I’m Going To Try Again

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When I first arrived here in October, I wrote a blog about how I joined a Spanish class in a University; 1 hour a day, 5 days a week. I explained how I didn’t enjoy the class and I didn’t want to continue going to it. You can read about it here: No, It Didn’t Go Well

So anyway, I ended up not going to the classes and I just studied on my own for the past 5 months. I began to get frustrated with my lack of progress and got angry with myself because I just can’t learn the language, so there were days where I really did want to just quit!

I started realising that in order to improve my Spanish, I’d have to go back to having Spanish classes. I guess the first experience just kind of put me off going to classes. I really didn’t enjoy myself, I didn’t particularly like the teacher, and I was apprehensive about going to another one and it ended up the same. So that’s why I never tried again.

Plus they are just SO expensive! I wanted to come to Mexico to learn the language, I come, and then I realise I can’t even join any because they are too expensive. That annoyed me as well, I can’t even go to to classes because I can’t afford it.

So I started looking around online for private companies and of course there a loads. There’s one literally down the road from me, but of course I can’t afford to go.

While we were driving we saw a language school that we decided to look at. It’s about €11 for 1 hour (still expensive I might add) but I don’t have to pay for 20 hours a week like in the other schools.

We decided to go for a try class of 15 minutes to see what it was like. The house is nice with a good atmosphere, plus they have a cute puppy and a very fat cat sleeping in the porch. (We thought it was pregnant but it’s actually a male).

I met the teacher and she asked me a few things about myself and what she would be teaching me. She said that she plans on doing conversation exercises, which I definitely need. I really like the teacher and I was very happy with the short class.

And……

One thing that I do realise…….. I have improved since October and my first try class with the other teacher!

In my first experience, I could hardly speak; I didn’t know the conjugations of verbs whatsoever, I didn’t understand pretty much any of her questions, and I could hardly string a basic sentence together about myself.

This time round it was a totally different experience; I could understand pretty much all of what the teacher asked me, I was able to conjugate some verbs (I’m still quite terrible at them though), I could easily explain my life in China, what I did, where I lived, about my husband, and it was just shocking that I was actually able to talk to her in a conversation!

During it, I was thinking to myself “God I’m actually talking to her….. I can hold a conversation with her…. I definitely wasn’t able to do this with the first class I had in October…. I have improved!”

I know I would have improved faster if I went to classes, but with the wedding coming up, the lack of jobs for both of us, expenses that we didn’t count on having… I just didn’t want to spend over €400 a week for classes. I just can’t afford it.

So with this current teacher, I go for 2 hours a week. It’s definitely not as good as 20 hours, but it’s something at least. Maybe when I get a job I’ll be able to try one of those immersion classes.

But for now, 2 hours makes me more than happy!

Aisling

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My Husband Speaks English TOO Well!

 

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So, you would think that me being with a Mexican person I would pick up Spanish just like that…. well…..

No…. if ONLY it was like that! You see the problem with our relationship is that my husband is pretty much a native English speaker….. only that he looks Mexican and grew up in the country. His English is perfect and doesn’t have an accent at all. He actually never studied abroad or anything like that and just studied it when he was young, which amazes me!

So….. him being able to converse perfectly with me creates a problem when I’m trying to learn Spanish.

When we met in China, I didn’t have the urge to learn the language, I didn’t even know if I would be with him long! Then when it became 3+ years together I thought “Oh hang on, I think I’ll actually have to learn it now”.

While in China, I was busy studying Chinese and I just didn’t want to get the two languages mixed up, so that was the main reason for not studying it. Plus I didn’t need Spanish at the time. So throughout our time in China we always spoke English to each other.

Then when we arrived to Mexico, he STILL talked to me in English. I had to remind him “In Spanish….in spanish..” and then he would say it again. Our relationship for over 4 years was completely in English, so now it was just difficult for him to switch to Spanish. He’s too used to speaking English with me.

So this is a big problem!

I think now he’s getting used to speaking more to me in Spanish, but it’s still very common to hear him talking to me in English. And it would be simple things he would say to me in English and I would think “He can easily just say that in Spanish and I would be able to understand”

I understand pretty much everything that he says to me, so there’s no problem with me not understanding…. it’s just this habit that we’ve picked up.

Sometimes I wish his English was crap so then I’d be forced to learn it, but then I think “Well if his English wasn’t good then he wouldn’t have gone to China and taught English… I wouldn’t even have met him if that was the case”.

We will break this habit one day!

Aisling

Learning Spanish Routine; Updated

So a few weeks ago I posted about how I study Spanish and what my routine was. Well, it has sort of changed since that time; I realised some methods just weren’t working, so I’ve adapted it and I feel it is helping me more. Click the link to find my old post: Learning Spanish in Mexico: My Study Routine

In the morning I’d usually do 2 wheels from Duolingo. It’s not too taxing for me in the morning and I like seeing how my wheels change colour when I’ve studied them. I’m going down my tree turning every wheel one colour, so the whole tree will be green/blue….. Then I go back up to the top and start turning them another colour. It depends on the theme/ grammar point in each wheel, but usually 2 wheels will take me between 30-45 minutes to complete. (Especially the harder ones which are lower on the tree, also if I keep getting them wrong).

(UPDATED): I’m still doing my Duolingo, but I’m not doing 2 wheels anymore to make them change colour. On level 2, you have to do the same wheel 8 times, so instead, what I’m doing now is just 1/8 of the wheel, then moving to another wheel. So I do 5 wheels instead of just 1 or 2. I thought it got boring doing the same exercise 8 times in a row.

I also sometimes read some Duolingo Stories, but these are really when I’m in the mood. I don’t feel like they help me much for studying, but some stories are interesting to read.

Then we usually have lunch and I try and speak Spanish, but usually I just eat in silence because I’m not particularly talkative even in English! But this is a good time for some listening practice, as my fiancé and his parents LOVE to talk, so that’s good for my listening! I know I need to work on this though, so I’ll try and make an extra effort in speaking during this time.

I find that after lunch is the most difficult time to study. I’m tired (maybe due to lunch) and just want to take a nap really! So I end up usually just procrastinating during the hours of 2pm-4pm. So again, another thing I need to improve on.

Later on in the afternoon I sort of get my energy back up again and I start studying grammar. I have one book called ‘Collins, easy learning; Spanish Grammar & Practice’ and it teaches basic spanish grammar. What I like to do is read every thing that I’ve studied before in the book, and then start a new grammar point. I try and understand it and then do some written exercises which are in the book. I get my fiancé to go through them and explain to me if I got something wrong.

(UPDATED): I’ve sort of given up on the grammar book for the moment. There are still a lot of grammar points I can’t get my head around, so sometimes I’ll have a look at it when I want, but I don’t study from it as much now.

I have another easier book to use which I switch back and forth. This one is a classroom based book with dialogues and what not.

It’s starting to get dark outside now and I move onto something else. I’ve set each day of the week (bar 1) where I learn 10 new words . So maybe on Monday I look at my calendar and see I have to learn nouns, so I learn 10 nouns for that day. I have 5 things to learn; nouns, adjectives, verbs, tenses and tense conjugations. So first I will learn my nouns, then I will review everything that I’ve learned from these 5 categories. For example,  I’ve lots of nouns that I’ve already learned so I go back to the beginning and re-read them all. Sometimes It’s boring but I realised I remember pretty much all of them just by reading them everyday.

The same goes for adjectives and what not.  I think maybe I could push to 20 words per day, so I think I might slowly increase my new vocab. At the beginning I was learning 30 words everyday and by the end, having to learn so many made me dread that time of day! So now 10 is very easy for me.

So all that takes me a while to do, but It really does help me. I’m not stressing myself if I forget an adjective or tense, because I know I’ll review them tomorrow and the next day, so they will stick one day!

(UPDATED): I upped it again to 30 words but(once again) it got too much for me. For the moment I’m not learning new words.

After this, I might dabble a bit with some listening practice by watching YouTube videos. I usually do this sporadically during the day.

Then, I have a list of questions in Spanish on my computer and I have to write an answer and learn them off by heart. The latest one I learned was ‘Que hiciste ayer?’ …’What did you do yesterday?’. So I try and write it in spanish, and then my fiancé comes and corrects the mistakes. It’s great having him nearby to fix all of my errors! After that I try and learn every sentence off by heart, until I know the whole answer. Sometimes It’s difficult as I’m using tenses that I’ve haven’t studied yet, but I don’t want simple answers, I want answers that are complicated and so I learn new vocab and tenses.

(UPDATED) Although I enjoyed writing out the sentences to the questions, I felt like I just wasn’t remembering the phrases. I would need to read and re-read them over and over, and I just couldn’t remember them. So I’ve realised this wasn’t the most useful way for me to learn.

Sometime during the evening I try and spend an hour speaking with my fiancé about a topic in Spanish. I’m grateful he takes the time out to help me with my spanish, as he’s busy doing his own things.

I might also use another book which is an Irish exam paper. There are two levels, higher and ordinary,  with higher level being more difficult. In it there are exam papers that student’s do for their Leaving Cert to get into University. Every practice exam paper has stories to read and then questions to answer underneath. I enjoy doing this and I can notice they are getting easier to read, especially when I remember reading them while I was in China!

Finally, I like to read at night so I downloaded some free spanish kindle books to read. I really enjoy reading so this isn’t a chore for me at all, unless it’s super difficult! I’ve watched some tv shows in Spanish with the family but I lose interest after a while because I just don’t understand anything. Watching a film in Spanish that I’ve already seen before in English helps though, as I already know what it’s about so it’s not as bad. Plus sometimes a programme/film will be in English with Spanish subtitles, which I would rather not watch!

So I kept some of the methods from my previous and got rid of others. Below are 4 more methods that I’ve started using!

One of the things that surprised me a lot was how much I enjoy writing a diary in Spanish. I usually write one page and a half about what I did yesterday, what I plan to do, my feelings…. you know, stuff you’d put in a diary. It’s helped me a lot and it’s not a chore to do at all. It helps me to practice the conjugations and I have noticed my writing is improving. So that’s one thing I really like doing now.

Recently I’ve started writing 3 sentences with a verb/ adjective or noun I’ve chosen. I’ve just started this, but I think I may stick to writing sentences using just a verb instead of using adjectives and nouns. I can practice with the conjugations of the verbs and that will help me to remember them. I enjoy doing this also.

I’ve subscribed to lots of Spanish speakers YouTube accounts. Tonnes are about them being AuPairs and moving to a different country and telling their experiences. Some of them speak slow while others speak very fast, so I think it’s really good listening practice and it’s ‘everyday’ Spanish that I’m listening to.

Finally, I’ve forgotten that I used to use Memrise to study Chinese, so I’ve picked that back up again and I’ve started using it. I usually do this after I’ve done my Duolingo. I like that Memrise has full, and often very useful sentences that you practice.

So, that’s it, another spanish routine! A few weeks ago I was studying quite a lot, but now I usually don’t do all that I’ve mentioned in one day. I’ve stressed myself out too much so I just do what I feel like doing. Maybe I’ll only do 2 things from the list but I just need a break and not to push myself too hard.

Let me know if you use any of these methods while studying a language and if they are helpful!

Aisling

Speaking Spanish & Speaking Chinese

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I’ve lived in 2 non English speaking countries so far, and there’s one big difference that I’ve noticed between the two.

This is: In China, people don’t expect foreigners to speak Chinese, whereas in Mexico they absolutely expect you to be able to converse in Spanish.

In day to day living, this is very noticeable when I’m out and about in Mexico.

In a clothes shop: China

Say for example when I go into a clothes shop in China, the workers will timidly come up to me and say “Welcome” in Chinese. Usually I would just reply a simple “I’m just looking” in Chinese. That’s really the only communication that would happen between us. Then for paying, they usually wouldn’t say anything either, just the price of something. So you don’t interact too much with the employees because firstly you probably can’t say much other than basic Chinese, and secondly, the employees usually think that I can’t speak Chinese very well so they don’t try to converse.

In a clothes shop: Mexico

In Mexico, you walk in the the employee comes over and says “yoakekkgnnsiishghghehekdknb”. It’s gibberish to me because they talk too fast. My husband told me that they are usually asking “Is there anything you are looking for in particular?” So then, when I go and pay they might ask MORE things, to which I don’t understand. Maybe they might have a promotion on and they are telling you about it. But of course all I hear is gibberish! Because I’m not Mexican looking, to them I’m either a foreigner who’s learning Spanish or maybe I was born here but from a non-mexican family.

In a shop: China

In Chengdu there are these shops called ‘Hongqi’, and they are everywhere! They sell household things, food, rice…usual things you would find in a shop! I’ve been to these places loads of times, and not once has the employee at the counter asked me anything. They just scanned the item and I paid. That was it. No communication whatsoever!

In a shop: Mexico

Here it’s another story altogether! I (still) haven’t bought anything in the small shops here because usually my husband is with me and he pays. ‘7eleven’ and ‘Oxxo’ are the shops that are very common here. So when we enter and pay, the employee at the counter asks “Do you want to top up your phone?”… “We have a discount on these items today.” Although my husband pays, they will most likely also say the same to me, because to them that there’s no doubt that I can understand them.

In Starbucks: China

Yet again, there’s usually no more communication other than me ordering my drink and paying. And actually most of the staff in Starbucks speak English so you can even just order in English!

In Starbucks: Mexico

We went to Starbucks once and my husband said to listen to what he orders and then I can order it next time. So he orders and the lady asks him “Do you want regular milk or slim milk?’…..”The beans are slightly different because of the time of the year, is that ok?”.

So…..as usual a different experience than in China! I know these questions are good for your listening and speaking practice, but I really just want to go, order my drink in simple Spanish, and thats it. I don’t know what the vocab is for ‘Full fat milk’ or ‘slim milk’, and neither do I understand ‘beans’, so if my husband wasn’t there with me, then I definitely would have been caught out!

So with these different attitudes on languages, I’ve also noticed how Mexican people don’t congratulate me when I say “Hola” to someone. They don’t go “WOW! YOUR SPANISH IS SO GOOD!” No, they don’t do this because they expect me to know the language. To them, it’s not an impossible task for me to learn it.

In China, when I say “nihao”, they will say “WOW! YOUR CHINESE IS SO GOOD!”. To them they don’t expect me to speak the language, so when I say hello in Chinese and the pronunciation is better than average they will be absolutely shocked! Maybe that’s all I can say, but my Chinese is just sooo good to them.

I’m not saying either one is wrong, it’s just I’ve become used to not interacting much with Chinese people, and then coming to a country where they will absolutely talk to me like any other Mexican person just takes some getting used to. I’ve learned more in Spanish in 3 months then learning Chinese in 2 years, so that really says something.

So, one day I know I’ll be able to order things and I’ll be able to answer back in Spanish… I will be able to understand!

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Aisling

 

A Mexican Birthday Party

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So one of my fiancés aunty just turned 70, so all her family and relatives were invited for a small party in one of my fiancés uncles restaurants. Now I’ve been to a few of these ‘gatherings’, and on a few occasions I really didn’t enjoy myself.

I’m not saying the people at these gatherings are terrible people, they are not at all! They are all just so nice, friendly and every single one of my fiancés relative are lovely people. I’m very lucky to be joining such a loving family. So it’s really not about the company.

My problem is that I can’t speak Spanish well enough to communicate. Well I can speak some Spanish, but I definitely cannot give my input on anything other than ‘What’s your favourite food’, ‘What did you do yesterday?’… etc.

I usually feel sad when I’m at these parties, just due to the fact that I can’t talk. I can’t join in. I can’t give my opinion on anything. So I usually just sit there, look around, and smile when there is a joke being shared. I just feel so uncomfortable. That’s why I usually get anxious going to these events.

So we arrived in Mexico city and we met everyone and thankfully I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. I really enjoyed the day. Although I still didn’t understand pretty much anything, I wasn’t as anxious or stressed when I didn’t understand. I think this was due to the fact that there were about 20 people in the room. Usually I get more anxious when it’s a smaller group.

So I think thats what helped the situation a lot. The thing is I want to talk to people, I want to make jokes, I want to join in, I want people to see the real me, and not the one that just sits there and doesn’t do or say anything. My fiancés family don’t know what I’m like, and I really want to show them. So it’s difficult. I feel like they see my body but not my personality.

I suppose I want them to see ‘Look, this is who your nephew/cousin is going to marry…. sometimes she’s funny, she enjoys talking about this or that… she seems like a nice person, I know why Rafael is with her’.

I guess I just want to seem interesting, because when someone doesn’t speak your own language, it’s hard to get to know that person and find out what they are like. Then you kind of ignore the person because whatever you say to them they won’t understand, so you just keep away from them.

And I don’t want people to think that of me. I think my fiancés relatives are beginning to see what I’m like though. Most of them speak English so that helps ALOT! But you know, when they are together they just speak Spanish.

There are a few more gatherings (Mexican families LOVE family gatherings) so I hope they will go ok too. I just wish my Spanish was great, and I could blabber to all of them. Not perfect, but good enough that I can speak fluently, confidently and get my point across. That’s all I want for the moment.

It’s very frustrating… and these are the times when I really miss Ireland and being able to speak English to everyone.

Aisling.

Worrying

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So with my latest posts, I was talking about how I enrolled in a Spanish course in a university here. My second time going was a bad experience, you can read about it here: No, It Didn’t Go Well

We decided to go and meet the teacher and explain to her that the level is too high. So, it turns out that the other two students that were in the class have been studying a year at the university, so they use Spanish every day because their course is in Spanish. So that is why their level is so good! I’m guessing on their free mornings they come to have class just to strengthen their Spanish. So I was worrying and wondering how I was stuck in with them when they were supposed to be ‘basic’ like me. Unfortunately the teacher never told me this, so I couldn’t understand why they were in my class. Apparently theres only two levels available to take, so they just came to the lower class. Maybe they have class before or after so 10am was the only time to go.

The teacher said that I can continue going and just observe the class, so I can improve my listening at least.

So the day after I had class and I just couldn’t go in. I just sort of had an anxiety panic attack. I just didn’t want to go in and have to sit there while the the others are blabbering away and me not being able to understand anything. I just hate that feeling.

On Wednesday I arrived to class and chat chat chat was all I heard. Again I couldn’t understand much. She asked me some questions and I ‘tried’ to answer, but when the others are talking I just can’t understand. Yesterday I went in again and there were 4 male students, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand about 80% of the class. Honestly. It was very difficult for me. They were laughing and joking about something and I just sat at the side just doing nothing. I couldn’t participate or anything.

So I came out of class a little down again, thinking ‘Is this what I have to deal with 5 days a week? I have to worry every morning about going in to class which I shouldn’t have to worry about. Every class I’m anxious that she’ll ask me something and I don’t understand. Maybe they’ll be chatting about a topic and the teacher will ask me “So Aisling, what do you think about climate change? and I’ll be sitting there like an eejit because I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, never mind giving my opinion on something more advanced than talking about myself’.

These are the things I think about. And I know it’s stupid. I know I should just go in there and try. But I can’t try because I can’t participate. I don’t understand anything they say, so I can’t even try to say something.

So for this week I went in 2 days, today (Friday) I woke up and just said to myself “Nope….not going in today”. And I didn’t. And do you know what? I feel absolutely great today! I’m not worried or anxious about the class. I’m not annoyed at what I didn’t understand. I’m not sad after it and thinking “Oh I said that wrong, I should have said this…” I feel wonderful today.

Anyway, that’s my dilema! Either go to class and struggle, but know that I’m getting something out of it (god knows what because at the moment I feel like the only thing I’m getting out of it is stress). Or I could just not go and be happier, but then feel annoyed that I’m not going and at least trying. It’s a tricky one!

I don’t want to feel like I’m giving up. I really don’t. But the class is just so difficult for me. If it was the level that I’m at and I just didn’t go, then yeah I would be giving up. But this situation is different, so it’s harder.

I’ve also started seeing a therapist for my anxiety. I’ve wanted to go while in China but it was expensive. So I talked about how the class went to him and why I worry a lot. So we’ll see how that goes!

But anyway, today I feel happy and worry-free. So that’s good.

Aisling

It’s Actually Sticking In My Head

It’s Actually Sticking In My Head

Spanish, I mean. It’s slowly beginning to stick….. I’ve realised this with how I’m improving on Duolingo. It would give me a sentence to translate into Spanish, and I’d give it a go, thinking that it is wrong…. but nope! It was right! That is happening more and more now which I’m happy about.

I would really recommend Duolingo if you are learning a language. It helped me out a lot at the beginning, and I really just used that and spoke with my fiancé. This was all while I was in China, so it wasn’t possible for me to take classes. So I learned the basics of Spanish just by myself and trying to practice speaking with my fiancé.

Just yesterday I joined a spanish class in the University where my fiancé studied all those years ago. (The private companies are horrendously expensive) This one is extremely cheap for the semester, and  there are 3 other students in my class. I go Monday-Friday 10am-11am. So that’s 5 hours altogether. I’m in the basics level so my Spanish is still low, but I’m just happy that they had a class that I could join.

Today was my first day and it went so so I suppose. There was only 1 other student with me and he could speak more and understand more than I could. I only realised that he has been in the class a while now, and they have gone through half the Spanish book already.  So I joined very late in the semester.

I’m glad I joined but it kind of made me realise how much I don’t actually know. Yeah I know the basics but I’m still messy with tenses and my listening isn’t the best either. The other student was blabbering away and I didn’t understand him a lot of the time. I don’t know whether it was the vocab that he was using which I didn’t know, or that he just had a strong accent and that was why! I’ll pay attention tomorrow and see if I can figure out why!

So tomorrow there may be more students. I wonder how their Spanish is? I hope I will improve a lot in the next few weeks. Or at least get better with the tenses!

Aisling