Ever since I remember, I have loved learning and teaching languages. And while some things came naturally to me, others I had to figure out. This is my story.
Even as a 6-year old, my parents had signed me up for an English play group so that I could learn my first English words. I don’t remember the play dates, but I do remember coming home and teaching my little sister.
I loved sitting her down and writing on the blackboard pretending to be a teacher. (Spoiler alert, I still do, except I am a teacher now. ;-)
An anglophile in the making
When I finally started learning English in school, I was already good at it without having to put in too much effort. Seemingly, learning English came easily and I honestly believed a language could be learned without doing any work.
What I didn’t realize was that I had surrounded myself with English.
Every day, I would watch TV shows and films in English, and listen to music. Every time I walked our dog, I would have conversations with my teenage celebrity crushes in my head. Every month I would read the National Geographic magazine for kids called, WORLD, all the while imagining myself living in America, playing with children of such diverse ethnicities.
I had unconsciously created my mini English universe.
Resistance to German
Alas, along came German, except NOT so easily. I struggled with some grammar early on and I conveniently convinced myself that German and I were simply not meant for each other. I gave myself permission to dump German.
So, instead of giving it a second chance, I signed up for regular dates with Italiano at a local language school.
As a teenager, I dreamed of moving to the Italian countryside and falling in love with a handsome Italian architect (or rather a handsome Italian architect falling in love with me), and raising little Matteos and Lucas.
While virtually none of that came true, the imaginary love story had me so motivated I became fluent in Italian within a couple of years.
The American Dream
I then spent my senior year as an exchange student in the US, and in 1997 I graduated in English language and literature from the University of Zagreb, Croatia.
Next, I set my eyes on Spanish (language, not architects ;-).
After a couple of half-hearted attempts and a particularly soul-crushing job, I decided to go back to university. I realized I needed to give Spanish some tender loving care if we were going to make it work.
Half-way through my university studies I moved to Spain, got my degree in Spanish language and literature, and while at it, I also got a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Adults. I was on fire!
Finally, I tried learning Portuguese and French, but didn’t get very far. By then, I had found my English ‘architect’, we were building our dream life in the Spanish countryside, raising children and running a bed and breakfast.
With seemingly less time in the day, learning a new language felt like a chore, not a love affair.
But, as I said before, my relationship with foreign languages was not limited to just learning them; throughout this time I was also teaching them.
First, I taught in Croatia, then Slovenia and finally in Spain. Sometimes I taught English, sometimes Spanish, sometimes to children, sometimes to adults. Sometimes they were group classes, sometimes 1:1, at first in person and then over Zoom or Skype.
I would always look for ways to teach others, even when others weren’t looking for ways to learn. ;-)
Keep Calm And Carry On
Fast forward to 2019…
In March, the Covid19 pandemic was declared in Spain. The lockdown was put in place, and with it, online schooling.
Suddenly, I was being pulled away to help our children with their school assignments, wondering why they found it so difficult to study and do their homework on their own.
It took some detective work, but in the end I figured it out.
On the one hand, they didn’t always understand the explanation, and on the other, even when they did, they weren’t encouraged to put that knowledge into practice, and so it never stuck.
Sure, there was homework, but after a few exercises they were quickly rushed to the next page, where new concepts were introduced.
It seemed it was more about the quantity of input than the quality of output, when, if anything, it should have been the other way around.
Our children had resigned themselves to not learning. I was crushed.
The Bulb Moment
All throughout the lockdown, I wondered how those Spanish kids whose parents can’t speak English were keeping up with it.
It was the one subject our children didn’t need to study. But what was it like being left to your own devices and learning a foreign language without a teacher and an opportunity to practice it?
A Happy Discovery
At the end of the summer season, I went back to my idea of teaching online.
I did some research and discovered what seemed like an entire universe of content creators, online courses and Youtube channels, all dedicated to teaching languages.
Hallelujah! I had found my calling. I was going to teach on Youtube. There was no stopping me now, except that, with lockdowns over, I was now determined to create Spanish lessons instead of English ones.
And this time around, I HAD CLARITY.
Thanks to my kids, I knew the input and the output were key elements. But, from my own experience, I knew you first had to fall in love with the new language, just like I was in love with English, Italian and Spanish.
I loved everything about them, not just the language itself.
I wanted to sound like them, know more about the countries, their cultures, and their peoples. I wanted to listen to their music and watch their films. I wanted to read their books and magazines.
I was so smitten by these languages, I couldn’t stop speaking, writing, or even dreaming in them.
Now that’s what I call, A LOVE AFFAIR.
Feel The Butterflies
Just like with a real crush, if you have a crush on a new language, you’ll crave more of it and you’ll be constantly looking for opportunities to be around it.
The truth is, you don’t need a ‘talent for languages’; you don’t need to be a grammar nerd; you don’t even need to live in a country where it’s spoken.
What you need is three I’s
INFATUATION + INFORMATION + IMPLEMENTATION
and you will become fluent.
What A Difference A Language Makes
Because of English, I’ve made friends with people from around the world and I’ve had the most amazing conversations with people whose languages I didn’t speak.
I’m able to understand the different English-speaking cultures and appreciate their humor. Even better, I can make others laugh with my own jokes.
I’m able to watch films and series in their original version, read books without waiting for translations, and understand lyrics.
Because of Italian, I was able to play a practical joke on a group of innocent tourists, just to get the best table in a restaurant, but that’s a slightly embarrassing story. I’m still trying to forget it.
But I did some good deeds, too, while working as an au pair in Rome.
Because of Spanish, I was one of the official interpreters at the World Choir Festival, in Puebla, México.
And I was, yet again, an exchange student, this time at Universidad Autónoma in Madrid, Spain, and while there, I accidentally landed a job at the Slovenian Embassy in Madrid.
Because of Spanish, I can deal with the red tape like a pro.
I can have deep, meaningful relationships with my Spanish family and nurture new friendships.
I am able to run a successful business in Spain, and I feel 100% a part of the local community.
WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE?!
So Here I Am
And that, mi amigo, is what to look for when learning a new language - all the wonderful experiences and opportunities that await you along the way.
My mission is to help you (or your children) to navigate as you embark on this journey.
I am eager to share my passion with you and see you succeed.
I promise to create content that you can use on your own, all you have to do is practice, practice, practice.
I’ve got my blackboard and I can’t wait to help you rekindle your love for Spanish. Are you ready?
Drop a comment below. And be kind. 😘