Whatever age you are it has struck me there is a common thread running through learning a language and maybe it's, for me, the major benefit of learning a language. In order to learn a language you have to forgive. If the human race needs anything right now it's practice at forgiveness.
Forgiveness of Self
I taught a young boy in school a few weeks ago who has since dropped out of Spanish. It's a crying shame. He was selected because he was one of the brightest of his year and the school thought it would be good to give him a chance at Spanish. He quit because he didn't know any Spanish. After 3 sessions. He judged himself so harshly.
I'd say something in Spanish and the children would repeat it. We'd do it using clapping and rhythm, music and songs, dance and movement. Each time he'd say "but I don't know how". I thought he'd relax but instead he chose to enjoy his lunchbreak; fair enough!
The thing that paralysed him, as many of us, was the fear of commiting an error. Many who come to Spanish Club are too frightened to form a sentance without checking a word in their dictionary "in case it's wrong". But when we speak english we don't worry about errors. None of us speaks english perfectly yet we all communicate perfectly.
When we learn a new language we have to put ourselves into the unknown and have to forgive ourselves each time we slip up. For some that is a problem.
Forgiveness of Others
They correct us mid sentance. We have to feel gratitude for their help. They interrupt us with questions. We're supposed to wander along with them. They talk at every opportunity but don't give you your chance because it takes you longer to conjugate. We have to wait patiently for our opportunity. The people we learn Spanish alongside frame our learning experience. Some of them become our friends and allies and some... well, some are perfect for practicing the art of forgiveness on! I see this in Spanish Club sometimes, a certain reticense to sit next to certain people or resignation creeping into people's eyes as someone drones on displaying their wonderful technique. But we're all learning from each other because we forgive each other and laugh with each other and at the end, the world truly seems like a better place!
Everyone has a different learning style. In evening classes the current trend seems to be to be heavily focussed on grammar acquisition. Especially where the language teacher is Spanish native because they have come through a totally different, textbook based, educational system. I personally hate grammar, but some people love learning from lists or tables and that's great. So yes, you also (sometimes) have to forgive the teacher!
Forgiveness of Family
I used to hate being taught Spanish by my mum. There, I said it. Sorry mum... If it helps my son is re-paying me 10-fold...
"I don't want to talk Spanish", "Why do we always have to talk Spanish?" are phrases I've heard a LOT since he started school. I asked him for forgiveness the other night at bedtime. I said "I'm sorry I push Spanish sometimes a little too much. I'll try to listen to you more. I'm honestly just trying to be the best mum I can be". It's so hard to get the right balance and he's tired and stroppy at the moment. I desperately don't want it to be a barrier between us.
It seems he's forgiven me too, at least a little. He said a few unprompted words in Spanish the next morning which were greeted by me with huge enthusiasm and cuddles. Truce.
Spanish Gemma is a mum living in Kings Heath, Birmingham, UK.
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