My Language-Learning Journey

My Language-Learning Journey

Hello guys! I hope that you’re having an absolutely beautiful day. ūüôā It has been quite a while since I talked about language learning (except for in practically every single Little Accomplishments, haha), so for today, that’s what I have written about! I’ve touched on this in the past, but it was one of the very first blog posts on my blog (haha), so I will expound on that post, go back a bit further, talk more about the present, stuff like that. If you’re interested, especially if you are learning or would like to learn a new language yourself, I’m sure that you will enjoy today’s post!

Exclusive English Speaker: My Childhood

Like many Americans, I grew up in a household that spoke only English. The only other languages I heard were fragments of conversations out in public, as well as the infrequent use of a foreign phrase, which really doesn’t count. As a whole, I had very minimal exposure to any language but English from the time I was a baby.

That is, any spoken language.

Do you know what ASL is?

American Sign Language and Learning New “Words”

When my little brother was a baby, and I was three to four years old, my mom discovered the world of baby signs. It is very much like American Sign Language (ASL), but only includes the basic signs babies and young children would want and need to use the most. She began using some signs to communicate better with Joshua, such as “more,” “eat,” and “drink,” and I was captivated. It was like this secret hand language that only my family knew, and while I can’t remember when exactly my fascination first began – maybe the first few times Joshua signed back? – but I quite quickly found it to be a lot of fun.

It wasn’t long before I’d learned to count to 10, sign off the alphabet, and express basic feelings and emotions, and my interest in this unspoken language has never gone away. ‚̧

The Art of ASL

Over the years, my family and I have learned so many signs. I have never sat down and attempted to list all the ones I know, as that would be quite a feat, but I’d say … maybe two hundred?? I have no idea. Anyway, I wanted to add to this post that ASL isn’t just a silent way of communicating; in my opinion, it is also a beautiful form of art.

Back when I was maybe eight or nine, I remember watching my mom sign along to a song we were listening to in the car at the time. I thought that this was the coolest thing EVER! It’s basically like dancing along to a song¬†with your hands – I mean, tell me, isn’t that insanely cool?! In the years that followed, I have signed along to songs I know the lyrics to, and also looked up signs to be able to do it more fully. It is an absolutely amazing experience, and absolutely free of charge, as well!

If for no other reason, I find that ASL comes extremely in handy when I need to ask my mom or brother something wordlessly. This can either be when I’m eating, or halfway across the room, or I have to be quiet for some reason. However, if I try to spell something in ASL, or use a complicated sign that only I know, it can get confusing really quickly, haha!! Still, they know all the main signs, so communicating simple things isn’t a big deal.

Taking A Second Language For School

My love for American Sign Language almost carried over into my education in 8th grade. The spring that I finished 7th grade, my mom told me I would need to take a second language as one of my subjects the following fall. So, I thought, “Oh, that’s cool! I’ll just take ASL.” Turns out, that’s not an official language you can learn and get academic credit; they just teach and approve spoken languages. lol I was extremely disappointed, though.

That summer, I checked out a French language course from the library and proceeded to teach myself the basics. I already knew that my mom wanted me to learn Spanish for school, not French, as it made more sense for where we live (little did we know it would make more sense for my future, too, haha), but I decided to go ahead and learn a bit of French, as well, as it’s a beautiful language and, at the time, I despised Spanish. I thought, why learn a language if it doesn’t look cool or sound pretty? I mean, what’s the point? xD

Ohh, younger me. There are so many points.

However, I didn’t enter 8th grade hating learning Spanish and barely living through the lessons. I didn’t keep up with French and secretly dedicate more time to that than my studies of the language I was actually required to learn. You know what happened?

My Introduction to Spanish

In 2013, I became friends with a family in our neighborhood whose parents only spoke Spanish. Over the course of the next few weeks that summer, I went from wanting nothing to do with the language, to needing to know as much as my friend could tell me so I could have short conversations with her family.

Looking back, I first thought that this immersion experience was a wonderful coincidence. I dropped French like it was hot (lol) and began learning Spanish that fall with ease. Getting to talk to someone who spoke the language and them understanding what I said when I spoke was (and still is!) one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, knowing another language and being able to communicate in a different way is an invigorating experience for me.

At the beginning of 2017, when I almost simultaneously found the app Memrise and learned of the Lord’s plans for me and Guatemala, I corrected my observation and acknowledged the fact that His hand has been at work in my life for years. ‚̧

Meet Maggie: Aspiring Polyglot, and Servant of The Lord

To some, it may appear that I simply love learning new languages – and I do. But that’s not the whole of it.

Someone greater than I can comprehend has ordained this for me. He has a purpose for my life that I can only begin to imagine. Every second is vital, and this time of waiting is not meant to be wasted.

I love learning Spanish because He has placed the passion in my heart. I love Guatemala because of where He has lead my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. It blesses me exceedingly to be able to do my part, and watch Him do the rest. ‚̧

Now, before I go, I’d like to cover two more things in this post: what languages I know and how much of each (estimated, haha), and the resources I’ve used for learning Spanish over the years. Let’s get into this!

The Languages I Know

{in order of fluency}

English – I have been speaking English my whole life, and there are now few words I don’t know. My only drawback is that because I read so much as a child, I “taught” myself to pronounce different words a certain way, which ended up being the wrong way. I occasionally misstep on how a word is said, and I get sooo embarrassed, haha! I’m an ace at punctuation, and I’m quite the expert at grammar, but the grouping terms (adverbs, participles, etc.) are way beyond me.

Spanish – For the past four years, I have been teaching myself Spanish with various digital resources (listed below). It has not been a consistent process – I’ve taken time off when I grew weary or lost interest in the program I was currently using – but it has been a great journey as a whole. I know all of the basics by heart, am quite good at tenses, and could probably hold a pretty decent conversation with a native speaker, although I haven’t gotten to do that in a while.

American Sign Language (ASL) – I’ve been learning signs since I was four years old, and while I couldn’t hold a real conversation with a deaf person, they would get a pretty good idea of what I was trying to convey, lol.

Portuguese (Brazil) – I have been teaching myself the basics for the past few months. It’s exciting when I’m able to catch on to the similarities of this language and Spanish, but I’m taking it slowly because I fear I will mix up the two languages in my head, and I don’t want to do that.

French – For the last couple of years, I have acquired the knowledge of basic phrases and some. It won’t get me very far, but I’m fine with it for now.

Dutch – I went through a phase back in ’14 where I read a lot of books by an author who was from the Netherlands, and I quickly fell in love with the country and its language. I took a few lessons on an app on my phone and learned the basics, but that was it, and my understanding is quite dusty by now.

4 Language-Learning Courses / Apps
That I Have Used

  • Instant Immersion. This is a complete course you can buy on Amazon for less than $100, but I would not recommend it. The information is good, yet the setup is poor; the man and woman speaking the phrases make unnerving facial expressions; and I actually doubt the legitimacy of some of the words and sentences now. It was a nice introduction for me, but please, get something else.
  • Fluencia. This is an online course that has different package deals (you pay for how long you intend on learning the language), and while I used this website, I was really happy with what I learned! I love the setup, the voices and phrases they chose, and the review sessions were amazing. The main thing I learned that has proved extremely helpful now was tenses. I’m so thankful for what it taught me! However, when I wanted to take a break from learning after nearly a four-month streak, my mom went to cancel our subscription, and they basically said because we weren’t going to be paying them money anymore, they terminated my account, which made me lose all my progress. DON’T GIVE THESE GREEDY PEOPLE ANY MONEY! I was planning on returning to using Fluencia after my break, but then I saw how awful the people behind it were! Please, invest in other language-learning software!
  • DuoLingo. This is a fan-favorite for people wanting to quickly pick up a language, as it’s free and the courses are pretty thorough, but I honestly think it could be better in so many ways. The woman’s voice they chose for the Spanish course is very monotone and puts me to sleep. Also, there are too many phrases that were irrelevant. For example, I’M NOT GOING TO USE “I AM A POTATO” IN REAL LIFE. xD As a whole, I did enjoy it for a while, but now I know that there are better options for me. If you want to try out DuoLingo for yourself, go for it. If you already love it, that’s awesome! Personally, I don’t enjoy it now, but to each his own.
  • Memrise. You guys have heard me rave about this, but if you want to hear me get all excited about it again, I highly recommend that you get Memrise! It is the best one I’ve tried so far, all the best features are free, and there are so many languages to choose from. Please, if you have an Apple or Android phone, or if you’re interested in doing it on your PC (they have an online version, which is also free! – not sponsored!), definitely try it out!

That’s all for today, guys! (And at almost 2k words, I should certainly hope so, lol.) Let me know in the comments below:

What language/s are YOU learning?

thanks to jirah and elline for my signature! xx

8 Awesome Second Language Learning Activities

8 Awesome Second Language Learning Activities

If you are interested in finding new ways to expose the little one/s in your life to the beauty of a new language, then you’re in the right place! On this post, I’ve compiled a list of¬†8 awesome second language learning activities that I’ve thought of, looked up,¬†and tried out myself. ūüôā

Typically, when you think of immersing children in a language that’s new to them, you think of high-cost programs, interactive TV shows, etc., but those aren’t the only resources out there! There are plenty of fun, free ways to teach children and let them have a great time, as well.

Related Post: 6 Ways To Make Second Language Learning Fun

Just remember that you don’t have to be proficient in the language yourself to teach your child! You can learn songs, read short books, do finger plays, play simple memory games, etc., and be learning right along with them. That’s what I’m doing, and I’m enjoying it just as much as my five-year-old brother!

I hope you enjoy this post!

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{Language Learning Activities}

1. Songs.¬†This is a great one for all ages! From nursery¬†rhymes to hit pop songs, there’s a large music selection¬†out there across a whole variety of languages. I’ve been listening to GallinaPintadita on YouTube recently because I’m¬†teaching my younger siblings Spanish, and “Los Pollitos Dicen” has been our favorite so far!

2. Finger plays. Look up “finger plays” in the language that you’re teaching and see what you find! I just did that myself, and I found an article on Google¬†that I’m going to have to read later hahahah

3. Simple conversation. Teach them words that they’d like to know in the new language! Bring up how to say different¬†subjects that they’re interested in, from cars, to toys, to animals,¬†and anything else, really. ūüôā

4. Digital activities. Computer games designed¬†for young children can easily be turned into a language learning experience if you talk about what they’re seeing and playing¬†in the new language, even if the game itself¬†is in English (or whatever language you two primarily speak). Be creative!

5. Books. This one’s my favorite! If you can get your hands on books written for children in the new language, then that’s a perfect way to immerse¬†your child (as long as they’re enjoying it!).¬†However, if you have to get picture books¬†or wordless books to discuss with them because you can’t get any in the language that you’re teaching, that works, as well. Visit your library and see what they have (unless you’re teaching a very young child, in which case I’d browse board books online).

6. Games. There are all sorts of games, from board games to card games to word games! Browse Google and see what you can find.

7. Flashcards. Depending on the child,¬†flashcards¬†can be very fun, or very boring. If you think your little one would enjoy flashcards (alphabet, animals, words, etc.), definitely give it a try! And if not … I wouldn’t recommend them. But don’t be discouraged! There are plenty of other fun ways to teach them.

8. Television. I don’t highly recommend this one, as studies done on children who watched foreign language shows have shown little to no signs of further language development, I thought I’d go ahead and list it as a possibility. This is because if you were to watch one of those shows with your child (Dora the Explorer or Handy Manny, for example) and talk about the show as you two watch it, that will be a¬†way better experience for them than if they watched it themselves!

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The key point throughout this whole post is that children will not be as receptive to a new language when left to learn it on their own. TV shows, books, computer games, interactive apps, and movies are awesome resources for doing with your child, not off by themselves.

Just like when¬†adults are learning a new language, children also learn best through experimentation; trying out new words, letting new sounds roll off our tongues, and growing more confident through praise and understanding. Simply watching and listening¬†doesn’t provide the same experience.

I hope that this post has helped and inspired you. If you have any suggestions of your own, please leave them down below!

How would YOU teach your child a new language?

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to help!

— Maggie

6 Ways To Make Second Language Learning Fun

6 Ways To Make Second Language Learning Fun

I understand that this post probably won’t be¬†relevant¬†for most¬†of my readers. Despite¬†this, I decided to still write it in the hopes that one day, I can inspire someone!

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve¬†been studying the subject of raising children to be bilingual. While I don’t have any kids of my own yet, I do have two younger siblings – a five year old and an eight month old – who I can easily start teaching the Spanish language!

No, they won’t grow up being bilingual, although that would be pretty cool! I don’t know enough of the language myself yet to be able to do that … but I can do different, fun activities with them to teach them the basics. I’ve already started doing that, and I’ll be sure to talk about that in my next post on this subject!

In this post, I’d like to share with you 6 ways to make second language learning fun – these are the best¬†tips for introducing a child¬†to a new language!

This is for anyone who would like to teach the little ones in their life a new language,¬†whether you’re aiming for bilingualism or a basic introduction to the language.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy.

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1. Be positive and encouraging. Children become more confident when praised, so if you encourage their progress, however fast or slow it may be, their enjoyment of the second language will be strengthened! Keep activities positive and enjoyable; children love to have a good time.

2. Tailor to their personal interests. For example, I chose several different Spanish books from the library the other day to read to my little brother. While one of the books had caught my particular interest, he preferred another book over it and chose that one instead. I let it go so that we could have a positive experience geared toward his interests, not mine.

3. Teach them when the time is right. If they’re not in the best mood when you’re about to sit down and do an activity with them, wait for another time. Make sure that language learning is always as fun as it can be, not something they feel they have to sit through.

Related Post: 5 Important Language Learning Tips

4. Encourage correct pronunciation, but don’t push it. Just like with a child’s first language, they won’t be able to pronounce every word correctly the first time – even several times! They will¬†learn¬†best¬†through trial and error, not frequent correction. Exhibit patience and kindness.

5. Let them learn in their own way. For example, if you’re primarily¬†singing songs in the new language with them, but they seem to get more out of looking at books written in the new language with you, read more books. Learning a new language, especially for children, has to be a fun process. It’s the easiest way for them to learn!

6. Always make it fun! Children love¬†to have a¬†blast!¬†Whatever you’ve decided to do with your child,¬†turn it into enjoyable activities for them. Kids need positive stimulation. And wouldn’t it be awesome if they looked forward to learning the new language because of how much fun you make it? That would be wonderful!

As you can see throughout these tips, the key word here is FUN! While learning a new language can often be a tedious process, it can also be an awesome journey for children. Be on the lookout for my next post, which will be about possible things you can do to teach your child a new language!

Thanks for reading!

Do YOU have any suggestions or questions about teaching children a second language? Leave them down below!

— Maggie