Guest Post

The Benefit of Being an Open-minded Language Learner

It seems to me that when people first start learning a language, they believe that they must focus on specific dialects and regions.  For example, they will say, “I want to learn Mexican Spanish” or “I want to learn American English”.  It is totally fine if someone has preferences, however, it seems like a lot of people are closed-minded and will ONLY want to hear and study a certain Spanish, Portuguese, English and so on.

We simply cannot control how natives speak.  As soon as we open our mouths to speak the language we are learning, natives will respond to us as if we were born and raised speaking their mother tongue.


The language that we hear in many programs is great to start off with, but we must keep in mind that the majority of natives will not speak the so-called ‘classroom language’. This is reality.

Think about it, we do the same when speaking our native tongue, even when the person we are speaking to is clearly speaking broken English (for instance). We will answer them like anyone else, as if they were to understand us perfectly.

There is no better way to illustrate my point, then by telling you a story about a language encounter I had when I first visited Cartagena, Colombia a few years back.

I was on a beach enjoying a meal with a Colombian friend, who didn’t know A SINGLE word of English.  She was a Spanish native of course. We understood each other well.

After about an hour as the sun went down, the waiter came by and asked if we wanted anything else.  I was full, but had some drinks left so I asked if he would like to have a seat and chat while we finish up.

The funny thing about this gentleman was, he spoke Spanish, but to me, it was almost as if he were speaking another language.  It was drastically different from my friend’s Spanish.

He sat with us for about a half hour or so.  When he spoke, I didn’t understand much at all.  He wasn’t as clear as the woman and his accent was very strong.  He also didn’t understand me too well. When I spoke, he would give me a weird, confused look and then would look to her for clarification.   

So while chatting with him, my friend ended up being my Spanish translator even though she didn’t understand ANY English. How is this possible?   When he spoke, she would tell me what he said IN SPANISH.   It went on like this the entire time he was with us.  

It was the weirdest thing ever.  I’ve always heard that Colombians are the “clearest”, they are the most understandable etc, but boy, when this guy spoke; it was a different ball game.

Using a listening resource such as Gritty Spanish, you will understand why people all sound different.   Just like in real life, you’ll listen and understand one person better than the next.  This is what we face constantly when we listen to music.  For example, you may understand Romeo Santos very well, but have a really tough time understanding Shakira.  Watching TV or movies you will understand one actor very well and have difficulty with the next.  Watching the news in a foreign language, you’ll understand the anchor extremely well and then they will do an interview with someone on the street and…. you know the rest.

If everyone were to speak using the same tone, people would lose their personalities. Dialects from specific regions would no longer have their signature feel. In the real world everyone sounds different, which is what makes languages so unique and fun!


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Eldon Mirjah is the creator of Gritty Spanish, a course that’s entirely based on informal learning – where students get to grips with the language through urban stories – featuring the eccentric, the bizarre and the real-life. This is a form of learning that is defined by storytelling.

 

 

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