My story is like that of many other learners in that I started learning Spanish as a foreign language when I was in Junior High aka Middle School. I had an advantge with my pronunciation as my parents spoke Spanish although English was our predominant language, but I was not fluent in Spanish. So I was always very nosy and wanted to know what adult members were saying when they did speak in Spanish. I decided I wanted to learn Spanish, took it in high school and majored in college.
I was fortunate in that I belonged to the Spanish Club and took a trip to Toluca, Mexico, for 3 months during the summer when I was 16 yeas old. I loved the culture and the Total Immersion and was fortunate in that the mother of the house did speak English somewhat so that we could communicate when my Spanish failed me. Outside of the house, I went to summer school and studied Anthropology, the Mexican Revolution and a couple of other subjects. When I went out into the community with the family, I heard Spanish and in the household we spoke Spanish as well.
This is a typical language Immersion situation in that you live, eat and breath the language. I didn’t have to memorize words, read stories or go to the language laboratory – I heard the language on a daily basis. I learned to let go of my fear of Speaking as no one was going to reprimand me because I made an error – they simply corrected me, I repeated, and everything was cool. I listened to slang, jokes, pronunciation, colloquialisms and intonation, vocal and physical emotions appropriate for a particular expression.
Not all language learners will have the opportunity to spend time in an immersion environment. But if you can’t actually fly across the world to learn a new language, you can always create an immersion environment. Find native speakers in your vicinity, go to Coffee Shops, museums, libaries, schools, or talk to native speakers using Skype. Another great option is just paying a few dollars extra to subscribe to a Russian, Chinese, Spanish, or English language channel through your cable company. Whatever you do, try to replicate the immersion environment as best as you can. You’ll be surprised at the results.Buena Suerte – Good luck!