Posted by: janecronin | July 9, 2017


Motivation is, of course, the key to all learning.  When it comes to learning Spanish it can be all too easy to lack motivation, especially for those who live in an area where there is access to English food, English speaking businesses, English TV and radio, English newspapers and English social activities.  From the point of view of motivation, it would be better if everyone was plonked right the middle of a Spanish environment and had no choice but to speak Spanish to survive.  This is what usually happens in the world when people change their country of residence and why so many people do manage to pick up other languages so quickly.

Another disincentive to learning is the belief that we are too old to learn another language.  It is true that many people experience a slowing down of thought processes as they get older, but I personally think that this has more to do with our brains being out of practice than with age itself.  Learning a language gives our brains a good work-out, forcing us to understand new concepts, which is not always going to be comfortable.  Perhaps even more important than lack of mental elasticity is lack of self-confidence.  This can truly be a major obstacle and I find that one of my biggest challenges as a teacher is to help students regain their confidence as language learners.

So, let’s look at the issue head on – have you got what it takes to speak Spanish?  What are the essential ingredients?  Well, first of all you need a voice.  I’m sure the vast majority of readers possess a voice in reasonable form, although our vocal chords and other speech organs, our throat, mouth, tongue and lips are only used to speaking your native language.  They need to be taught to behave slightly differently to produce new sounds, but all the necessary muscles are there.

We also need a memory.  This again is a challenge for all of us, but rather than berating our fading brain power, it would be better to look at the problem from the opposite angle.  If we apply our minds to learning a language, we are actually providing our brains with exercise and slowing down the process of deterioration.  There are all sorts of memory techniques, but a good general tip is to be relaxed and to adopt the principle of “little and often”.  Don’t set your goals too high and then be disappointed and accept that even the best language learners need constant repetition.

We also need social skills, the desire to interact with other human beings.  We all possess that to some degree and we should never forget that the actual words we speak are only a small part of communication.  Tone of voice and body language are far more important than we tend to realise, and we can use these to cross the language barrier when words fail.

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