In this video I’m going to be sharing a little bit about my Spanish journey, we will also be touching upon my experiences with Italian and French, because obviously all of the things that I gained and learned from studying those languages is now being applied to learning Spanish.

Foreign language

So, a little bit of background on my history with the Spanish language. I started studying Spanish at a very young age, it was the only foreign language that is offered at my elementary school, so I did have a Spanish class. I don’t remember how often but every week I definitely had a Spanish class and I did quite well in Spanish. We only ever learned things like the present tense, colors, days of the week, very basic things. And then, once I left elementary school and went to high school, that’s when I started studying Italian, because Italian was offered at my school. So, I do still remember all of those very basic things about Spanish : colors, days of the week,… I could just say hola me llamo Tomas. I can say stuff like that because I just remember it. However, that’s only gonna take you so far when you decide that you actually want to speak a language fluently. So, I’ve decided now, after all these years, I don’t even know how many it’s been, I finally decided I would like to know this language now. Why ? The thing is, whenever we’re studying a language the very first thing we should ask ourselves is : Why are we studying this language ? I found this helps us to kind of create a plan for ourselves. We want to know where we want to end up with Italian. I wanted to know it perfectly to be able to teach it, and know : How to speak it really well with French ? I wanted to be fluent more than just conversational. For me fluency is more than just conversational and now Spanish, I’m looking just to be conversational, so I don’t necessarily have to be the best at it. However, let me tell you what’s been happening so far. So, what I’ve noticed is all of the things that I ever learned about Spanish have been coming back to me and at the same time. I see how much Italian and French are really useful in helping me to understand what’s more because this is a fellow Romance language and also language that is quite present. Here in the United States I see that there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for me to pick up this language, so, what have I actually been doing now to study Spanish ?

General studying pattern

Well, something that I have come to see over the course of all these years of teaching and studying other Romance languages is that I follow this general pattern. I always begin like this, I begin with grammar rules and verb conjugations. So, let’s say I’m doing the present tense, I’ll begin with verb endings with the subject pronouns then I will take verbs from each of the 3 verb groups, conjugate them, and then I’ll do examples with each verb. And what I like to do is I like to use longer examples. I like to use really long examples, sometimes I’ll even do dialogue where my examples will be things in a particular context and they’ll be questions and answers. This is something that I learned way back when I was first studying Italian in high school. We always did dialogues together usually in groups, so we’d make our own conversation and then we’d share it with the class and we would get it corrected and learn what we said. Whatever we said that was wrong would be corrected and things that we said right we would share it with the rest of the class. And that would be a way of learning. So, I decided to take that teaching style and also apply it to my studies of Spanish. So, I found this to be a really useful and effective way for me to learn a new language.

Something that I learned about myself is the way that I teach is the same way that I learn. I think the secret to learning a language or really learning anything for that matter is to examine and find out how you as an individual learn something, how can you take a concept and make it digestible that for you it’s easy to take in and understand. I think that really is the secret to figuring out how to learn something effectively. Then once I’ve done some grammar studies, I do some verb conjugations, the translations, the phrases. Then what I like to do is get everything corrected by a teacher, so I’m going to be getting myself a private teacher and maybe we can start doing conversations together. But what I’ve been working on so far is using a grammar workbook that has an answer key, so there is not a lot of explanations but at least I can have the answers to some of the exercises I’m working on.

Using your own notes

My own personal teaching materials are actually what’s best for me. So, to learn French just to go off on a quick side note the thing that finally helped me understand French grammar because I went through so many French teachers. I spoke to my friends about it, I looked at videos online, I tried everything and I was feeling quite discouraged, and like I can never get French grammar. Why can’t I just remember it ? And finally what I decided to do was take my University notes that I use for teaching Italian, and instead of doing everything in Italian I took the entire format and did everything in French. Now, that’s the beauty of Romance languages, the structure to learning them is all the same, you can use the same format and the same methods. Obviously not everything is going to match up perfectly because you are talking about a different language with different history, different influences, different expressions, different ways of viewing things, different rules. We could go on all about it, right ? But, the point is using my own notes because that’s the way that I learn best, the same way I teach. That is how I finally learned French grammar. And so what I did was I translated all of my notes into French, did all of the exercises and homework and in-class stuff in French, and then I had my French teacher check everything to make sure I was on the path. And there were many instances where something didn’t quite match up Italians. But, the point is everything finally made sense.


Now, here’s also the thing that I want to mention about workbooks and seeing something prepared by someone else. Firstly, I should say this : not everyone is a foreign languages teacher, not everyone is going to have their own original teaching material. If anything I’m kind of in a minority in this situation, I’m kind of on my own Island with this because not everyone does what I do. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t create your own stuff and it doesn’t have to be a proper class or a lesson that you’re gonna teach someone. All you have to do is just find the format that works for you translate phrases, write dialogue, do questions and answers, try to maybe keep a diary or a journal where you’ll say « okay today I did this, I saw my friends, I said this to one of them, I went to school, I went to work, this is what I saw,… Something crazy happened to me basically right the same way you would speak and then have it checked over by a native or a teacher. And if you don’t want to do something like this, maybe just try to have a conversation with someone. I wanted to say when you find materials prepared by someone else like in a workbook or a textbook or a class that you’re taking, don’t get discouraged if they’re teaching things that you don’t feel quite applied to you or if their teaching method isn’t quite perfect. Nothing makes a hundred percent sense, at least see what’s out there, kind of use these resources as a guide. You’re going to say « okay this is how someone explains it, let me see if that works with me, can I make sense of it ? Okay, they’re kind of going off on a tangent here about irregular verbs, I’m not quite ready for irregular verbs, so, I’m just gonna skip over this part,… What I’m spending a way too much time in the present tense like the book I’m using now, complete Spanish grammar, they spend a lot of time on the present tense. I think it’s like the first few chapters, so what I did a few days ago is I skipped all the way to chapter 4 which is the past tense and I started looking at that. I already kind of know the present tense, I need to move on, I’m getting bogged down just in the present. I have to move on to something else. I don’t know all the vocabulary so, sometimes that gets in the way I need to look stuff up. I’m like what this is really good though. Because I’m learning things even just by looking them up, so I can complete my homework, so basically there’s a benefit to doing everything. So, if you’re looking at a workbook and it’s not perfect, these complete grammar books they’re not perfect, they’re similar to my teaching style, not 100% the same but they work for me. It’s a good starting point.

Having a pen pal

The other thing that I really love doing is having a pen pal. Some people don’t like pen pals, other people like face-to-face conversation, I like that too. I’m actually currently run a like networking business professional group for people that work in business, but want to know more about languages. I want to bring the language learning world out to more people, so that’s a group I’m running right now. Before that I ran a group for people that just want to speak Italian where we did full immersion, we had some live lessons too. I like doing stuff like this. So, I actually run these groups. I didn’t find groups that I really liked that worked for me so I created my own and I’m trying them in different areas, different Authority as we say in Italian, different sectors, different fields. Be very comfy, so now I’m doing a business. One because I want to be able to use my Italian in a business setting, two I want to be able to use my French in those settings too and also learn from other people, learn from people that aren’t necessarily language teachers but just love languages. And even help those that are just interested in learning about how do I learn a language ? How do we get involved in this world ? So, anyway I kind of want to wrap up this video because I don’t want it to go too long but just to finish about pen pals, and groups, and conversation. So, once you do some grammar work, once you do some translations, you speak to a native having a pen pal is so helpful. That is what took my Italian to the next level. It’s what took my French to the next level. Maybe I’ll do it for Spanish too but that is what kept me accountable for French by having that person who was writing to me consistently every day, keeping me on my toes, keeping me accountable. I’m gonna continue with this, I have a purpose for using French and even though I didn’t know how to respond to my pen pal I’d use Google Translate and Reverse. So, context all the time I always had to look things up, I actually couldn’t respond in real-time. I would have to wait till the end of the day when I had nothing else going on, perhaps even before I went to sleep. So, maybe I was also a little tired but I would take the time and respond to all the messages. So, it’s kind of like writing an email in a way pen pals really helped because after a while you’re not only introducing yourself if you have a pen pal for awhile. You’re gonna talk about things for a long period of time, you’re not just gonna say « hey what’s your name ? Where you from ? How old are you ? What do you do in life ? » and all these sort of basic preliminary things that you talk about. You’ll start talking about holidays and traditions, your thoughts on things. The more advanced you get the more advanced and deeper you can get into your topics. So, pen pals are fantastic if pen pals aren’t for you or if you just want it to be a piece of your studies. Because I believe in a holistic wholesome approach to studying a language. Pen pals isn’t everything, it’s a piece of the puzzle I would also recommend getting involved in some kind of group, whether it’s at your school or it’s at your job or it’s on, or just by word of mouth. With a couple of your friends, with your cousins. Whoever getting involved in some kind of group where you can be with people face-to-face, or even online you can do video chatting is really going to help you to get that authentic experience. The thing is though at least one person in your group has to either be a native or speak the language really well speak your target language really well. So, when I’m running a group and I’m doing an Italian day. Let’s say for example, I got my business professionals group that I run right now, I’m at least able to hold down the fort when we’re doing Italian, I can kind of say art, I can kind of do this. When we get to French we actually have a couple of French speakers some francophones people that have lived in France and other places. So, I’m gonna kind of let them take the lead on the French day and we’ve also got tons of Spanish speakers. So, when we do our Spanish Day I’ll kind of be there just sort of participating a little bit listening trying to learn from everybody and I found that to be a really good thing to do. So, if you don’t find a group that works for you, make a group. We’ve got the Internet, it really helps us to make these groups or if you can do things word-of-mouth, I’ve been trying to do more things word-of-mouth too because I like having that difference, I like having stuff that I just do by people that I meet randomly or that I work with. I even met someone time in a deli that is a French teacher I was like we got to start a French group together, the more that you want to live out your passions you’re gonna start finding any opportunity. You can get your hands on to start living out your passions. So, tell people about it you never know who you know in your circle, in your school, in your workplace in your Community Center, on your sports team that knows somebody that is interested in the same things.