One thing that parenthood has taught me is that it is a million times easier to learn something as a child, than it is to learn something as an adult. I’ve learnt this big time as I’ve attempted to learn Spanish over the last few months.
When it became clear that the children really loved learning Spanish I decided to take a look around to see what adult language courses were available. I very nearly did a Spanish a few years ago, but instead signed up to do a sewing course instead. Anyhow, after a bit of searching I came across a couple of local language courses. The most local one wasn’t able to get the minimum number of students so it was unable to run so I signed up to a ten week course with ABLE Manchester. ABLE are based in the city centre and I opted to take the Monday night sessions.
I think it’s really hard to pitch a language learning session to adult learners. We are, naturally, more self conscious as adults and we know that our pronunciation is going to be off. Plus, the motivator for learning the language is different for everyone there. For me, it was because I want to help the children as they learn and if and when we travel a little with the children I want to be reasonably confident in talking to people. The course started with eleven students, two of whom could speak Spanish pretty well (one had lived in Mexico for a short time) and others were learning for holidays or because they were planning to travel around Spain or Spanish speaking countries.
We all wanted different things from it, and probably all took different things away. For me, I was keen to get to know a few basic phrases so that when the children are learning, I can help. I also wanted to get into a bit of the technical aspect of the language too; conjugating verbs and the such. The ten week course was at a fast pace and we covered a huge amount. I’ve learnt a lot but I think I’ve also learnt a bit too about how I learn and the things that have helped me. For others embarking on a language learning programme I wanted to share my top tips:
1 – just book onto a course. There really is no substitute for getting time with someone to learn a language. If you can learn with a native speaker even better. A quick google for your local area should show which centres have spaces and the start of the academic year is often a time when further education colleges open up their classes. I booked with ABLE as the price for the course was competitive and it fit at a time of day I can do, but there were a good number of options available with a range of providers so do spend a bit of time looking around and I am sure you will find something.
2 – repeat, repeat, repeat. I have found that repeating things really helps. I try to spend time re-reading the materials from each session and try and pass some of what I have learnt on to Mr D and Miss E. Repeating and re-reading the handouts seems to help to keep things in my mind.
3 – invest in come GCSE level workbooks – I picked up a couple of books from Amazon aimed at key stage 3 / GCSE age range. These are really good as they’re in sections so I’ve been able to find the section that covers the work completed at each session of my class. I want to be able to read Spanish as well as listen and speak it, so having these books is a good way of testing my ability to read and write Spanish.
4 – Download Duolingo – if you’ve not heard of this it’s an app that covers a whole range of languages and it is a really neat way of testing your knowledge. You can set a daily target of how long you want to play on it for and even link with other users to create a competition etc. It’s very good and I like to dip into it on those rare occasions I have a quiet ten minutes.
5 – Sing! Seriously there are some amazing YouTube channels out there dedicated to teaching children to learn languages. I learn things really well through song – something I’ve learnt with the children and their lessons. The rhythm helps me to recall pronunication and the words etc. Pocoyo is a great cartoon that the children watch (and I’ll listen along too!) and there are some fab songs. My own Spanish playlist is here if you want to check out our favourites but there are many others too that we haven’t yet added.
I’m now almost halfway through my the second course with ABLE Manchester and I’m not too sure what I will do when this one finishes; I don’t think they offer a course after this one. I know I want to continue doing something – whatever form that takes so I may look for another course or make sure I take a couple of hours out each week to learn – maybe heading for a walk somewhere with my books and notes. I’m not sure yet.
What are your top tips for learning a new language as an adult and what are your must have resources?