My Language-Learning Journey

My Language-Learning Journey

Hello guys! I hope that you’re having an absolutely beautiful day. 🙂 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

5 Important Language Learning Tips

5 Important Language Learning Tips

In the summer of 2013, I had to pick a foreign language to study. It was partly for my schoolwork, but it was also simply for pleasure.

At first, I desired to learn French, so I got the resources that I needed to do so. But I quickly realized that the most worthwhile choice for me would be to learn Spanish – and I’m so glad that I made the decision to switch!

In these past three and a half years, I’ve tried out different programs, played language learning apps, and watched educational videos. With my [pretty limited, haha] knowledge, I have come up with a list of 5 important language learning tips for anyone learning a new language. Whether you just started, or you’ve been learning for years, I’m sure that at least one of these tips can help you. I hope you enjoy!

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1. Memorize verb conjugation. I can’t say that I have this one down myself as of yet, but it’s still very important to do! Depending on the verb and the language, conjugation has different forms, but I found that after choosing a single verb (I selected ‘ir’; Spanish for ‘to go’) and memorizing its endings, I am now more easily able to remember other Spanish verbs. It isn’t foolproof, but it does help me to quickly be able to recall those pesky conjugations.

2. Learn as much as you can, as often as you can. Depending on how much time you desire to put into this, your personal preferences will determine how quickly you progress. For example, I’m choosing to only learn Spanish through free apps for the time being, so as I feel inspired, I complete lessons. It isn’t much, but I’m still getting to daily interact with Spanish. Just remember that the more exposure you have to the new language, the faster you’ll learn!

Related Post: About My Passion for Spanish + The Best Language-Learning App!

3. Try to relate new words to words you’re already familiar with. I’m not able to do this very often, but when I can, it is very helpful! For example, the word for ‘cold’ in Spanish is ‘frío,’ which looks a lot like our word ‘freeze,’ which relates back to ‘cold’! That makes it so much easier for me to remember.

4. Use your knowledge to create your own sentences. I’m not talking about the sample sentences they have you memorize on educational apps – however, those are helpful! I’m talking about using what you know of the language you’re learning and making your own sentence/s. For example, tengo un perro. I don’t actually, as a matter of fact, but that was just to show you a sample sentence – one that I didn’t memorize, but can create with what I know of Spanish. 😂

5. Be optimistic! Depending on why you’re learning a foreign language, you may either be enjoying the learning process, or absolutely despising it. If you are enjoying learning, that’s awesome! But whether you’re required to do this, or not, try to be as optimistic as possible; everyone has a unique way of learning, and everyone learns at different speeds. Just because you’re not progressing as fast as you think you should be, or as a fast as someone else is, doesn’t mean that you’re not doing beautifully.

Are you interested in learning a completely new language, or picking up where you left off on one you know a bit of? I recommend checking out the apps (not sponsored) Duolingo and Memrise. Both are available for FREE in the App Store, and Memrise has its own website, as well!

Thanks for reading!

What are YOUR language learning tips? Share them down below!

— Maggie