This will be a new series on our blog which will feature ideas and tips that we have found to be successful for various things while serving where the need is great. These can also be applied to those serving in a foreign language congregation. We’ll call it Need Greater Tips. 🙂
Well it’s been four months that we have been living in a Spanish speaking country now. You may be thinking, do you speak Spanish yet? The short answer is no. Is living in a country where Spanish is spoken enough to somehow learn the language by just being next to people who are speaking it? As if the Spanish words will miraculously enter your brain and stay there. Well sadly, this is quite far from the truth. That is not to say that we have not made much progress since arriving here. When we first came to Spain we needed to have someone with us in order to take care of anything involving communication with this strange new language that we now know as Spanish. This involved setting up cell phone service, bank accounts and immigration matters. We felt like we were foreign diplomats with secret service agents by our side who translated our every word and stood up for us when there was confusion. We are grateful to those brothers and sisters who showed much patience and love in helping us in this way.
What about now? Well we are able to do all of these things and more on our own. We can even speak on the phone which as many language learners know is notoriously difficult to be able to understand someone when you cannot see there face. We can even argue in Spanish, which believe it or not is a necessary skill here in the Spain. Sometimes it may even seem like a hobby for some. Well what has helped us to make progress to be able to reach this point? When we arrived in this country we had not taken any formal training in Spanish but instead we listened to a few CDs and online programs. This was done rather inconsistently however due to not having enough time to devote because of all of the things that life in the States involves. We were still supporting a foreign language congregation, working and preparing to move abroad. As you can imagine this takes much time and Spanish was not exactly our top priority. We also thought, which is somewhat true, that being able to speak French would allow us to better speak and understand things in Spanish.
One thing is certain, if we were in a Spanish congregation our progress with this language would be exponentially increased. However, this is not the case. Since being here we have been supporting the French and at the moment the English. So we don’t exactly get to use Spanish during the meetings. Before and after the meetings Spanish is still spoken by many who do not have a good grasp of the foreign language. This is good for us who can use some practice with conversational Spanish. This alone however is not enough for us to be able to learn the language. So what have we been doing to augment the learning process of Spanish?
Well, when we first had arrived in Murcia we were using an app called Duolingo on our mobile devices. This we used pretty much every day and it helped us to learn alot of vocabulary and grammer. It even lets you speak and it tells you if your pronunciation is correct! What we like about this app is that it is set up like a game so you don´t feel like you are learning a language but instead like you are playing. It´s also available for the computer if you don´t have an Android or Apple device. The only down side to this app is that it cannot replace real-life everyday conversations.
That brings us to the second way that we are learning the language. Speak it! Yes, this is easier said than done but it is worth the effort. We have seen in recent articles that it is better to say something incorrectly than not to say it at all. Why? Because we can learn from our mistakes and likely won´t repeat them as often. So this is what we’ve tried to do whether at the grocery store, around town or in service with the Spanish brothers. What´s good about Spain is that the vast majority of people here do not speak English. So many times we would literally have no choice but to try our best to communicate in Spanish.
Now that we are here in Bilbao I will be tinkering with a new method to accelerate my Spanish using the Watchtower Online Library and publications. In the past I would try to read the daily text in French, English and Spanish and if I had time the theme article from at least two languages. Obviously this can be quite time consuming and it doesn´t really help with pronunciation because the only point of reference is yourself. So here is a system that I´m using to address that issue. What I´ve started doing is reading the daily text in French (still my mother tongue) and then in Spanish. After that I will take one of the latest magazines that I´ve already listened to in English and I will download it from jw.org in Spanish and I´ll listen to it on my morning commute and throughout the day as I am walking. This seems to be quite effective because even if I am not understanding every word I am getting the sense of it due to having listened to it in English previously. I am also able to benefit greatly from the pronunciation of the speaker by repeating words at will and even pausing the recording to practice. Another slight modification to this method is to use the magazine taken from the daily text. For example today’s text is taken from the November 2012 Watchtower. I downloaded the English and Spanish versions of this magazine. I will then listen to the English version and afterwards the Spanish. Usually in the course of the day I will have time to listen to both magazines during my commuting and walking. In this way you will have new material to help you learn Spanish everyday. The nice thing is that the daily text articles are usually taken from one or two years back and the audio magazines are available from 2010. The only problem with this is that I may appear crazy like i´m talking to myself as I´m walking.
When I then encounter an everyday situation I am able to remember certain words that I learned from the magazines or books in Spanish and use them. The articles that have more life stories and common every day things seem more suited to learning language that you can actually use. I´m very excited about this new system and I will modify it as time goes on if needed. I will post updates to help those who may be in a similar situation. This would be ideal for need greaters or ones serving in foreign language congregations who would like to use their commute or travel time to learn their target language. This method can be applied to many target languages such as French or Spanish. You just have to make sure that the publications are available in audio form. As we all know our organization is putting great emphasis on languages as we´ve seen with the new article on jw.org about the reach of the website. We hope that maybe in time as a result of learning Spanish we can be more fully used in supporting Kingdom interests possibly one day in one of the countries with need such as Nicaragua, Ecuador or any of the other Spanish speaking countries. Happy language learning!