Hola fellow Spanish Hackers! I just wanted to introduce our special guest poster today. His name is Teddy Nee from neeslanguageblog.com. He's currently living in Taiwan and speaks 6 languages! Kudos to Ted for sharing his some of his Spanish learning journey with us, and writing it in English (which for him is a second language!).
I came to Taiwan in 2008 to pursue my higher study. I was enrolled in the major of Applied Computing, (or Information Management if you are more familiar with it). Despite having interest in technology, I am also interested in languages. Moreover, I studied in a full-English environment with classmates coming from around the world.
I once thought to myself, “I need to learn foreign languages!”. I believe that by learning foreign languages, we can learn about other cultures, customs, and even, ways of thinking.
Studying in English and dealing with daily chores in Chinese already seemed quite daunting for me, considering that both of those languages are foreign languages. However, my desire to grasp the opportunity that I had was beyond my weakness. Thus, without thinking any longer, I proceeded to learn other foreign languages, and Spanish was one of them.
Having the chance to learn Spanish has changed my life forever. It is certainly the most memorable moment that I will not forget. Moreover, I am more than happy to share my story about learning this beautiful language.
By the way, I am an Indonesian, I speak Medan Hokkien and Indonesian as native languages, I always dream big about languages, and let me show you how I did it.
Latinos in Taiwan
To my astonishment, latinos make up quite a big portion of the international people in Taiwan. Most of them come to study under the scholarships from Taiwanese government. However, most of them actually come from Central America, especially from those countries which has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Some of the Spanish-speaking countries are as the following:
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, and Belize (Some of Belizeans also speak Spanish as a native language).
Apart from the countries mentioned above, there are also Spanish speakers from the United States, Mexico, Spain, Peru, Bolivia, etc. So I am actually not just living in an English and Chinese language environment, but also in Spanish language environment!
For the last few months, I have been attending several latinos events, some were organized by universities, and some others by Fundación de Residentes Latinos en Taiwán. These events are mostly cultural events where Latin American food from different countries are sold at booths, and the cooks are latinos too!
My reason for Spanish wasn’t special. It was just because Spanish is a common language that is easily found nowadays, such as in films and songs. Did you notice how often Spanish language is used in Hollywood movies? There are also some Hispanic singers, such as Pitbull or Jennifer Lopez, who are known worldwide and sing in English and Spanish.
Because of that reason and also because I saw much opportunity to seize in the future with the Spanish language, I decided to focus on learning it.
Spanish learning materials are quite easily found online and in the library. I learnt by using any books, audio, or any kind of materials that I could find. This included watching telenovelas. I still remembered I watched the famous Betty La Fea, and it was very interesting to learn by using the language. Betty La Fea was popular once in Indonesia but I was too young to understand the story.
I have been listening to Spanish songs and radio almost everyday, when I am programming, writing articles, or even, cleaning my room. The main purpose is to let myself become accustomed with the melody and accent of Spanish language and the speaker. I always believe in the “Practice makes perfect” rule.
Imagine conversations to practice phrases
Besides, I also like to practice phrases. To do this, you need to have imagination. For example, imagine yourself walking down the street of Madrid, and you are looking for a restaurant to go to. Talk with the people you meet on the street. Think about how you would ask and answer, think also on behalf of the other person. You can write these conversations in your notebook, so you can have your own customized phrasebook, which you can review later in your free time.
New articles and writing
I also read about differences among Spanish-speaking countries, about their culture, customs, and food. When you are ready for higher level study, you can read news articles and watch presentations in the Spanish language, such as TED Talks. You can also write articles in Spanish just for practice, and get a native speaker to correct your mistakes. You can even make videos or record your voice to practice Spanish with a more exciting method.
An unexpected benefit of practicing a foreign language this way, is that when I work on other projects I struggle much less with writer's block.
You may notice that the methods that I used are not any special to existing methods. That is because the majority of learning techniques can be applied to learn any language. What is most important is to keep on using the language, doesn’t matter by reading, speaking, listening or writing. This is how we learnt our mother tongue language, by using it every day, all the time.
However, different languages have different characteristics, such as grammatical structure, manner of saying, written text, etc. and these all are pretty easy to learn. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and celebrate every little success!