but also we must ask ourselves what makes us tick, what interests us about the target topic, and what our strengths may be. Grammar is often deemed to be the most complex and dull aspect, but it is essential to get the course off the ground.
If we just hear and write new words, we will not learn how to use them properly. Repetition is helpful, but it is also crucial to create sentences that make sense in certain situations. Once we make up phrases using new vocabulary correctly, we turn those words into our own words. That way we can “quarry” words out of a dictionary and store them permanently in our minds.
Not sure which course is right for your Spanish level? Test your Spanish level now!
Ready to start learning? Find a class and enrol now!
By David Paredes
August 30, 2023
What's cooler than a tote bag? A tote bag filled with your Spanish books - duh! But seriously, these bags are strong, made from natural canvas and built to last. Perfect size for your textbooks…