Tag Archives: Spanish

Making progress

polyglot

One of the aspects of learning more than one language that I have found difficult over the years is being able to jump from one language to another.

A while back I described the frustrating experience of happily speaking Welsh with friends and neighbours one week, having an Esperanto-speaking visitor come to stay for a few days, then opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish whenever anyone spoke to me in Welsh as my brain had completely switched into Esperanto and refused to go back!

I went to the Polyglot Gathering this time last year in Berlin, and my head was swirling – words from different languages jumbling themselves up in my brain so I didn’t know what language to speak at all!

What to do about it?

After giving it some thought I realised, of course, that the only way to master any skill is to practise it. If I wanted to be able to swap easily from one language to another, then that’s what I needed to practise. So I set about forcing my brain to cooperate: reading in Esperanto while listening to the radio in Welsh, sitting down to a Duolingo session practising one language after another, reading in one language and thinking how I would say that in another … and slowly, slowly it started to work.

It felt like my brain was physically resisting at first, then some kind of barrier went down – or perhaps a different neural pathway opened up – and all of a sudden it became a whole lot easier.

Spanish guests

Today I put my new skill to the test. After a whole week immersed in Welsh helping to run a SaySomethinginWelsh.com ‘bootcamp’ in Tresaith, I came home and welcomed Spanish-speaking AirBnB guests. We started chatting in English, discussing language learning in general – a common interest. I was asked about Esperanto and was able to produce a few Esperanto sentences without too much thought.

Then we decided to switch into Spanish! I was a bit rusty at first, but I didn’t have that ‘concrete in the head that won’t budge’ feeling that I used to get trying to swap, and lo and behold, the Spanish came flooding back and there I was chatting away in Spanish! Was I pleased with myself! Lucia is keen to improve her English so we’ve agreed to have language exchange sessions over Skype moving forward, selecting a topic beforehand so we can both research the vocabulary we need, then spending 15 minutes or so discussing the topic in one language, then the other.

And after my guests left, I immediately went back to thinking in Welsh! I might not be in the same category as some of the polyglots I’ve met, but I feel like I’ve climbed another rung of the ladder, and I’m definitely not slipping back down!

Fun with Speaky

Speaky
It had to happen! Duolingo has the cute green owl, the Welsh version is hoping to have Dewi-lingo, a cute red dragon (you didn’t see that coming, did you?) and now I’ve come across Speaky. Is it a bird? Is it penguin? Who knows? But Speaky is the character that represents a language exchange website that lets you find language ‘buddies’ for free and start practising your languages.

I thought I’d sign up today and have a look around to see what it offered.

I created my login and was asked to select the language/s I was learning and the language/s I spoke as a native speaker. As an aspiring Polyglot I chose Spanish, French, German and Esperanto as the former, and English and Welsh as the latter. You never know – I might find someone learning and wanting to practise Welsh!

Within 10 seconds a message popped up – “Hola” – and it was someone in Costa Rica happy to help me practise my Spanish. I didn’t expect that so quickly, but we chatted away using written Spanish for a few minutes, before I needed to think about other things such as cooking dinner and signed off again.

Next time I’ll make sure I have a bit more time available and explore some of the other options, like the voice chat. It seems the ‘live chat’ is still in Beta, but the interface is very user-friendly and it certainly seems like a great option for improving conversational ability in another language without the expense of actually going there.

Definitely worth a try!