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I grew up doing competitive dance and loved it. I continued taking classes for fun for a couple years in college but drifted away from it as other activities filled my schedule. I’ve been wanting to take classes again for a while. Recently, I actually did it. After finding a studio close to my house, I signed up for a beginner adult class. I was nervous, but I was so glad I did it. Afterwards, I wrote about my experience in Spanish for the creative accountability group I’m in. Doing so reminded me of the powerful connection between physical movement and learning, and how incorporating movement in Spanish acquisition can be very effective.
When I taught beginning English classes, I loved to use total physical response (TPR) in my lessons, and I found that my students loved it too. TPR is when you use movement to teach language. Here is a great demonstration:
A Spanish teacher leads his students in a fun and effective TPR lesson.
There is a lot of information out there on TPR, for general language learning and for Spanish specifically. Connecting language with movement is not only interesting, it also gives learners the opportunity to process information and demonstrate understanding without the pressure of speaking. This is very important because it gives the learner a sense of accomplishment and ability; it gives them confidence in knowing that they can, in fact, learn, which will help motivate them to continue trying in the future.
Matching movement to sound is also a great way to mix things up in the learning process. Doing the same thing over and over leads to boredom and disengagement — very unfavorable feelings for learning. When you get up out of your chair and use your body, your mind will be engaged in a new way which will help the information sink in and stick.
I remember my teacher using TPR on my very first day of Spanish class in 7th grade. I think that part of the reason I remember that day is because I was excited to embark on a new adventure of language learning, but I also think that I specifically remember learning “levántate” and “siéntate” because of the movement associated with them. I remember enjoying getting to get out of my seat in the middle of class because normally you have to just sit and listen while the teacher talks. Integrating movement with the new information made it come alive in a wonderful way.
When I use TPR in teaching adult students, I always get great results and feedback. They are always slightly hesitant at first, perhaps not wanting to look silly or just feeling unsure of something new. Once they get more used to it, they love the chance to move around, and it seems to refresh them. I think this connection works the other way too: when I wrote in Spanish about dance, the movement and the language were separated but I was thinking about moving and that added a different cognitive layer to the task of writing. You can take advantage of this connection by doing movements with new words you are learning and repeating these movements when you are reviewing.
Another great tool for acquiring Spanish is Pars Omni Spanish Voices. Download it for free today to get access to a multifaceted learning environment that will help you improve and maintain your Spanish fluency.
I started a new job a few months ago, and a good part of it involves taking customers’ orders and retrieving their prints when they come to pick them up. A lot of our customers print with us all the time and are in the shop often to pick things up. When I was new, there was a lot of information to digest about all the processes of the shop, along with all the customer and company names. As with learning anything new, it took time for me to get on top of things and to start to recognize customers.
I’ve mentioned that my husband is a medical student and that he is, unfortunately, not very proficient in Spanish. I’ve also mentioned that the rotation he is currently in involves seeing a lot of Spanish speaking patients. Because of this, he was given some handy materials on commonly used phrases, and we have been practicing some Spanish at home to help him at work.
Though he was given some handouts, he has been feeling frustrated with being put in situations where he can’t communicate with his patient because he doesn’t have the Spanish fluency he needs. It makes him uncomfortable to not be able to communicate with and care for them. His discomfort adds to the discomfort the patient is already experiencing because they are in a situation where they need to see a doctor, and because they are with a doctor who doesn’t speak their language. It’s neither party’s fault; it’s just a reality that they do not share a common language, and this interferes with the situation.
I’ve heard it said that when you are acquiring a new language, a measure for fluency is that you think in that language. I’ve also heard that when you’re fluent, you may dream in the new language and that this is another sign of true mastery and internalization. I’m not sure if I’ve dreamt in Spanish, but I do know that I have thought in Spanish, and it was a great feeling to realize that I’d done so. Having my mind work in Spanish on its own was very encouraging and, of course, more natural than doing the mental English to Spanish translation for each word or phrase I had in mind.
To follow up on following up, I’d like to talk about another aspect of my Spanish practice and maintenance that I’ve kept up with. I told you about looking up lime vs lemon, then seeing limón on my tea bag, and I’ve also been contributing to my fridge magnet composition here and there. I mentioned that I was planning to start watching “Metástasis,” the Spanish language version of “Breaking Bad,” after we finished “Breaking Bad,” which we did – and it’s so GOOD. I went to check it out and realized that most of the episodes of “Metástasis” are only available if you have Hulu Plus, which we don’t. Definitely a bummer, but I still had to come up with something to write about for the accountability group my friend had started so that I didn’t lose my $25.