I wasn’t ever strong academically I wasn’t even good that good at languages until I discovered Spanish. I really struggled with French, and I never managed to decode the language to the point where I could communicate with ease.
My first love of all things Spanish began with stories that my sister would tell me about her experiences during her year abroad. At 16 years old I had pretty much messed up my GCSEs but decided to give it one last shot in six form. I changed schools, and I don’t know if it was being surrounded by bright, clever girls who are on the point of going to university just made me feel that my goal had to be to become a successful linguist.
I had mentioned learning Spanish to my French teacher during my O levels, but she destroyed my dream and then my confidence by stating that if couldn’t speak French I’d never be able to learn to speak Spanish.
There was a determination in me refused to give up on my dream. At 16 years old I was no longer a child learner of languages and so to achieve a good level I had to adopt a range of methods that would suit me and my learning style. I was determined to learn from my mistakes when studying French and so decided that while was government policy in the 1970s and 1980s not to teach grammar, I would teach myself the basic structures of Spanish so I had a framework to build on. I bought myself the easiest grammar book that I could find and low and behold I did find a book called simple Spanish grammar. I read the straightforward explanations of the grammar and did the exercises, and so began the building blocks I needed to begin my learning journey. I also realized that there was no point in knowing grammar if I didn’t have to any words to play and experiment with, so I also bought myself a vocabulary book and started building my knowledge of Spanish.
Another stumbling block for me when learning French had been that would try to communicate with the concepts and language level of a teenager. Speaking a target language as if I were a French teenager would not translate when I tried to speak that particular language, so when I started learning Spanish, I realized that the best way to tackle this would be to imagine that I was a child in learning this new language as if I were a newborn. After a few months of learning Spanish, I would grow into a toddler; I would be the level of the key stage one learner and so on. The way I would do that was by listening to simple songs and reading children’s stories.
I had already been told I was possibly rubbish linguist I decided to discard all my fears and go out there and make all the mistakes that I could when speaking Spanish. I was also lucky enough to spend my summers with Spanish families. Hanging out with teenagers of my own age he spoke little English and taking every opportunity just to enjoy being young who were very welcoming and kind to me really helped build my confidence.
I then went on to spend five years in Spain I worked in Spanish schools teaching young learners English. It to was a magical experience because for the first time I could see how when you create a positive experience for children and give them access to language in a way that is accessible for them you make the language learning process easy and fun. You’re also creating the next generation of bilingual children, and that is not only an amazing gift to that child and their family but also to society. The ability to speak not only English but Spanish, a sixth of the world’s population is something that can only be a positive and help build bridges between cultures and communities.
That was my journey to fluency in Spanish although I did go on to study Spanish University I do believe that the majority of my learning began when I was 16 during my summers in Spain. To this day have not stopped learning and still enjoy the journey and learning new ways to express myself in Spanish. I would say that my level of Spanish now is near-native and I still enjoy the possibility of learning new things meeting new people trying out my Spanish, in fact, I never want the journey to end.
I now provide Spanish via after-school clubs or through in school provision during lunch times but have found many schools and especially are headteachers not interested to take up the opportunity. Many parents are very keen but after approaching their schools many are just ignored. I can only feel that their own lack faith in second language learning makes them doubt what a three-year-old is capable of achieving in a short amount of time. It is the perfect time for children to learn a foreign language their brains are programmed and wired to learn with ease. Nurturing linguistic skills early is a chance to prepare our future generation multilingual workforce and a great opportunity to prepare children for secondary school. I feel some headteachers are denying children a right to education and it doesn’t cost schools a penny, parents pay a small cost and can even use childcare vouchers.