Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning another language & culture

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Darling Vanisha made a comment on my last post that inspired me for a new post. It is time for another reflection on language learning. 

She asked me if I had a chat with the musician on Saturday. No I didn’t. 

First of all, if I may use it as a reason: he is not the most approachable person. I don’t know if it’s because he is simply not interested in talking to people, or if he is just so emerged in his music that the world around him doesn’t matter, or some other reason only he knows. Maybe he is shy even. He doesn’t really look at people, he just plays his guitar. When people drop money in his case or buy a CD (and a lot do it) he gives them a little nod or a quick look, but no smiles or anything else.

Second: We Norwegians don’t really just strike up a conversations with strangers on the street. Basically up there, if someone talks to you randomly it normally means that they are either drunk or suffering some kind of mental illness and you might want to remove yourself from the conversation. Walk away is normally the thing to do, unless you are also drunk or mentally disturbed and have found your counterpart!

But here people might do so, it’s more normal. So let’s say I would try to be more Spanish and actually go talk to this person and tell him how truly wonderful I think his music is (I am hoping that smiles and applause is getting the same message across…) - I have become a bit shy in Spanish! I may not be the most extravert person in this world, but I have never been as shy as I somehow am in Spanish. I am still learning the language and still have a long way before I call myself fluent and I get oh so conscious about everything when talking to people I don’t really know. Don’t know why there is a difference, but it seems the more comfortable (as in knowing the person) I am, or having had a few glasses of cava first, the less I worry about the words and grammar coming out of my mouth, instead of just jumping in with both feet.

So, the combination of him being a little distant and me being very Norwegian and a little shy answers your question Vanisha!

The more I learn of this language, the more difficult it becomes to speak it! In the beginning I even thought Spanish was kinda easy. I don’t think that anymore! There is so much grammar and so much to keep in mind and I like talking without having to think about every single word before I let them slip out of my mouth… But if you use a tense or even the accent of a word wrong, the meaning can get all changed. My brain seems to be having problems processing quick enough to find the right verb tense in the moment I need it.

As a note of comparison, the Norwegian language has 7 verb tenses where as Spanish has 20! 

And I am a perfectionist. I don’t like to do things half way, I like to do things properly, and that is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to language learning. I want to be speak Spanish well, and it can be a bit restraining.

So that’s me. I will keep on going and one day I will get all this right!

Have you ever learned another language and have some useful tips for me? 
(Other than" throw yourself into it". Tried that. Not for me.) 

14 comments:

  1. I took Spanish for 12 years. I'm still not fluent. I am not the right person to ask.

    http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

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    1. Thank you for answering anyway, that made me feel better!!

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  2. I've been trying to learn Spanish off and on for years and definitely understand a lot more than I speak! I don't have any great advise either, but here's some moral support: I've even found myself to be a bit shy in Scotland! Yes, it's all English and I usually understand all the accents that I come across but for some reason I worry that I won't! It's made me much less likely to talk to people I don't already know well.

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    1. Aw thank you!! Incredible what some moral support and hearing from someone who can relate can do!
      By the way, some Scottish accents are really f...ed up if I may say, I understand you!!

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  3. I am terrible at languages, so no advice there. I can say that smiling eye contact is the best way to get someone to start a convo with you but, if that doesn't work I'm all out of ideas.

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    1. It's hard to try to change into something so different from what I've been my whole life if you know what I mean. To be open and talkative to strangers just isn't in me, but everything can be learned right!?...

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  4. I TOTALLY understand this. I am a novice French speaker and it is very hard to work up the nerve to try to speak it!

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    1. Feels so good to hear I am not the only one!!

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  5. Come on!! You have to start practicing the language. Practice could make perfect, but it will definitely make permanent. Even if you know 500-1500 words in any language (which is the average active vocabulary), you will have to practice saying them and use them to make sentence structures. Don't freakout by the number of words as the words that have similar meaning between English and Spanish are thousands. They just differ in pronunciation.

    My advice.. Try talking to people around you (friends, neighbors..etc) only in Spanish. When you're stuck, ask them to help you say what you mean in Spanish. This will also improve your listening skills.

    People in Barcelona are friendly (mostly). Ask a question, open up a subject and you have a conversation. But since you're not used to this, I think you can start a brief convo with waiters or shop assistants just for the sake of practice. It would be much easier than talking to a complete stranger.

    Enjoy!

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    1. I am not sure how to change my personality to start talking to strangers on the street, it's so deep in me & you just don't do that where I come from. But by all means, I do talk to people :) Just not private conversations with complete strangers! To ask for something however in a shop etc. is a completely different story, there you have a need, and a reason to talk. (And I never let myself speak English with Spanish people, it's not allowed!)

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  6. Da jeg startet å lære italiensk i Norge for noen år siden så tok jeg meg en ferietur til Italia med det for øyet å bli litt flinkere både å forstå og å snakke språket. Siden jeg reiste alene så hadde jeg jo ingen "sparringpartner", men det jeg gjorde var å stoppe forbipasserende på gaten og å spørre dem om "alt mulig". Veien til postkontoret, en butikk, en turistattraksjon, apoteket.... You name it... Det går også an å gå inn i en butikk og spørre etter noe du regner med de ikke har (ellers kan det jo bli dyrt hvis du må kjøpe det....) Eller du kan gå på togstasjonen og be om all mulig slags info. Listen er lang.

    Jeg pleier aldri å starte "private" samtaler med fremmede (man er da norsk!), men å spørre etter vanlig informasjon går greit. Ellers så kan du jo gjøre det til en vane at du MÅ spørre om et eller annet når du er og handler. Om ikke annet så kan du spørre om kassadamen har bruk for småpenger når du betaler...

    Det å lære seg et språk er nok en livslang øvelse. Og jeg tror også at det tar tid før man slutter å føle seg uendelig dum når det er noe man ikke forstår. Den dumhetsfølelsen er blitt så vanlig for meg nå at jeg nesten ikke legger merke til den lengre...

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    1. Foreigner, mange fine tips, takk!
      Hehe, "man er da norsk", nemlig! Jeg får ikke helt til det der med å starte normale samtaler med fremmede, det er noe annet enn å spørre etter informasjon. Da har man en grunn og det er ikke så skummelt.

      Det er så godt å høre fra andre i samme sko, det er så lett for utenforstående å tro at man er flytende i løpet av en 3 mnd's tid. (Da jeg var hjemme på juleferie fikk jeg en gullkommentar "Ja, du er vel flytende nå? Det burde du iallefall være siden du har vært der i flere måneder...")

      Kan man virkelig bli vant med å føle seg dum?... :-/

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  7. Hey lovely, can't believe I missed this earlier, thanks for messaging me about it. I agree with Awadh, that's how I'm learning Fijian. But I do make it a point to ask people to correct me and not let me get away with 'baby talk' In Fiji I come across people a bit like your guitarist. But if I'm curious, I usually do say something or ask a question and then I decide from their response if I should try to further the conversation. But you are right, it has a lot to do with personality. I am inspired and motivated with random conversations I've had with people/strangers and how much I learn. Everyone has a story and I'm curious! :)

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    1. I also want to be corrected, I don't want to get stuck with lots of errors. And you are absoutely right, it sounds very interesting to learn from strangers you wouldn't normally talk to. Should keep that in mind and see if I can make myself be more "Spanish" about this ;)

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