I like philosophy. It might be a strange hobby to have, but, for me, not thinking about what we do and why we are doing it, is a waste of time. My teacher, who is in his 70s, might be the wisest person I know. Might be. I learn about the value of life and reflect on its meaning. And even though I don't know much (or nothing at all) I still like to question him, knowing that I will basically lose every single time. He completely knocks us out: he has the ability to refute absolutely everything we think is true and throws us out of our comfort zones. Sometimes it’s fun. Others it isn’t. But this is precisely the way we learn.
Sometimes he says things are easy. Sometimes he doesn’t. But this one time I found my chance to explain to him that learning Spanish is, in fact, easy. And this is how it went:
☸ At this stage, once retired, we participate in all kinds of courses. Instead of taking the time to develop the qualities that lead to true happiness and transcend beyond death, we just sign up for all types of lessons. For example, Spanish classes.
❤ Oh, thank you, teacher.
➜ Classmates start laughing.
☸ And, honestly, what for? Just to barely learn a couple of words.
❤ Well, it depends on the method, doesn't it? You always insist about the importance of a valid method. Learning Spanish can be easy and fast.
☸ Knowing a language is something that must be acquired from early childhood. Otherwise, I'm afraid there's little you can do.
❤ Do you mean that children learn Spanish easier and faster than adults?
☸ Yes, in a way they do.
❤ That's not true.
➜ The rest of the class goes silent.
☸ It isn’t? Ok, let’s see, defend your argument then. Go for it.
❤ Take your wife, for example. She attends Spanish lessons at a center for retired seniors. A few days ago, she was telling me that she was totally confused with a ver (let’s see) and haber (verb to be). That's a very technical question for an adult who wants to learn to speak Spanish. Or for any other student; it doesn’t really matter how old you are. But learning Spanish is easy. Actually, it’s very easy.
So, I sent her one of my blogs which I had written a few months before about the most commonly confused words in Spanish. She admitted that she had learned much more with those articles than in her Spanish classes. So, learning Spanish can be easy, very easy. And fast.
☸ OK, so come on, what is this magical method of yours? Because within the three minutes you've been talking so far, you haven't explained anything relevant at all; you’ve rather undervalued and belittled methods that may be effective for other people.
❤ Well no, no they aren't.
➜ A sense of tension invades the whole room.
☸ And on what basis do you say that? How can you be so sure that learning Spanish is so easy?
❤ You're a teacher, aren't you? And you very well know the shortcomings and needs of your students, right?
❤ Well, so do I.
☸ Give me an example.
❤ Well, every week I receive phone calls from different people, many of them adults who want to learn Spanish. And they all have the same story: they either have been studying for years, or they have recently signed up to a nearby language school. And the problem is always the same: they are not able to speak. They have enrolled in Spanish classes and they can't understand a thing. The lessons consist of reading texts and writing essays. And they basically spend an hour and a half taking notes on grammar in each class. And my question is, how are they going to learn that grammar if they don't even understand what they are told?
➜ Classmates become interested.
☸ Okay, it seems you’re getting somewhere. We’ve already detected the problem and the failed solution. But I still don't understand the hypothesis you are trying to disprove.
➜ By this point the people in the room are very curious.
❤ Children don't learn faster or better. The only difference is that they learn because they listen. They don’t read or write, they don’t even know how to and they don’t even need to. The key is that they focus on listening, and that is precisely why they know how to speak. They reproduce what they hear: they simply imitate others who are modeling the language for them. This is the innate way to learn a language and this is precisely how we learned our mother tongue. We simply copy what we hear. Learning a language, such as Spanish, is actually easy and fast.
A Spanish learner cannot say what he reads because he doesn't know how it sounds. Likewise, he cannot say what he writes because he does not know how it sounds. He may know the concept, but never the sound.
All languages are learned through listening. Otherwise, how would we have learned all these Sanskrit verses?
☸ That was very well said, Georgina. Congrats. One more point for you. Nine thousand still to go.
➜ Laughter in the room.