Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Infrustructure to produce Spanish language learning.

I thought living in Ecuador would help to speak Spanish because here everybody speaks Spanish. I told myself in California--- it’ll be easier to learn if I’m ‘immersed’ where communication is in Spanish.  I’ll be forced to speak it out of social necessity.

That’s like thinking a diver can breathe under water because he’s immersed in a lake. I could live twenty years in Ecuador and still have no more command of Spanish than I do now.  Immersion doesn’t help unaccompanied by study, practice and training as a student---without hard work it is like going underwater without an air tank and breathing apparatus. This is what I’m discovering---if I want to speak proper Spanish it demands years of study.

Simon Bolivar School of Spanish in Cuenca
If I’m going to communicate in Ecuador, which I need to do,  I need scuba diving gear that ‘bubbles’ if I’m going to successfully ‘immerse’ myself in this sea of Spanish ocean.  It will at a minimum require knowledge of grammatical structure, the forms of verb conjugations, an extensive vocabulary and an understanding of how to form sentences in the past, present and future. The ‘immersion technique’ of language learning does help because it provides abundant opportunity to practice speaking the language.

As any country needs infrastructure to further develop itself---roads to get places for an increase in tourism--- canals to distribute water for drinking and farming---refineries to convert oil to gas--- another example---telephone poles---each pole laboriously sunk into the ground over the entire land with telephone wires and cable connected to each pole and distributed across the country---that’s needed first--- before people can easily talk on telephones. It’s the same with me and Spanish. I need an infrastructure to develop and enhance my ability to speak Spanish.

The Spanish classes at Simon Bolivar Spanish Language School are basic in this respect. The classes have regular hours. Five days a week two hours a day. I’m being tutored and have had and do have now the same tutor for each lesson. The material covered started with the pronunciation of Spanish letters. My current tutor Monica is methodically, slowly and patiently taking me through lists of vocabulary words--- teaching which are masculine and feminine---teaching rules on how to know when a word is masculine or feminine. I’m learning regular verb usage in the present tense. I’m learning how to conjugate verbs properly with the help of an infrastructure I’m building.  One element is a notebook. I take the notebook and write the infinitive of a verb at the top of the sheet.  I then write its conjugations---I, you, he, she, we, and they---in masculine and feminine---writing over and over to fill sheets of the notebook so the writing itself accords practice on how to conjugate the verbs. I then record the conjugations on a digital voice recorder. When walking down a street to go somewhere or to do something, I can multi-task---do what I’m doing while listening with earphones to the recordings to augment the proper formulations within my memory.

Another pillar in the infrastructure of my education of Spanish is Sitio Guatemala. I study it via Skype with a tutor named Evelyn one hour per evening Monday through Friday.  This hour keeps me focused on learning Spanish when I really feel like going to sleep.

In the past tense and future verb tenses, as well as with lists of formulations of irregular verb constructions, I will write these down in the notebook in coming weeks to continue to build the infrastructure I need to make Spanish a part of who I am as a person.  I listen to Rocket Spanish lessons also as part of the construct of my infrastructure.

Other supports to the aqueduct that supplies the drinking water of this language learning are as follows.

I make it a point to read at least an article or two of personal interest from El Mercurio. Doing this enables me to not only feel like part of Ecuador but also to understand words I wouldn’t otherwise but do because I understand a context within the story. I ascertain the meaning of some words this way without needing a dictionary.

 Another support is the Conquistando El Espanol Workbook from SimonBolivar Spanish School. It contains Grammar, exercises, vocabulary and homework.  I use the work book to learn the fundamentals of Spanish. I’m an ebb and flow kind of person, know what I mean?  I’m a hard worker with the heart of an Epicurean and a lazy Stoic---so I work with this book often but in a more or less irregular way.

Another support is to HABLAR. Speaking---to people---the taxi driver, the clerk, the shoe shine man, the lady in line, the waiter, the guy in the park who just sits on the bench one morning next to me and starts talking, to home-stay family members in the house and at breakfast, lunch and dinner---speaking without caring much whether it’s said correctly---not allowing the impediments of ignorance to hamper fluidity of expression.  I’ll use gesture…facial expression and body language as means to gain understanding. But I make it a point as an integral part of the infrastructure of language learning that while I’m here, as a whole I’m going to try hard to speak only Spanish.

Movies in Spanish are another support.  I watch at least probably five a week.

It would help to put emphasis into learning about Ecuadorian culture to learn Spanish I think, but these activities are not part of the design to my infrastructure. Doing them would be extracurricular activities disconnected from the engine of Spanish learning I’m building and using as I go along this path. I do plan however to buy and read a famous fiction book by a noted Ecuadorian author.