The classic “débutant” mistake I made when I started studying my first second language was thinking: the more I study, the faster I’ll learn. It’s true, you do have to study. But as I learned, none of the memorizing sticks unless the words come out of your mouth at some point. In other words, the only way to get a new language inside your head is to use it.
When I did my first Spanish immersion in Puebla, I knew the danger of studying too hard.
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Back in 2006, when I started seriously trying to learn Spanish I signed up for a month of private courses at the (very excellent) Spanish Institute of Puebla, in Puebla, Mexico. The clocking was ticking on my Spanish studies. At the time, I was “expecting” (our girls were due to arrive from Haiti any time) and I knew it would be years before I would get to do another immersion abroad.
Luckily, when I was in Puebla, I discovered something that would seriously boost my Spanish learning curve.
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Unlike learning a second language, experience has taught me that to teach kids a second language, you need a plan. There’s nothing organic or natural about it.
My twins spoke French Creole for the first three years of their lives.
When they arrived here, learning French was more like a transition than a leap. Eighty percent of the vocabulary of Creole is French.
So French doesn’t really count. English was a true second language for them. When I started speaking English to them a few weeks after they arrived, they laughed at me. They thought it was a made-up language. They thought I was playing.
That’s when I realized I needed a plan. Read more »