Learning Languages

In addition to tutoring students in a variety of subjects, I also provide English classes to adults and children. I, too, am a student, having signed up for a six-week course to learn Spanish using graded readers. The more I explore language teaching and learning, I am intrigued by the similarities and differences between them. I am primarily speaking of English vis-a-vis Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Russian.

In high school and college, I took courses in French, but as is the case with many students taking a foreign language: if you don’t use it, you lose it. I rarely used French. I am most familiar with French and Spanish. Based on my current experience, I think I am further along in Spanish because that is what I am currently learning. Pronunciation in Portuguese is challenging for me, but I am totally lost when it comes to Russian. I’ve never studied it nor Portuguese for that matter. I can’t even use my translation app with Russian because I don’t know the Russian letters. I have one kindergarten student who is Russian, fluent in conversational Russian and English.

It is challenging for my students who speak Portuguese to navigate the vowels or where to place the stress on a word. English is difficult in these two areas. There are no accents for guidance and the vowels in English do unpredictable things when they get together. I incorporate reading literature in my English classes. Reading aloud allows for repetition that helps with these skills.

I also think about word order and translation. I wish I could find a literal translation of Spanish texts to get a sense of the sentence structure flow. This would help me to create sentences in Spanish that are not a direct two-step translation from my mind. I this would help me “think” in Spanish.

The language teaching and learning continues…



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