My reason for taking the opportunity to learn Spanish was deeply rooted in personal connection to the language. Spanish is my husband's first language, and we hope that our daughter will be bilingual as well, so she can meaningfully communicate with both sides of her family, as well as open up opportunities for her future. Prior to this learning experience, the responsibility for ensuring our daughter develops her Spanish language fell solely on my husband, as I would have been more harm than good in trying to teach her Spanish. I wanted to play a more active role in raising our daughter to be bilingual.
At the beginning of this learning experience, my Spanish was extremely poor, and it was because of this project that I actually said this out loud. I knew within myself how poor my Spanish was, but I felt very ashamed for others to know, as I lived in Mexico and have been married to my husband for over 5 years, and I knew I should have had a more solid foundation of the language. Through the process of this learning journey, I discovered that the biggest obstacle to my Spanish learning and growth was ME... because I let my shame and self-consciousness dominate and I didn't even try to speak. Having this opportunity in EC&I 831 to learn anything we wanted was a gift; I felt empowered to finally be given the time and space to work on something so in need of my attention and effort.
I started with Duolingo, a language learning app/site. 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 also loved how "convenient" it was, that when I had some moments of down time, I could practice my Spanish, as the lessons were short and sweet. I was really motivated to see my scores climbing rapidly at the beginning. About 5-6 weeks into the learning project, however, my score was plateauing, even though I kept working on the app and meeting my daily targets. Although I know it's not about the score or number, I can admit that I was getting frustrated, but I stuck with it. I definitely say that the app helped me, but I needed to engage with more than just one tool to keep propelling my learning forward.
I also changed the language setting on all of my technology (my PC, my MacBook, and my iPhone) to Spanish. I felt this was a good option, since I am on my technology so much, to immerse myself further in the language. It was quite tricky at times, and I had to refer to translators from some things, but i do believe it benefited me in this process.
Next, I decided to label a bunch of objects in my house. The rule was, that if the object was labelled, my husband would no longer use the English word with me. At first I was incredibly frustrated, as it slowed me down immensely (i.e. cooking dinner and he tells me the "cuchillo is in the lavaplatos"). However, with time, I relied less on the visual supports (post-its) and started to pick up on the words because I was using them more regularly. I also found myself using those visual supports to give my daughter basic directions in Spanish, which is something I've never done before (i.e. "Mayte, put this in the basura, por favor." The Post-its are still up in my home (good job, Post-its on your adhesive technology!), and I think I will keep them there until I no longer need them.
Up until this point, I was still too self-conscious to speak out loud in Spanish, especially so publically through YouTube or a blog… then I found myself admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with a terrible and debilitating neurological disorder. I couldn't see my daughter while I was in the hospital, as I was unable to care for her and my husband needed to be at work. Thank goodness for my amazing parents, who cared for Mayte in Moose Jaw during the time I was in the hospital. I found myself very down in the hospital, not being able to hug Mayte, read her stories, or put her to bed. It was likely the high dosage of morphine and other pain killers I was on, but I asked my husband to bring Mayte's Spanish story books to be one evening when he was done work. I had never read these books to her, as I was always scared I would confuse her or do more harm than good in her Spanish language development, but since I missed her terribly, I wanted to record a video of myself reading these books to her. While I know my speech was slurred and I mispronounced words, it was so heartwarming to hear that Mayte was watching the video again and again in Moose Jaw. That risk I took, combined with the motivation of the learning project, connected us when we couldn't physically be together.
I engaged with another language learning tool created by the BBC, called "Mi Vida Loca". The interactive video program consists of 22 episodes that are divided into specific topics. The videos make you feel like you are a part of the action. I managed to finish the program during the course of the past 10 weeks. I can definitely say the program enhanced my vocabulary, which is key to improve my Spanish speaking.
There were some low points during my journey where I just felt like I wasn't meeting the expectations I had upon commencing my learning project. I just hadn't had that experience of fluency in my speech--it was so choppy, lacked subject/verb agreement, and had so many mispronunciations. When expressing my upset to my husband one day, he responded by saying something very obvious, yet profound… he said, "Genna, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason." He told me to consider our daughter for example, she is admittedly behind other children her age in terms of her verbal fluency in both English and Spanish. He said that she's still taking it all in, processing it, testing it, and in time, she will find her voice and develop her fluency. I had to sit back and reflect on this for a bit and think about how I could use my two ears to develop my Spanish fluency. I started reading about how singing in another language can increase fluency, and I then came up the crazy idea to try it myself. I was extremely nervous about posting this online for others to see, but that's part of what this open learning process is about. My highlight from that "risk" was that, for the first time in my entire life, I got to experience verbal fluency in another language. Granted, the words were not mine; but I've never been able to speak more than one very basic sentence fluently. Through singing, I was able to speak fluently for three and a half minutes…multiple sentences--it felt so empowering and I was able to let go of some of my self-consciousness!
After the first week, I realized that I couldn't just learn on my own--I needed to get connected. From the onset of my learning project, I began to build a PLN for my Spanish language learning. I used a variety of networking tools, but my favourite were Mixxer and Linqapp. They are free platforms to make connections for language exchange. From the connections I made on these platforms, we connected on Skype, which has been an incredible tool for language learning. I've had rich learning conversations via text chat and video chat with native Spanish speakers around the world who were also interested in learning English. It was a great experience to learn one language and teach another simultaneously.
I also used Twitter to connect with others. I added certain hashtags to my TweetDeck and HootSuite, including #educachat, which is conversation and sharing space about education (like #edchat) in Spanish. It was pretty amazing to get some of my tweet retweeted in this space! My highlight was connecting with a Spanish speaker who has the same Tech Coach role as I do. It was awesome to not only be learning a language, but be able to discuss a shared passion for educational technology in Spanish as well! It took our interactions beyond "basic" conversation.
Motivated by Roman philosopher, Seneca, who said, "While we teach, we learn," I decided to apply this concept to my learning project. Research supports the idea that teaching is a powerful and fruitful way to learn, so I decided to "teach" something in Spanish to support my learning of the language. I decided to do a recipe video, but give all the instructions in Spanish. This was an incredibly difficult task, in terms of translating and targeting my speaking, pronunciation, and pacing. I was able to draw upon the help of my PLN to support me in this undertaking. I was shocking to see all the hours of work condensed into 3 minutes, but it reaffirmed why the process is infinitely more important than the final product, which is something we need to continue to instill in our classrooms.
I've learned so much through this process! My Spanish has drastically improved. Am I fluent? No way! However, this project has given me tremendous confidence to keep going in my language learning journey! I've also learned that open/visible learning keeps you accountable. I appreciated this, as I have given up on learning Spanish many times before out of frustration or a sense of hopelessness. Open learning also allowed me to connect with others who could truly support me--which is something I hadn't tried in previous attempts to learn Spanish. I got to drop that sense of isolation in learning a language, and feel like a true member of a Spanish learning community. I also learned how reciprocal open learning and PLNs can be, as while in the process of learning Spanish, I was also able to help others with their English. I learned a ton about strategies that support language learning, that I wouldn't have otherwise learned, as I was previously so focused on learning "Spanish", that I didn't delve into learning the process of language learning. In essence, this project has allowed me to learn how to learn. This learning project allowed me to focus and reflect on process, which is a rarity in graduate studies. We are always so focused on our end-products (the research papers, the presentations, etc.), that we often neglect to spend time reflecting. I appreciated how open-ended this project was, as I wasn't trying to carve my end-product to be just what the instructor wanted, but rather, my project got to be whatever I wanted, and most importantly, the learning was truly for--and driven by--me.
Just kidding! (And yes, that really is my middle name)!
Roman philosopher, Seneca, once said "While we teach, we learn." Research proves that "teaching is a fruitful way to learn", and it was this logic that motivated the next step in my learning project. I wanted to "teach" something in Spanish in order to support my learning of the language. This endeavor proved to be much more difficult than I originally expected, but I can say with certainty that the results were much more fruitful than I expected!
A couple weeks ago, I took a big step in my learning project by singing in Spanish. It was an awesome experience, and this time I wanted to challenge myself further. While singing, I memorized lyrics written by someone else (which was no easy task); but this time, I created my own script, which proved to be much more time-consuming and challenging (hence why it took me almost two weeks to get this post together). I decided to create a script about something I know. Inspired by classmates Ellen Lague and Justine Wheeler's cooking/baking blogs, I decided to create a script about one of my favourite recipes: Agua Chile. Agua Chile is a Mexican ceviche with a spicy kick.
First, I decided to write out the script in English. I then created a table and began to translate all the words that I knew in Spanish. I was surprised by all the words I could recognize due to my work on Duolingo (a leveled language-learning site/app). I was also surprised that I was able to conjugate some of the sentences for subject/verb agreement from one of my Spanish books I bought and gave up on (out of frustration) many years ago. I then drew upon the expertise of my PLN that I have developed through networking tools such as Mixxer (a language exchange website), Linqapp (a language exchange app), and Skype, to help me piece together the (many) sentences I was struggling with. After a lot of consulting and collaborating with my PLN (and a final read-over from my husband to be sure), I came up with the following:
I wanted to accompany my speaking with a video of me preparing the recipe so that even if you aren't a Spanish speaker, you can still follow the recipe. It took me a considerable amount of time to work on my pronunciation for this video. For pronunciation, I referred to Rocket Languages, my PLN, and my husband. My speaking is still quite choppy, but I'm pleased with my progress. Below is the result!
It is still quite shocking to see two weeks of work condensed into a mere 3 minutes and 16 seconds. However, it illustrates why the process is infinitely more important than the final product!
Since I started my learning project, I have been connecting with people around the world to practice and improve my Spanish writing and speaking. What follow is a summary of where I established these connections:
It's now March… that means we are two months into our learning project. The past couple weeks had left me feeling a little upset with my progress. While I have undoubtedly improved on my vocabulary and subject/verb agreement, as well as my reading and basic writing, I have been very disappointed with my level of verbal fluency. I suppose I expected to be much further ahead in this aspect than where I am. When I speak, it is still very much broken, delayed, and conveys how unsure I am of myself when speaking. It's as if I have to rehearse what I want to say in my head before I speak it… which is less than ideal to be conversational in another language. In a small group setting, by the time I figure out how to phrase something, the conversation has already advanced to the point where my contribution sounds out of place or irrelevant. I had a little cry in the car a couple weeks ago while explaining my frustrations to my husband and confessed to him that I feel like my brain just isn't wired to speak another language with fluency. It hurts, because my main motivation for choosing this particular learning project is for my family. My husband responded by saying something very obvious, yet profound… he said, "Genna, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason." He told me to consider our daughter for example, she is admittedly behind other children her age in terms of her verbal fluency in both English and Spanish. He said that she's still taking it all in, processing it, testing it, and in time, she will find her voice and develop her fluency. I had to sit back and reflect on this for a bit. How could I use my two ears to develop my Spanish fluency?
I began searching the internet about the importance of listening in learning a language. I then came across a blog post by Benny Lewis, wherein he contends that listening to music and "singing is an amazing way to dramatically improve your language learning strategy", and lists 7 benefits to singing in another language. Intrigued by this, I began to explore deeper. A research study out of the University of Edinburg found that adults who sang in a foreign language were twice as good at speaking it. One of the conclusions of the study was "that by listening to words that are sung, and by singing them back, the technique takes advantage of the strong links between music and memory." This got me to thinking about my experience in French class as a child. I still remember the words to the songs we sang, like "Je Suis une Pizza" and "La Belle Pieuvre". Because of the first song, I am certain I could order a pizza in French with relative ease. It's interesting how words/phrases (language) stick to us through music! Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if I could find a copy of those songs today… and I was pleasantly surprised to come across students "remixing" those songs today! Below are two examples:
I then revisitedLewis' blog, wherein he bravely posted a goofy video of himself singing in German. I admired his approach to visible learning, and it got me to thinking…
Reflecting upon how singing in another language can improve fluency, I decided to embark on the most risky part of my learning project yet: learn a song in Spanish and sing it. Seeing as I am not a singer, nor very musically inclined, I decided that I needed to clearly focus on my goal, which was to improve verbal fluency. For this reason, I decided that I would pick a song I was already familiar with in English, as I would not have the added burden of learning a melody and meaning of a song, which could distract me from my main focus. For this reason--and due to being a Disney nut--I chose to learn "Let it Go" from the Frozen soundtrack.
My first issue was trying to find out what the song was entitled in Spanish. I discovered that there are, in fact, two Spanish versions of the song. One is entitled "Suéltalo", which I learned is something like "drop it" in Spanish. This version was produced for Spain, and the movie name was "The Ice Kingdom". The second translation of the song is entitled "Libre Soy", which translates to "I'm free". This version was produced for Latin America, and incidentally, the movie had a different title as well: "A Frozen Adventure". Seeing as I am focusing on Latin Spanish, I chose to learn the latter. As I was reading and practicing the lyrics, I began picking up on some words because my vocabulary has improved over the past two months. What I noticed is that some of the words/metaphors appearing in the Spanish version differed from that of the English version. This caused me to actually examine the translation of the song, and what I noticed is that while the theme is the same, the selection of metaphors differs, which makes the narrative unique in its own way. Up until delving into this endeavor, I had never given any thought to the translation of beloved movies, books, songs, etc. In these cases, direct translation is not possible… translation is always an interpretation. So, while the storyline can be very close, each translation takes on its own unique figurative meaning, which influence our understanding of these narratives. Even when looking for a translation of "Libre Soy" back to English, I saw different interpretations. After I developed my own 'interpretation of the interpretations', I also consulted my husband, a native Spanish speaker, who helped me draw out more sense of the lyrics. Once I rewrote the Spanish lyrics in English, I was able to learn the song better, as I had a full understanding of what I was saying... and within a couple weeks, I know it by heart. You will notice in my video that I have included my English interpretation of the Spanish translation, so that you can also observe the differences in the song.
I'm very nervous about posting myself singing, as I am not a good singer (which is why I'm singing with the original artist, Martina Stoessel) and likely opens me up to judgement and/or criticism… however, singing well was not my goal; building fluency was. I want to make my learning progress visible, so this is the best way to share this learning experience with you. If my video gives you a laugh, then great--I'm glad you are able to derive enjoyment from the experience like I did! My highlight in all of this is, for the first time in my entire life, I got to experience verbal fluency in another language. Granted, the words are not mine; however, I've never been able to speak more than one very basic sentence fluently. In the video below, I was able to speak fluently for three and a half minutes…multiple sentences--it felt so empowering! In previous posts, I have discussed how terribly self-conscious I am to speak Spanish out-loud (even to close family members)… in many ways, this experience liberated me from such a profound self-consciousness. While I may continue to struggle with nervousness and uncertainty while speaking… I'm not going to let self-consciousness stand in the way of me trying! In a way, I'm "Libre Soy" as well!
I have been spending quite a bit of time using BBC’s language learning program that I began once I decided upon learning Spanish for my learning project for EC&I 831. This week I would like to share a little bit about it with you and also formally recommend it to other classmates who chose to learn a language for their learning project, or who are simply interested in language learning.
The BBC offers their interactive program in several languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Greek, Portuguese and Chinese. Of course, I have been engaging with the Spanish program, entitled Mi Vida Loca, which happened to be the 2009 winner of Interactive Innovation in the British academy of Television Craft Awards. The interactive video program consists of 22 episodes that are divided into specific topics. The videos make you feel like you are a part of the action.
Each episode is a combination of real-action video with language teaching and practice, focused on developing communicative skills. The language is presented in small bitesize chunks… Learners are encouraged to practice and to speak out loud to the characters they encounter. - BBC
Each episode has a narrator on the side that introduces the story and also quizzes you throughout the episode on your knowledge. Through the course of the lesson, you engage with the interactive video/story that brings you into the action. Below you can watch what the first episode looked like:
Each episode is also accompanied with supplementary materials that include the key vocabulary, an explanation of the grammar structures, and extra practice.
The site even discusses how this program can be used in the classroom and they have a site dedicated to Teaching with Mi Vida Loca. The site says, “If you have the right set-up, such as an interactive whiteboard or a projector with speakers, you could use it for whole class teaching… If you don't have access to a computers or whiteboard, then Mi Vida Loca can be used as homework to either prepare for or reinforce classwork.” While I’ve never taught a language class, I could see how this program could be integrated into the classroom, particularly through role playing.
I’m now almost half way through the program. I am definitely enjoying it, but one thing I struggle with is that the program is only offered in European Spanish and not Latin Spanish. My learning project is focused on Latin Spanish, so sometimes I find myself missing some of the words, as the accent is considerably different on certain letters i.e. the “c” is pronounced as “th” in the program, while “c” is pronounced as “s” in Latin Spanish. That being said, I’ve adapted to this and just listen more carefully. I can definitely say the program has enhanced my vocabulary, which is key if I want to improve my Spanish speaking.
I write this post from the fifth floor of the Regina General Hospital on the Neurology ward. How quickly life can change. When February began I was a healthy person, enjoying life, and very happy as a wife, mother, teacher and grad student. Then, Sunday, February 8th struck with a vengeance. On that day, I began to have the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I confidently make that statement as someone who went through a very difficult childbirth my with my now 3 year-old daughter. I was promptly admitted to the hospital and am currently under the care of a great neurologist, Dr. Rehman. I have received the diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia, which is known to be one of the most excruciating pains known to humanity. For a professional explanation you can watch the video below:
While my future is a big question mark at this point in time, as doctors continue to develop a plan for pain management (and possible pain elimination through surgery), presently I am taking anti-convulsive (anti-seizure) medication and heavy narcotics to manage the pain. As a high achiever, I have been very worried about my two graduate-level courses I am taking this semester, but I feel fortunate to have such kind and understanding professors like Alec Couros, Katia Hildebrandt, and Fr. John Meehan, who are willing to work with me and my condition to see me succeed. Thank you... my gratitude is beyond what I can adequately express.
While the pain has no words, the most difficult part of this whole ordeal has been being away from my daughter. Going days on end without hugging her is the greatest pain of all. That being said, I am eternally grateful that my parents in Moose Jaw have been able to take her and care for her while my husband, Luis, balances his busy job and spending time with me in the hospital. Although I continue to be very weak, to demonstrate progress on my learning project this week, I decided to make it both practical and personal. As you have read in my previous posts, I am extremely self-conscious about speaking in Spanish. This week (maybe it's the drugs that the nurses are putting in my IV that gave me a confidence boost), I decided to read some picture books to my little girl. While I read to my daughter every night, I have never read to her in Spanish... ever. This is a big step for me. Coincidentally, the literature on language-learning also promotes reading children's books as a way to increase fluency. What you see below is a video of me reading bedtime stories to my little girl, as I am unable to be there in person to read them to her. Please forgive my delayed/slurred speech... some of it is the Spanish and some of it is the pain medication. My parents tell me that my daughter continues to watch the video on repeat, which melts my heart. I continue to be amazed by the way technology can bring people together and enhance relationships.
Sorry for the short post this week, as I regain my strength, my posts will improve. Thank you for your understanding. I hope to get released from the hospital this week as well!
I'm happy to share that I have made more progress this week on my learning project! I continue to use Duolingo, and have now reached 46% fluency (according to the app). I'm not at all pretending to believe that this is an accurate measure, as there is no way I'm 46% fluent, but I don't pay attention to that... for me it's just about progress and documenting my learning. What I appreciate most about this app is the ease of doing a lesson here or there on my phone when I have time in my day... it doesn't require me sitting down for a set amount of time; I get to define when, where, and how I use it. My speed of progress on the app has slowed down as the lessons have become more and more difficult, but nevertheless, I continue to plug away. Why? Well, ultimately, I ask myself if the tool I am using is helping or hindering my personal learning. I can definitely say that it has expanded my vocabulary, so therefore, it is helping. That being said, I do not equate "helping" to be the same as "enriching". I personally choose to continue with the app in order to expand my vocabulary. Again, I stress that the numbers the app produces are not what's important, nor are they representative of my true learning journey. This app is but one small strategy in a gradually increasing mix that will support me in my journey towards Spanish fluency.
As per my original post on my learning project, I have taken on two more strategies to support my learning of the Spanish language: 1) setting the primary language as Spanish on all my digital devices, and 2) labelling things in my home to help build my vocabulary.
Changing my Devices to SPanish...
Below you can watch how I changed the language on my PC, MacBook, and iPhone from English to Spanish. I think this is a good strategy for me because I spend so much time on my devices, that it's another way to immerse myself in the language. I will also note that both videos I made this week were made iniMovie using Spanish as the default language! It was tricky in spots (i.e. remembering what menu item was what), but I am proud that I managed to do it.
One thing that has always driven me bonkers about Spanish is the masculine and feminine aspect. What makes a table feminine?!? What makes a refrigerator masculine?!? Why?!? I decided to colour code all the items in my kitchen and living room to help me grasp the feminine/masculine head scratcher (knowing if the word is preceded by "la" or "el", "las" or "los", "una" or "un", etc)...
Although the video below is only 4 minutes, the time it took to look up each word, determine if it was masculine or feminine, sort the words, write the words on Post-its, memorize the words, and then post them around my home, took considerably longer than four minutes! In any case, I hope you enjoy my fun little Post-it video!
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.