Week One. Download apps. While I was familiar with what Duolingo was and how it worked, I had never used it for my OWN learning. Instead, I set my husband's family up with an account a couple years ago to help them with their English.
In the post above, perhaps I did have the spirit of a teacher (in a sense); but I did not have the spirit of a learner. Really and truly, teachers should be facilitators of learning, as well as learners themselves. In hindsight, I can see that I was unintentionally sending a message that they had something to learn, but I didn't. That evening, I should have been modelling what I was encouraging.
Here I am now: both ready and committed to improving my Spanish speaking/listening capacity. Over the past week and a half, I have been engaging with DuoLingo. I am typically not the biggest fan of "drill and practice" apps; I believe more in the "creation" apps/programs, where people can create new meaning of their learning to share with others. Like Michael Welsch says in his TED Talk, we need to move from being simply "knowledgeable to being knowledge-able"; I truly want to be knowledge-able in the Spanish language. Nevertheless, I am starting at ground zero here, and decided to give the drill and practice app a shot for my own learning. After engaging with the app, I can say with certainty that I have been improving. Over the past week and a half, you will notice that I have made it from ground zero to level seven! I still have a long way to go, and this will be just one of the many learning strategies I engage with to support me in my ultimate learning goal.
Duolingo helps you with goal-setting, increases your vocabulary, and gets you to focus on comprehending phrases (as opposed to just singular words on flashcards). I love that when I have down time, I can practice my Spanish, as the lessons are short and sweet. I'm also happy to have connected with other Spanish language learners, including my classmate Vanessa, to engage in the social aspect of learning a language. While I am enjoying seeing a visual progression of my learning using Duolingo, I am still not comfortable speaking in Spanish, as the program offers very little to develop this. That being said, the app will definitely help people with their writing and listening, but my ultimate goal is to develop my capacity for verbal expression. I have already been seeking ways to tap into that goal as I progress on my learning journey, and you will be hearing about it in later posts. In the coming weeks, I would love to make videos of my speaking in Spanish... but that will come as soon as I feel a bit more comfortable.
Below is a video of me using Duolingo.
A week ago, I was both excited and overwhelmed by all the potential project ideas that were flooding my mind! A few days ago, I wrote my first post for this course, in which I had narrowed down my options to what I considered to be my top potential passion projects. After much contemplation, I have come to a decision… to improve my Spanish.
What's My Purpose?
My reason for taking this opportunity to learn Spanish is deeply rooted in personal connection to the language. It started when I met a "muy guapo Mexicano" while on vacation in Mexico. It may be cliché to say, but I knew I was going to marry him one day.
Fast forward to the day that Luis asked me to meet his family… while I knew not one person in his family could speak English, it was never an issue until I was about to meet them. It then clicked that I needed to start learning Spanish, so off to Chapters I went to buy several Spanish Language workbooks that would help me pick it up in no time. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong…
I had always prided myself on performing well in school; things always came rather easy, I performed well on tests, and always had good grades. I learned the hard way that to be good at "school", did not necessarily mean I was good at "learning". I didn't accept this reality right away, however… for a while, I let this truth deeply impact my pride. Truthfully, I became so insecure about the fact that I couldn't just pick up the language after spending hours with my workbooks. I also felt ashamed at the time that I had a university degree and was struggling with learning Spanish, while my boyfriend didn't have a day of post-secondary under his belt (he went straight from high school to working), yet he kept getting better and better at English… WITHOUT expensive workbooks! The sketchnote below by Sylvia Duckworth, based on the thoughts of George Couros, really dispels the myth "schooling" being superior.
Fast forward to meeting the family… while they were all so welcoming (which I felt tremendous gratitude for), I felt extremely uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than being in a room with a bunch of people and not understanding even one word they are saying. Worse yet, is when someone says something funny… you're in a stressful [awkward] predicament:
A) Do I smile/laugh too... and look foolish because they totally know that I don't understand what they are saying? or
B) Do I keep a poker face... and look foolish because I'm the only one in the room that isn't laughing/smiling? Ugh… it's the worst.
When my traditional, structured, sequential approach to learning Spanish failed miserably, with my pride still wounded, I changed my approach and found a crutch: Luis. Luis was not only my boyfriend, but my personal translator. The poor guy went back and forth translating everything. The problem was that I became dependent on this and he ultimately became my lifeline in Mexico.
After applying for Luis to come to Canada to visit, and being rejected twice because we (in the eyes of Citizenship and Immigration) failed to prove that he would return to his home country (even with a return ticket), the wedding needed to be in Mexico. Recently, Trudeau has committed to lifting the visa requirement for Mexicans to travel to Canada. This is great news for our family!
Standing in front of a priest, it was time for me to say my vows to my husband. Since the wedding needed to be in Mexico and we got married at a local church, I was required to say my vows in Spanish… I stumbled all over them. Nerves combined with total Spanish illiteracy was quite the combination! I hope to have the opportunity one day to renew my original Spanish vows and do a good job at it!
My Baseline & My Goal...
You need to know where you are in order to know where you need to go! My understanding of the language has improved little-by-little over the years, but after recently returning from a 2-week visit in Mexico during Christmas, it is becoming more and more evident that I need to invest time and effort into this. I still rely on my translators (Luis and Google), and I genuinely want to rely on them much less. In terms of my speaking... I know single words, but I cannot speak in sentences. Shamefully (I hate admitting this publicly), my speaking is terrible, and I'm actually quite self-conscious about it, which has impacted my chances to practice and improve. My learning goal is to improve my speaking over the next 10 weeks.
I am ditching the "school" method and embracing the "learning" method that George Couros speaks of. My learning Spanish is going to be creative, explore my interests, ubiquitous, social, personal, non-linear, and about making connections. I notice that my classmate, Vanessa, has also chosen to learn Spanish--perhaps we can support each other a bit during this process!
I came across an infographic on Pinterest the other day that inspired me (see below)! It is entitled "How to Learn Spanish in 10 Days"... for my project, I am going to adapt this to "How Genna Will Improve her Spanish in 10 Weeks". I love the ideas, and I plan to make a video hopefully each week that shows me doing most of these ideas (not necessarily in the same order). While I am feeling vulnerable and very likely to make a fool out of myself publicly, I am eager to embrace this approach to open and social learning!
My blog posts about my project will mostly consist of home videos, but I will share them via Twitter as well. If you are interested in following my learning journey, follow the hashtag #GennaLearnsSpanish
I'm really looking forward to another semester of learning with Alec and Katia! While I haven't made any final decisions on what I'm going to explore for my major digital project, the open-endedness of it excites me! As of right now, I'm considering an e-pal video message project connecting classrooms, taking the opportunity to greatly improve my Spanish, learning the ins and outs of photography, learning how to make quality sketchnotes like one of my fav sketchnoters, Sylvia Duckworth, or perhaps a project around connecting Catholic faith and identity to social media consumption and contribution... many options that I need to let percolate for a little bit longer before I make my decision!
This week we were asked to introduce ourselves and share our experiences and frustrations with technology (in 90 seconds or less). Below is my short response:
Teacher & Tech Coach with Regina Catholic Schools. Passion for EdTech, 21st century student-centered pedagogy, connected learning & differentiated instruction. Grad student.