Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Learning a Second Language

I'm half way through Level II with Warren Hardy Language School here in San Miguel working on the conjugation for the Preterite Tense which has a mess of irregular verbs and also working on using direct and indirect object pronouns. Every language has its rules but I don't understand why anyone would want to say

For him....it....you did

That is bad enough but whoever decided to make the little change from Le to Se in the third person when it has a direct object pronoun should be shot. WHY did they do that? WHY does everything have to be feminine or masculine? WHY singular or plural and it all has to match?

Of course all of this information is having to be downloaded into a.....shall we say mature brain that is already filled up with a lot of stuff and nonsense. So I did a little googling about the brain and learning a second language. When you learn a second language or third language as a child the languages create separate spaces or modules in the brain. When a child hears a word of the language the whole module is activated and ready to start retrieving words and rules. But when you are an adult you have to dump all the languages into one place and the language you are learning becomes the parasite of the original language. For example I have to activate the Spanish words through my first language.
Where (donde) is (esta) the (el) bathroom (bano).

And the only way to keep this working is to continue to "test" the brain with finding the Spanish. Otherwise the Spanish will start to lose the connections with the English words. Of course I'm simplifying all of this but the "Use it or Lose it" saying is true.

At some point if I get to critical mass, I may learn to think in Spanish because my brain may form another module for the Spanish language words and rules so that it will be easier to access the information. But now......the old brain hard drive is really spinning. I wonder if there is a way to do a disk defragmenter and speed up processing time.


San Miguel Photos said...


Nothing worth while comes easy. We are in the same situation, the only difference is that I have to use my Spanish everyday with the workers on the rancho. There is no statement more true than use it or lose it.

As my professor says, practice practice and more practice, that is how you learn the language.

Regarding your question about defraging the brain, the only solution that I have found is a large glass of vino.


Billie said...

Jon, the vino does work pretty well for defraging but it has a tendency to delete as well.

Anonymous said...

Billie - When I meet someone that speaks two or more languages - I usually ask what language do they think in.

Julian learned a lot of conversational Spanish in 6 months - enough to converse with his friends quite competently.

Now that I know about this brain space I am more disillusioned about my getting Spanish under control ;-(

I do like Jon suggests anyway - practice - and I can ask for a beer and the bathroom - is there more?

Juan Calypso

Anonymous said...

Billie, the comments on Spanish are interesting. I stumble along trying to learn too - mostly verbs and nouns.

Carl Franz' book, "People's Guide To Mexico" has a worthwhile chapter on "Speaking Spanish". One helpful idea is, "Swallow your pride and start talking". That helps me when I get focused on being correct. Another thing he mentions is that Mexican people are so helpful and understanding that they often anticipate what you are trying to say.

Thanks, too, for the great links on your blog!