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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Loneliness

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I’ve always been a person who favours my own company. I’m quite happy being by myself and I don’t feel the need to be surrounded by people.

But now that I’m in Mexico… I feel lonely.

I feel lonely because I’ve no friends.

I feel lonely when my family in Ireland don’t write back to me.

I feel lonely when people come over, converse in Spanish, and I don’t understand.

I feel lonely sitting at the table not being able to contribute to any conversation.

I feel lonely not being included.

I feel lonely because I can’t laugh at any jokes.

I feel lonely not being able to do things when I want to.

I’ve moved from China to Mexico and I feel as lonely as ever.

Aisling

I Can Legally Stay In Mexico!

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So, it’s official, I’m on my way to becoming Mexican! My application for becoming a temporary residence has been accepted, so that’s another thing from our list to check off! Apparently it would take 15-20 days for it to be processed but I unexpectedly received an email about 7 days later. I’m sure because I married a Mexican really speeded things up. We were offered a 1 year visa or a 2 year visa, but we opted for a 1 year one. We aren’t sure what are plans are so we thought it would be safer going for the 1 year one.

The whole thing was simple enough too. We just had to fill in some things, get photos taken, copies taken of documents, pay the fees, and of course the most important thing; the marriage cert.

Before I had a tourist visa  that would have meant I would have to leave next month. When we visited Ireland my husband (boyfriend at the time) could only stay 3 months, and then he wasn’t allowed back for another 6 months!! I however could happily stay in Mexico for 6 months with my tourist visa!

My new visa doesn’t let me work however, so to be able to get a job, I will either have to say that I’m working independently and they will sort out tax from that, or I will have to have a letter to work from a company. I have to have a job first before I can apply for a work permit. So it’s a little annoying but hopefully it won’t be a big problem for me.

Also the process of actually me becoming a Mexican citizen is also very easy (in comparison to Ireland!) It would be cool to say I’m Mexican, but I think I need to at least be able to speak Spanish!

So our list is slowly getting smaller, and now I can legally stay here in Mexico, for 1 year anyway!

Aisling

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

 

My Therapist Said…

I’ve been stressing out lately about things…. the wedding, living in Mexico, money, not having much independence… just general things in life. Every week myself and my husband go to a therapist and we just talk about stuff that makes me anxious and what I can do to improve my life. My husband comes to translate because although my therapist understands a lot of what I say, I don’t think his speaking is as good. I don’t mind because I tell my husband everything so he knows beforehand what we’re going to discuss.

One thing I’ve been stressing about is learning my Spanish every day. “Today you need to learn this Aisling…..Oh you still haven’t done it, you’re going to have to do extra tomorrow.”.

Tomorrow comes “Don’t forget you have extra to study today….you’re going to be way behind in everything and won’t learn anything”.

And yet I still don’t do it. So I pressure myself to learn this, do that, write this out, study this grammar, and then there’s just so much that I need to do that I end up abandoning everything.

Then I feel bad for not doing anything all day.

So my therapist was telling me maybe leave studying Spanish for a while and see how I get on. I do want to continue studying though, so he recommend that I to do it in a more fun way. So I’m going to try and do that.

He also advised me just to relax more and do more of what I enjoy. I don’t do many things because my bloody head is constantly thinking ‘You have to study, you have to study… study… study… STUDY!!!.’ So I feel I shouldn’t be watching videos on YouTube because I really should be studying instead.

But my therapist made sense, and from now on for the foreseeable future I’m just going to relax more, stop worrying about Spanish, and just do what I feel like doing. Do stuff that makes me happy.

When I want to and feel like studying then I’ll do it. I’m going to try and not get annoyed at myself if I don’t.

You know it’s just that I know I’m not very good at languages. I know it. I know I need to put pressure on myself. Just doing nothing isn’t going to make the language stick in my head. I’m definitely not gifted with languages that’s for sure. I don’t mind that. I just want to see that my efforts are creating results, and at the moment I just can’t see it. For the time I study and the effort I’m putting in, I’m just not seeing results. My husband says he can see I’m getting better at talking, but I just can’t. So it’s annoying. I’m determined to learn it. I know one day I will speak fluently, but just now it’s difficult.

So, for the time being I’m just going to take it easy, do what makes me happy, and not stress as much. And we’ll see what happens!

Aisling