Speaking Spanish vs. Just Reading and Writing it (Benefits & Outcomes)
We all dream of speaking Spanish at full-speed and hope that all of the studying will result in new friends, exciting travels, and maybe even job opportunities. Many students spend the bulk of their time learning a new language just reading and writing it in hopes of fluency. Unfortunately, this is not the most effective way to learn Spanish or any language. We all have to gulp down our fears, open our mouths and speak.
Passive Versus Active Learning
Speaking Spanish fluently involves four areas of learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The first two, when you pay attention and respond, are the active parts of the language. The other two sections are important but fall under the passive subheading.
Passive study techniques have their place and they are absolutely necessary to master a new language. As we learn new vocabulary, the list of new words can overwhelm us. As we read, we can take our time, look up and double-check meanings, take notes, etc. It’s a comfortable, slow-paced way to absorb new vocabulary.
The same goes for writing. We can relax a little more, help ourselves out with a dictionary or a tutor if desired. This is also a good chance to practice accents, spelling and sentence structure.
What happens when we’re in conversation? First, we have to navigate around words we don’t know, which is frustrating. That ignorant feeling can raise a student’s stress level and keep him or her from speaking at all. When we do know a word, it doesn’t always make it out in time. A new Spanish speaker may experience that tip-of-my-tongue sensation. The “I know the word, but I can’t put my finger on it…” feeling.
These are all stages of language learning known as Going Public. Students fear speaking out loud because they might accidentally say the wrong word, offending someone or embarrassing themselves. However, making mistakes in Spanish is just part of the learning process and essential for mastering the language.
Say it Wrong, then Say it Right
Teachers know the best learning opportunities exist within student mistakes. A falter in a sentence, a missed part of speech or an incorrect conjugation are all good opportunities for students to reflect and learn from these mistakes.
Staring at a dictionary or writing a sentence one hundred times to memorize it can appeal to a language learner who will give anything to avoid speaking. However, working through that fear is what will seal the correct phrase in their mind. This emotional journey, while scary and intimidating, is what students need behind the language. Good teachers know pushing past a mistake and through the embarrassment means something as simple as the Spanish word for bread can internalize the lesson and make it part of a student’s permanent bank of knowledge.
What to Look for in a Class
A good Spanish class will have a balance of active and passive learning activities. The teacher needs to encourage individual students to speak to him or her and to classmates. One-on-one lessons should also be a lot of speaking and listening, but texts should be a part of the lesson.
If you feel your child is spending too much time in a textbook or watching movies in Spanish and not enough in conversation, consider looking for a program that offers a more immersive, conversational curriculum where actually speaking Spanish is at the core.
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