The Spanish Quest – The quest of an ESL teacher to learn a second language

09 Jan

This is the beginning, as of today I am fully monolingual, by the end of the year I will be bilingual.
This is my first blog in my quest to learn Spanish; all the troubles, the trying, and chronicling of the results will be written here.  I fear failing *again* but I think that writing this will help me keep going.

I know a few words, even less by actual spelling….llaves?  keys?  All I know is that when my “adopted” mom started saying llaves, I thought she was saying ‘eggs’ because I’ve had heuvos rancheros before and llaves and heuvos sounded alike to me.  Especially when partnering it with ‘yah-mah-may’.  So I said, ‘I want to learn Spanish’, one day before leaving with her to the store.  She says, ‘ok mijita, yah-mah-may-yah-vays’ or something like that…like saying ‘I want to learn’ equals ‘I’m fluent’…. I looked at her intently, trying desperately to read her mind, because I was  not getting the verbal message.  Decided on ‘eggs’ and brought her one to ask.  Never mind that the yah-mah-me part meant ‘bring me’ or ‘get the’ or something to that end.  This was kinda funny because she thought I got that part and just messed up the keys/ eggs part.  Funny-funny her.

I didn’t get any of it.

This brings me to my reasons for learning Spanish. I am in my second year towards becoming an Elementary teacher with a Reading Specialist certificate and an ESL->Bilingual endorsement.  In my training over the last year I have learned a few valuable lessons.

1: I cannot expect to teach another human being a second language if I do not understand how to learn a second language.  I certainly understand NOT knowing a language.  Now I need to learn learning a language.

I am learning the ways/ methods/ pedagogy of teaching a second language, but I cannot truly understand if I have not gone through the process of learning a second language myself.  Having taught 6 weeks of an ESL class, I can honestly say I understand that there is no realistic way to expect someone to learn any content area while learning basic communication, let alone keep up with native English speakers in those same content areas.

2: Most children I will be working with are Spanish speakers, their parents are Spanish speakers and their community is often Spanish-speaking.  I need to communicate with them while they develop their English.  Right now, I can’t.

3: I’ve seen too many children struggle with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority because they speak Spanish.  I believe that tomorrow’s leaders must be educated in tolerance as well as language; be culturally aware as well as linguistically aware.  I cannot be that teacher unless I can honestly say that I have done what I am trying to teach; and – I know what it feels like to feel lamer than a game leg when trying with no luck to communicate with someone in a language I don’t understand.

4: I’m a culture junkie.  I want to travel and learn and explore my world!  How dare I think I can do that and still expect everyone I meet to conform to my language and my cultural way of doing things?  How can I truly expect to learn about another culture that way?

5: ESL is not the way to go, bilingual is.  There is no, zero, nada reason for anyone to give up their native language, to feel ashamed of their native language, or to feel inferior because they are trying to learn English.  America, “we” are making children feel bad because they are learning to do something the average American monolingual child is too lazy to do.  Sorry if you take offense to that, but it is how I feel and one of my reasons for learning Spanish.

6: I love my language.  I love my country.  I love the diverse, complicated, multicultural communities that make up my country.  I love knowing that without all the many nations that have immigrated to this country from the 1400’s until now, America would not be the country it is.  I do not like being monolingual in a multilingual country, let along world.

7: I want to learn another language.  I have tried a couple with no luck.  This will be my second attempt at learning Spanish.  I took a four-year break from my last attempt and have finally been able to put the past disasters behind me.  I want to learn Spanish.

Once upon a time 6 years ago, in the middle of my first attempt to learn Spanish, I distinctly recall sitting in my seat at a baseball game.  Friends coerced me into going even though I had homework to do. Spanish homework no less.  I had to find and copy a poem in Spanish.  “You need a break”, my friend says.  So there I am, frustrated with mymonolingual ism, and who is sitting behind me but a beautiful little 5-year-old girl rattling on in beautiful Spanish…*sigh* How can a little kid learn Spanish but I can’t?!  I’m an adult!  Can’t I do something a little5-year-old can do? No, deep sigh… Mari hangs head, I can not.

Fast forward to today, 6 years total and 3 years further into my college career.  I have been taking Psychology, Sociology, Teaching, ESL, and a myriad of other classes in preparation to become a teacher.  At the beginning I saw that I could acquire my ESL licensure with only 6 credits of a foreign language.  I’d already taken Spanish 101 (didn’t really learn much, but I had taken it).  I only needed one more class, no problem, I can do that.

No.  The more I learn about teaching ESL students, and the conditions and troubles they face, the psychological damage they face, the more I realize that I need to learn Spanish and they need to learn content in their native language while learning English.  Once they learn English the translations will happen internally for everything they are learning.  They will have the tools to learn the vocabulary that fills in the blanks.

I need to learn Spanish.

I have purchased – 1 Level One Spanish Mastery Text with CD set that guarantees quick speech and comprehension – 4 “Quick-Study” laminated study charts – 2 Spanish reference books; because I forgot I already had the same one from the first time through :/ .  I have gathered my Span101 book, workbook, and the terms’ work folder for reference.  I am planning to enroll in, and hopefully acquire a scholarship for a 6 week long language-intensive program in Mexico over the summer.

I think that might get the language stuck in my head deep enough that it will stay put and in enough places that I will be able to apply it to the other stuff in my brain.

That’s the plan – memory, government proven brain-programming, relentless rehearsal, and immersion.  And writing in here about the process, which is kind of a decompression process.  I don’t need any brain explosion occurring, especially because I am also taking 16 credit hours this term while raising 3 teenagers as a single mom.

I can do this.  I taught two boys how to pee on cheerios boats floating in the toilet and have convinced one daughter to buy me a castle with a moat once she’s a doctor.  Learning Spanish should be easy after that.

I have perused the study charts, looked at the cover of the reference book, touched the Span101 book and opened the Set, and written my first blog.

I’m on my way.  Oooh I just found a website that is going to help me too 🙂 Yeah!

1 Comment

Posted by on 09/01/2010 in Learning Spanish


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One response to “The Spanish Quest – The quest of an ESL teacher to learn a second language

  1. shellydelice

    12/01/2010 at 07:16

    good luck to you on your quest!!
    i am monolingual. i have 2 young girls. one 6 and the other 4 on wednesday. they are bilingual (french/english). i am in the early process of developing a tool for preschools to help them learn a second language. it is in the early stages. take a peek. again..the best of luck to you!!!



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