We moved into our new apartment about 2 months ago and have finally gotten everything unpacked and settled. In the process of all that, I was going through a couple bags of junk drawer-type stuff and found a set of refrigerator magnets that a friend gave me several years ago when we lived together. They have English words on one side and the Spanish equivalent on the other side. On this particular day, these magnets struck my fancy and I decided to put some on our fridge.
I’ve had these magnets for a while, through several moves, but haven’t always put them up. I think an important part of the learning process is giving yourself the flexibility to use different methods at different times and to not use certain methods at certain times. There is definitely a place for discipline in language acquisition, but I also think it is important to listen to your mind and give it what it wants. If you’re forcing yourself to do an activity, you’re probably not going to be very engaged with it and therefore probably won’t learn very well from it. I could have forced myself to arrange a new magnet sentence every day but it would have been a chore, something my brain responded to negatively instead of positively. But this time I was delighted to rediscover this simple but fun learning tool and will therefore benefit from using it again
If you’re learning a language just to fulfill a requirement or if it feels too political or controversial, it’s hard to enjoy the process or the result. It’s easy to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of a language: vocabulary, verb tenses, accent marks, pronunciation, etc. These building blocks are important, but so is having fun, and Spanish is fun! Your brain is much more relaxed and receptive when you’re enjoying something, making absorbing new information more effective and pleasant. If you can find a way to be entertained by the learning process, you’ll find much more success than you would drudging through worksheets and verb conjugation charts.
There are lots of ways to have fun while acquiring and practicing a language. Make up silly sentences with new vocabulary words or verb tenses, like the ones I put on my fridge. Your brain will make a positive association with the content and is more likely to pay attention to the information if it is surprising or novel – it’s not every day I think about elephants and balloons or cats and cookies. You can play board games in Spanish, either by adding a twist to a game you are already familiar with or, if you really want to put your language skills to work, by learning a new game using the Spanish version of the instructions and only speaking Spanish while you play. Watch cartoons in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish, read comics in Spanish – whatever you do, find what you enjoy and have fun!
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