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So I found out about a site that offers live online group classes. Basically you sign up and when the class starts you join a live Google hangout session with one teacher and 2-8 other students.
It seemed like a cool concept, so I decided to try it out. I picked a class from the upper beginner section, thinking that my Spanish was probably closer to an intermediate level. I had regular hour long conversations in Spanish before so a beginner class should be a cinch right?...
...Well maybe not.
The class I chose was one where the teacher shows pictures and each student has to describe them in Spanish. Sounds easy enough...
When it was my turn to describe a picture I was at a loss for words. Sometimes I knew the words but being put on the spot made me nervous and I couldn't remember them. Other times I just flat out didn't have the vocabulary I needed to describe what was going on. It also didn't help that some of the pictures were well...a little unusual:
Through some lessons on Italki and some practice with a couple language partners, I had become fairly comfortable with talking about myself: my job, my hobbies, my family, where I live, etc. But for the life of me I couldn't describe these pictures! It was all a bit humbling to say the least. All the progress I made suddenly didn't seem all that special.
I should mention here that the class was a good experience. I wasn't too sure what to expect in a live online class. The teacher was great and did a great job of involving all of the students. Even though in my mind I didn't do so well, it was a great way to test my skills and pick up some new vocabulary.
You can read more about the site I used for classes here.
Here's 3 lessons I learned from the whole experience:
1) Don't be too hard on yourself
Needless to say after the lesson I didn't feel too good about myself. 6 months of learning Spanish and I was having trouble with a beginner course.
But rather then let all this keep me down I did my best to count it as nothing more than a learning experience. So I can't describe pictures well. That's okay. I can meet new people and make friends in Spanish, and that's way more important to me anyways.
There's no reason to beat myself up about it. So what if I'm not perfect at Spanish yet? I never will be so I had better get used to the idea and realize that continuing to move forward is the most important thing. When you're learning a foreign language it doesn't matter how big the step is, what matters is that it's a step forward.
2) A gap in your learning is just a bump in the road
One of the first things I did after this lesson was ask one my language partners to find some pictures on Google so I could practice describing them. I wasn't going to let this weak point keep me down!
If you're learning Spanish or another foreign language you are inevitably going hit some bumps along the way. You might speak well about one topic and then be utterly horrible at speaking about another. Or you could be really good at talking in the present tense but the past tense alludes you.
Don't worry too much about it. These things are bound to happen. You can't learn everything all at once. Keep your head up and keep practicing!
3) If you are comfortable, you're not learning much
This class was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but by exploring the limits of my ability I was able to get feedback and see where I can improve. Stretching my Spanish speaking didn't feel good in the moment (I felt like child again), but in the end I know I'm better for it.
Remember my friend Anthony's post where he compared speaking Spanish to jumping off a cliff? In order to learn you have to keep pushing yourself. You can never be too comfortable. But hey, that's life. I think deep down we all know that anything worth doing will be scary at times. That's what makes living and learning so much fun!