Project 3 Week 4/4: Lo hice!

GOAL: Finish Language Transfer and practice conversation!

Goal done; I finished the Language Transfer course and I really enjoyed it. I’ll absolutely be listening to it again later as review.

Language Transfer is a totally free language resource built by one guy, Mihalis Eleftheriou. He offers multiple courses, some “complete” and some “introductory” in scope. “Complete” means that the course covers all grammar skills you would need in conversation. These courses are not focused on content in the sense of vocabulary or memorization, but they are about giving the learner the tools they need to understand and analyze the language. As he says in the second to last episode of this course,

“you are using this mechanism or this tool which as we’ve said a few times, permits and obliges you to perceive and express the world in a certain way. But before we can fully take advantage of that, we want to get over our technical difficulties and this is achieved not through memorizing what is correct, but analyzing and understanding what is correct and finding why.”

The approach is, essentially, to expose the learner to the rules of the language and give explanations of why those rules exist that help them stick in the learner’s mind. Then, with that knowledge, they can practice by engaging in the language.

I have no reference for how good the other courses are, but I learned a lot from this Spanish course. I’d say that in a couple months of listening to this course and exposing myself to the language, I feel more confident reading and listening than I did in my 12 credit hours of introductory French courses after 3 years of high school French. With each new rule, Mihalis provides context, clues, tips, “hook phrases”, and perspectives that help make Spanish grammar fun and engaging. Because of this course, language-learning feels more like a very rewarding thought puzzle.

Here’s a good example of how Mihalis contextualizes common errors to help the learner understand and avoid them:

“So, a very common error for people learning Spanish is to say la problema. Now, if we look at why these words ending ma are actually masculine, it’s going to help us internalize it. So these words that end ma actually come from Greek. Problema in Greek is provlima. System in Greek is systima. In Spanish, it’s sistema. El sistema. So it’s el. Now in Greek, these words are neuter words. In Greek, you have masculine, feminine, and neuter. And neuter words in Greek look like masculine words. They have a similar word for the. They look kind of like masculine words. So when they went into Spanish, or into Latin, they got mistaken as masculine words. So if we can identify them, there’s a key group of words we can avoid committing this error with. If it ends ma, it’s probably from Greek and probably masculine.

I could spend a while rambling about the course, but to be brief, I’m very glad I found this course. It absolutely changed the way I think about language, and now I feel completely confident continuing to practice through exposure and immersion.

That being said, as it turns out, I’m a very awkward speaker still. My “test” conversation was short, probably for 2 reasons: 1) it is inherently awkward to fabricate a conversation for school purposes and 2) I really should have been practicing conversation more the whole time. So, not as successful as I’d like to be in speaking. I certainly can put together sentences as a response, but it takes about a second between each word if the sentence is more complicated than the average practiced phrase.

But, I do feel a lot more confident in listening after this. For example, I listened to the song I linked in the last post, and discovered that I knew what the entire introduction meant and could follow along just by listening. I listened to some new music to better test this, and I’m finding that I can pick out a lot more phrases and sentences than I could before. This is likely because now I know a lot better what to expect in terms of sentence structures.

Overall, I’d call this project a 75% (full success in listening, half success in speaking) success in terms of what I set out to achieve. Regardless, I absolutely know so much more Spanish than I did a month ago, and I’m really excited to feel confident in learning more via exposure. At the very least, I feel less intimidated by practicing conversation, a confidence barrier that was keeping me from learning previously.

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