We all know that learning a foreign language is mandatory in high school, and if you’re lucky–yes, lucky–middle school too. At first, it just seems like yet another hard class. But, it’s actually an amazing life skill! Also, not taking your language learning beyond the classroom can end up being a huge regret in adulthood. And who wants regrets, amirite?
I actually couldn’t wait to learn another language in high school! Why? Because I’d get learning resources for… wait for it… FREE! Pretty awesome, right?
Of course, having an awesome teacher makes the experience 10x better. But, that’s sadly not the case for many… if you have a teacher that hates teaching (or you :/), it’s normal (and totally understandable) that you’d hate the subject. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s so many great benefits to learning another language and the learning process can be fun and interesting! I don’t think the question now is “why?” but “why not?” 😉
Remembering why you started is your biggest motivator
TIP: Remember to never give up! And if you’re not motivated enough to work hard, remember why you started in the first place. Oh, and make sure to work on the smirk you’ll be giving your teacher every time you get an A. 😉
I’ve dabbled here and there in a bunch of languages since forever and I’m pretty confident saying “bike” in four of ‘em. Yup, that’s pretty much it. :/
I started out of curiosity, and, honestly, for the heck (and fun) of it. Also, the surprised and happy look on someone’s face when you say “thank you” in their native languages is the best! It’s motivated me from the beginning, and I think it’s totally worth the confusion and headaches I gave myself learning how to say “bike”… oh, and “thank you”. ;P
I’m actually already bilingual and was raised with two languages my whole life. How I learned my second language–the lessons, activities and immersion–was completely different than learning Spanish now as a teenager in high school.
I’m honestly beyond thankful for all the time and effort (and money!) that my parents put into making sure I wasn’t just speaking two languages, but also reading, writing, and translating in both of ‘em.
Even though it was a different experience than my current high school foreign language studies, it helps a lot nonetheless. This is one of the core reasons I’ve always been interested in languages and learning them… I appreciate, love, and respect all languages and language learning itself. 🙂
So, these are some of the reasons I started. What about you? Why are you interested in taking language learning more seriously? Why have you always wanted or tried to learn more languages?
Striving For a Native Language Accent
One awesome thing that stuck with me since I was little is that I have a native tongue/accent. But the problem with this is that I try so hard to sound as native as possible in any language I talk in.
It’s really hard not to speak with your accent, especially if using certain parts of your throat, mouth, and tongue is foreign to you. You gotta use specific places in and parts of your throat, mouth, and tongue to pronounce everything correctly.
To learn how to “open” or use new parts of your throat, mouth, and tongue sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry–it’s totally possible to speak without the embarrassment of having a huge accent!
Language learning as an act of selflessness (especially for our generation)
I won’t be talking about my second language in this series since my focus is to take my high school language classes to fluency. I just think it wouldn’t be fair for me to start a language learning series without sharing that I’m bilingual and absolutely obsessed. 😉
Again, I absolutely love and have immense appreciation and admiration for all languages. The same goes for cultures as a whole (so interesting!!) and the fact that I know that communicating with people in their native tongue helps me build deeper, more meaningful relationships. Think of this: Being multilingual is an incredible act of selflessness.
Why? Well, by having enough respect for others, we’re giving back simply by saying (or thinking) that we want to understand, are making an effort to understand, and really do care.
Due to technology, the world is, in a way, a much smaller place–especially for our generation. Technology moves so fast that people are saying we don’t need translators anymore because we have Google Translate and other technology.
But, technology will never ever replace some of the frequent and loveable moments we experience in language learning, like the embarrassing and sincere smiles of apology to cover up honest mistakes like misusing a word. Or the excitement and patience that goes along with learning and speaking a new language. There’s also, of course, t the simple fun and joy shared by two people trying to understand each other in a shared language.
The effort put forth by the speaker (new language learner) and the listener (native speaker eager to understand) is definitely hard, but the hardship and effort brings the two people closer.
Rather than rushing through life relying on a computerized voice to talk for you when needed, learning a language shows others that you care enough to be human, personal and personable.
Learning a language shows others that you care enough to be human, personal and personable.
Picking Your High School Foreign Language
Living in California, Spanish is a total given. I think the experience here is so much better if you’re bilingual–shopping, talking to people, and even reading signs and billboards becomes a whole new experience!
It’s practical and logical that I start with Spanish. (My first Romance language! ;P) It’s also one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, so it’s totally doable! I know it’s possible.
I personally know two people who took Spanish in high school, excelled in it and continued their studies in college. (BTW, they both said that studying abroad helped them loads!)
They both moved onto becoming certified Spanish teachers at the secondary level… Oh, and they both don’t have a shred of Hispanic blood in them., so, yes, I know I can! 😉 (≧▽≦)
Spanish has always been somewhere at the top of my “To Learn” list. 9th grade last year I was determined and excited! (In case you’re curious, my “To Learn” list is now my “To Master” list and it has nearly 2-dozen languages! What? A girl can dream, right!? ;))
How do you find the ideal foreign language for you?
Well, just try to think about and weigh these three things:
- The practicality of the language – ask and figure out if there are more resources available to you for one language over another,
- Your personal interest to go beyond your class assignments – having a community of friends or neighbors is one thing that can help keep you motivated to practice and use the language, and
- Your strengths to excel in this class – talk to upperclassmen to see who’s the best teacher, if there’s a club at your school for that language and culture, etc.
Taking High School Foreign Language Class To Fluency – A Case Study
Many of the most popular language learning bloggers share that too many adults regret not taking their secondary foreign language studies seriously. Oftentimes, even if adults did take it seriously and aced the class (like my parents), their hard work and time spent didn’t result in fluency.
I know it’s hard to learn from the mistakes of adults (especially from our parents), but realizing this can help us all immensely on this language learning journey. After learning this, I know that I cannot and will (try) not to waste time. What do you say, you in?
Please! Join this journey with me… I really need your help!
To reach fluency, I know that I have to be resourceful, determined and held accountable. Yes, there’s another major reason for these monthly language learning posts.
I know that I need to go on a mission to go beyond textbooks, quizzes, tests, and spoken assignments to be fluent in two more languages before graduation. So, who’s with me?
C’mon, I can’t do this myself! I need you to keep me responsible and on time. I need you more than you need me so, please, will you help me!
By the way, the truth is that I wanted (and still want!!) to be fluent in 6 languages before turning 18/going to college, but… that’s now only 4 years away and I have to be realistic.
I mean, I do have a full course load of high school classes and extra curriculars too. Whew! I’m going to need you to keep me sane through this. Oh, and also remind me that I. Need. To. Do. This.
With the huge and AWESOME (!!) community of polyglots and language learners online, everything I talked (wrote) about above, and my own unique experiences, I can say that I. AM. READY. FOR. THIS. CHALLENGE. So, tell me, are ya in!? (Pleasesayyes.)
TELL ME: do you know of any language learning hacks? I’m interested in any that I can get my hands on! I mean, every hack counts when you’re a stressed out teen. 😉
Going beyond the structured high school curriculum
The biggest problem with high school language curriculum is something I’m pretty sure we can all agree on… It’s just soooo dry and boring! And on top of that, it’s not created in for conversational speaking and understanding. But… I’m committed to doing my part by
- Changing/adapting the high school curriculum to assure fluency with my studies – this is going to take determination… (；´∀｀) And extra resources!
- Being accountable to reach my goal of fluency – I’ll definitely need your help for this part! “Procrastination” and un–non… accountable… *ahem* and “not very accountable” are my middle names. Hence the importance of keeping up with these monthly posts! So… you up for the ride? Wanna join me? It’d honestly be so awesome if you took this journey with me!
JOIN ME! Every single high schooler (and many college students) are required to take a foreign language, so why waste your time? Let’s take language learning seriously… together! Whadda ya say?
Monthly Language Learning Post Format
My monthly language learning posts will be a combination of
- Benny the Irish Polyglot of Fluent in 3 Month’s mission updates. Here’s his complete mission updates archive, but he recently posted all his and his team members’ past missions from the past 8 years here.
- Lindsay Does Languages’ Monthly #ClearTheList Linky. Lindsay co-hosts this monthly linky with Kris Broholm, Angel Pretot and Shannon of Eurolinguiste.
The goal is to share monthly language learning goals and work towards achieving them with a community of language learning buddies. Also, one rule of the party is to visit and comment on the language learning blogs that are on the list before posting or post on the linky. Eager to meet fellow language learners, this is something that I’m really looking forward to doing!
Lindsay also hosts a monthly Instagram Language challenge, as part of her #ClearTheList post. Participating in the challenge can be as easy as learning a new word, basic phrase or topic each day.
I’m so curious what her upcoming challenge is, because she just left mid-August for a year-long trip throughout the Americas with her husband. All of that is made possible because she works as an online language consultant (meaning she has a profitable blog business from being a polyglot!)–awesome, right!?
UPDATE 8/30/2017: Wow, now that was a surprise challenge! Ash, Lindsay’s husband, is attempting to learn Spanish as they immerse themselves in Latin America right now. I can’t wait to learn some tips from them both! 😉
- Brooke & Yara adaptation and school requirements for foreign languages
As a high school student, I am committed for a full academic year (2 semesters: Fall and Spring, so 10 months). Since I can’t do full language immersion to meet fluency in 3 months like Benny, I’ll use his principles and advice to supplement my high school curriculum.
I’m also going to share the progress and plans of others, so you’ll get the progress of at least two high schoolers with their thoughts and perspectives every month. Awesome, right!?
Language Learning Hack #1: The less time you spend using English (like rewriting everything a million times), the more time you can spend on your foreign language studies! ＾ω＾
Foreign Language Learning Current Status
I finally took things seriously last year when I started high school. I had weekly live Skype tutoring.
Again, this language learning series isn’t about simply acing your (mandatory) high school foreign language class. It’s about reaching a level of proficiency and fluency that we’ll be able to carry throughout our lives.
My Biggest First Year Spanish Achievements
- Working hard towards not having any English accent. My tutor is Guatemalan and she knows that one of my goals is to sound as native as possible. Not to brag or anything, but she said my accent was pretty good and I can roll my r’s! (￣︶￣;) But, of course she said that I still have to work on my pronunciation.
- Using class time wisely. Besides the time used for the lesson and pronunciation, I always try to talk completely in Spanish when I talk about my day or the weekend. I agreed that I’d do as much independent studying on my own time rather than using up the precious time with my tutor.
- Always starting class with basic greetings and tiny conversations. I always use vocabulary from the curriculum well as anything I learn out of my own interest (from surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, etc.). I also come with my own vocabulary and sentences that I want to learn. My tutor translates them and helps me with pronunciation.
GUESS WHAT? I completed my Spanish curriculum nearly two weeks early! I made my own curriculum for the last two weeks using Benny’s conversations starters (with my tutor, of course ;)).
What was my biggest accomplish?
Well, to me, my biggest accomplishment is the fact that every time I had a substitute, I was able to talk (yes!!) to them with ease in Spanish, even though we didn’t know each other AT ALL.
Overall I had two different substitutes. I had my first substitute twice … The first time fell on quiz day… After speeding through the quiz (I studied for it, so I’m not showing off! ;)), we got to spend time chatting in Spanish–t was AWESOME!
The second time that she was my substitute, we had so much fun. She was excited and very encouraging, smiling and complimenting me loads. Aaaaaahhhh, nice teachers… don’t we love them!?
On the last day of class, my tutor was really sick so I had another substitute.. She was just as nice and helpful. After my final test, we talked about our hobbies completely in Spanish. AWESOME, RIGHT!?!? I was so happy and still am!
Lessons Learned + Tips For Foreign Language Class
oWant this Free Language Learning Daily Checklist Printable? Click here to subscribe.So, here’s the deal: I learned some really important lessons the hard way.
Always (always!) study. Make goals and stick to ‘em!
So… my first lesson learned was after I did really bad on my first Spanish quiz. I was really disappointed and angry–more than anyone else. Luckily, I know why I did wrong.
I never had to study for my first 2 languages, so scheduling and setting aside time to study and memorize lists of vocabulary for quizzes and tests wasn’t familiar to me. It definitely wasn’t a habit and, on top of that, it really wasn’t fun.
After an unexpected surprise, I had even less study time leading to my poor grade. I was really upset, but knew I had to do something. So, what did I do?
Foreign Language Study Tip #1: Change your study habits to meet your needs. Make a promise to yourself and make sure it’s one that you can keep. (But, that doesn’t mean your goal has to be small. You can achieve more than you think you can. Just believe in yourself and work hard!)
I promised myself that I would work hard and never get anything below an A. I got my family and teachers involved to keep me accountable.
First, I made sure that my mom knew my schedule and I asked her to make sure that I always studied for my quizzes and tests.
Next, I took advantage of every minute that my teacher said was “test study time”. I got straight 100%’s on all my following quizzes and exams. Well, until…
Final exams are different, so prepare for them differently
Yes, another lesson learned… the hard way!!! (ಥ﹏ಥ)
Foreign Language Study Tip #2: Take your final exams seriously.
It takes more time and effort than simply studying for one single exam.
Get extra help with study buddies and make sure to review your problem areas as thoroughly as possible with your teacher, since a final is much longer and counts for a large percentage of your overall grade.
No worries…I ended with an A…I broke my straight-100s streak :-/
September Language Learning Mission Plans
Goals for Spanish
I changed schools this year, so all I know right now is that I’m taking Spanish 2. I don’t know anything about the curriculum or teacher, but the first day of school is tomorrow, so I’ll find out soon enough. 🙂
My goals for September are to
- Review my curriculum,
- Set up a daily schedule to get classwork completed on time,
- Mark quiz and test days on my schedule, then
- Supplement my coursework with various resources to make sure I hit all the critical things I need to reach fluency, like daily speaking, reading, writing, activities, etc. (more details below).
Rather than take a 3-month summer break, I completed all the activities below to keep Spanish fresh on my mind (and tongue) 😉
- Review all of last year’s grammar rules, lessons, tests, etc.
- Really work hard on Ser and Estar which were my weakest points of last year
- Do one lesson in Duolingo a day. Duolingo is not my favorite app and it didn’t really help me learn Spanish before. But, after taking classes it really helps me work on nouns, verbs,and also helped me grasp feminine and masculine fairly easy. It’s also really helpful knowing extra words to complete your sentence.
- Read kids books in Spanish -They’re simple and really cute. I forgot how cute kids books can be and not just the characters but, also how it’s written and the fonts. Kid book really helps you remember simple things like numbers, letter, colors, and adjectives.
- Worked hard to expand my vocabulary.
FREE Printable: Language Learning Daily Checklist
Ya know all my problems with accountability…well, Sam took my inspiration for the ideal daily language learning checklist to make sure I not only tracked at least 30-minutes a day of language learning study each day, but all the critical things necessary to reach fluency (ie reading, writing, listening, speaking, etc.) and designed pretty checklists for us!
I will be printing out one checklist each week.
With this extra free printable checklist to keep you accountable to yourself each day, and this post to keep each other accountable each month…won’t you join me!?
Come on, just do it: share what your language learning goals for September in the comments below. Anything similar to mine?
BTW I know this was a mighty post, but it’s the debut to this huge life goal I set for myself. So I wanted to share my background, present status, and future (lofty) goals, because Language Learning is a life-journey for me, and high school foreign language class is just helping me achieve my goal.
So, I’m curious…what language are you learning in school or college? Why did you chose that language? Do you think your goals are too lofty (like mine) or are they realistic (just get a passing grade)? Please share your language learning plans below, so we can keep each other accountable.
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