In yesterday’s ESL class, we read an article about literacy journalism pioneer “Dr Bob” Laubach. Laubach was born into a family that had literacy in their blood. His parents were missionaries in the Philippines and they taught the Maranoa people to read.
This article reminded me of this meme I keep seeing on my Facebook timeline:
— Richie (@RichieInLondon) December 6, 2014
As I conjugate verbs and complete my Spanish homework with sentences that are probably on a first-grade level, I can understand the frustration of trying to express myself in another language.
Recently I began speaking to a family from Guatemala who lives near my day gig. After picking our way through introductions, where they were from, and how old the kids were, I was at a loss for conversation. They looked at me expectantly, I looked at them and then we kind of drifted apart.
I want this past year of tangling with Spanish to MEAN something. I have a goal to proudly display “Se Habla Espanol” on my business cards. I want to feel like I’m making beautiful music rather than the garbled mangling I do now. I also want to have more ammunition for my next push to move to New York.
Here are some of the things I discovered while learning a new language.
- Pretend you are on a cooking show. Food continues to be the international bond and labeling things in the kitchen won’t cause too much side eye from your spouse.
Be childlike – don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I still use my daughter’s loud declaration of the “ME-nited States” when I teach Civics class. The Boy used to call the remote the “jamoke” and would tell anyone who listened that I go to Wawa “all da days (every day)”. Learn from a child. Learn with abandon!
Practice, practice, practice. Amazon Prime has a wide array of books written in other languages. If Amazon is not your thing, Google can provide easy to read books. The library is also an amazing resource. Most libraries have access to language learning software.
Use it or lose it. Learn the basics of the language (the most frequently used nouns, verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, adverbs) and the question words (who, what, where, when, why, and how). This sets a firm foundation. From here, you can expand your language skills.
Learning a new language takes time and patience. As I watch my ESL students master English, I know that it can be a delightful way to create new relationships.