Learning Spanish or any language is a long journey, a destination, like the island Ithaca of the Greek poet Kavafis:
When you start your journey to Ithaca
ask for the path to be long,
full of adventures, full of experiences.
Because more important than getting to a place, it is the path of the trip that you are going to travel and the experiences that you will live, in short, focus on enjoying the process.
The secret to learning Spanish is to accept that it is a path that you walk throughout your life and that it needs to become a habit, even if you take a break from time to time. In this journey there are different stages, four exactly and it is true that when you get to the third you already have a sufficient level of comfort to communicate and be competent. However, as with any learning, neuroscientists say that the practice needs to be integrated into your life in the long term and not temporarily. So start by questioning the gurus who claim to be able to learn a language in a month, you can learn the basics but you will not have a conversation. Also, for all humans, languages are like muscles, if you don’t train them they will be lost.
Another thing you should know is that as soon as you pass the first stage, you can easily forget what you learned if you give up, therefore, you will have wasted the time invested. The same goes for your muscles when you stop going to the gym for months, right? Taking a break for a while is fine, but if you quit completely, then you will need more time to get back into shape. Of course, the muscles “have memory” and you will be able to return faster to the physical state where you left off. In Spanish, your memory also helps you to start over, albeit alone and exclusively… if you had already reached a good part of the way and overcome the difficulties of the first stages.
If you know what the route is before you start, you can organize yourself better, especially mentally. Therefore, I leave you a map with the Spanish mountain and its four levels:
I’m not going to tell you that learning a language is easy, it’s not for anyone and it’s not a question of talent either. The stereotypical “good language student” only has one habit well worked and above all, is a person who enjoys the process, takes care of their own learning personalizing it with tasks that they like or are “from their world”. For example, he/she reads Vogue in Spanish if he/she is interested in fashion, and not the newspaper El País because that is what his teacher has recommended.
Another of their secrets is that they set goals to help them continue …
What if you propose to visit Machu Picchu when you get to stage 3?
You can imagine that your Spanish Ithaca is the Andes, that immense mountain range (the longest in the world) in Latin America and that you are going to undertake a journey that will take you to visit beautiful towns and wonders of nature.
Do you decide to start this journey? Come on, dare to learn Spanish.
Information adapted from Language Mentoring by (PhD) Lýdia Machová.