Is Immersion Vital?

I only think going to another country isn't vital because I'm poor, huh?

(This blog is the English translation of this week’s primary blog, which was originally written in Spanish.)

There’s a thought in the United States about language learning, and that thought is that no one can learn any other language unless they live in a place where people speak it. If you live in the United States and your family speaks English, the only way to learn anything else is to move to another country for a while. You can take classes in high school or college, but you’ll never really learn a language, because everyone thinks those classes don’t work.

In some ways, that thought is true. I took Spanish classes when I was younger for three years and I barely learned how to count to ten, and it’s not because I was lazy. Although I was, but I tried to learn, and I usually paid attention. And I have no doubt that, if I lived in Mexico, Chile, Spain, or any other country where people speak Spanish, I would have learned Spanish in that time. But I think the important thing is not that someone needs to be in a Spanish-speaking country, but rather that the way languages ​​are taught in US schools is not right.

The most important thing in class was always grammar. I remember seeing all the conjugation charts for verbs in Spanish, again and again, and every time they made me more and more nervous. Verbs in Spanish are more complex than English verbs, because they contain more information. No need to say yo leo libros, because leo already tells you who is doing the action. As such, there are a bunch of forms of conjugation in Spanish, yo, tú, usted, nosotros, ustedes, él/ella, and even vosotros in some places. But in English, there are only a few forms. You need to say I read books in English, because ‘read’ does not contain any information about who is doing the action, except that it’s in present tense. Now I understand that the rules aren’t more complicated than the English rules, the structure is just different, but when I was a student, the charts were frightening and always seemed incredibly complex. And I never learned how to understand them, my teacher just asked me to memorize the forms. Not understand them, just memorize them.

It’s not surprising to me that I never learned Spanish when I was a student. Memorization does not work. And how can you learn anything if you can’t understand anything first? No, it’s a waste of time. Grammar isn’t very useful, especially for beginners. If you know a lot about the language, grammar can be useful, it can help you understand and appreciate the highest levels of the structure and form of the language with more precision. And that’s a good goal, and honestly, I like grammar, I think it’s fascinating. But while someone is a beginner and doesn’t have a firm grasp of the language yet, grammar’s just a lot of facts and figures to memorize, and none of that helps anyone learn a language.

On the other hand, if the US school system is the problem, why does moving to another country work? Well, because the things that do work also happen when you’re abroad. It takes a lot of comprehensible input to learn a language. A person has to experience how a language sounds, how people use it, absorb words bit by bit, until they can use it. That’s how children learn their native language, they listen to their parents, watch television, things like that. And if you’re abroad, what happens around you? People talk, the television series are probably in the local language, and little by little, you absorb the language in the same way as children.

Do I mean that you need to live abroad in order to learn another language? Okay, no, not at all. I can listen, watch, write, or speak Spanish from right here in the center of the United States, and learn Spanish in the same way. It’s not the location, it’s the method.

I would like it if schools’ methods were different, at least in the USA. There are other countries where people do learn languages ​​in school, although in most of those countries the people already speak multiple languages, so it’s not the same as here, where almost nobody can speak more than English. Maybe they have a better attitude. Anyway, I would like it if schools started to teach languages ​​with a lot more books and videos, and fewer grammar lessons.

Okay, now let’s look at the figures for the week.

Tuesday 5/07

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/4 of Tiempos Interesantes, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 5/08

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/4 of Tiempos Interesantes, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: Kung Fu Hustle, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 5/09

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/4 of Mascara, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~20 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 5/10

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/4 of Mascara, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~20 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 5/11

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 15% of Mascara, ~100 minutes
  • Writing: 1300 words written, ~150 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 5/12

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/4 of Mascara, ~180 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~10 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 5/13

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1/10 of Mascara, 15% of Pies de Barro, ~180 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 202 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1 and 2/3 books, 1180 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 3 YouTube episodes and 1 movie watched, 140 minutes
  • Total writing: 1300 words written, 150 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 hours 30 minutes

Let’s see, I had a very good week. I’m still sick, which isn’t my favorite state of being. There are lots of things to do, but I can barely get out of bed every morning. On the other hand, there’s nothing else to do during the day apart from reading, watching movies or videos, or writing, so the week was productive.

I finished both Tiempos Interesantes and Mascaradas this week, and I started Pies de Barro. Tiempos Interesantes is one of the books about Rincewind, a character in the series who is a wizard and a coward, and books about him have not been my favorites of the series. But Tiempos Interesantes was fantastic. Mascaradas follows the witches of Discworld and I love the witches, and I think this book was the best with them so far. Pies de Barro is a book about the city watch, which are my favorite books of the series. These current books are like a gift for me. I’m very happy.

I’ve seen Kung Fu Hustle before, in Chinese with English subtitles, a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorite movies. I like Kung Fu movies, and this one has a good sense of humor. I was able to follow it well in Spanish, although it was not the most useful practice time listening to Spanish, because it doesn’t have much dialogue. A big part of the movie consists of exciting fights. But I liked watching it anyway.

Daniel San GMR videos continue to get easier for me to understand, and I wish that was true for other things like Club de Cuervos, but I think I’ve gotten accustomed to how Daniel speaks more than my listening comprehension has improved. I’m getting better bit by bit.

On Duolingo, I noticed more stories available in that section, and I started working on them this week. They’re not any more interesting than the normal lessons, but they are something different to do for a while. I don’t use Duolingo very much anymore, but it isn’t a waste of time yet.

Writing this blog was difficult, like my last blog in Spanish, but I feel like I have more words and I know how to use them better than I did before. Hopefully one day I can write blogs like this one just as fast as the ones I write in English.

That’s enough for this entry, I think. TTFN.

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