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Friday, August 18, 2006

My own second language acquisition.

I have been in my Spanish-speaking country for two weeks now, and in some ways it is exactly the experience I wanted. I had wanted to know what it feels like to be a complete outsider, to not understand the language or the culture or the city. And this is what I have received.

With my interest in bilingual education and language acquisition, or really my interest in education at all, I am very glad that I made the decision to study abroad in a country whose language I do not speak or understand well.

I find myself not asking questions when really, I want to find something out. I find myself just nodding when I really have no idea what´s going on. I find myself unable to express what I know, even if I understand the question. To everyone else, I appear to be a huge space-cadet. I wander around, not really knowing where people are taking me, what it is I´m eating, what it is that I´m going to do next.

One thing that I guess I do a lot is, after someone tells me something, I will ask them to repeat it once or twice, but after that I just pretend that I understand, regardless of whether or not I actually do. Someone told me that I shouldn´t do that, that I should keep asking until I do understand, but really it´s just so tiring to keep asking over and over and over again. I get to the point where I just don´t care anymore.

Also, I need an obscene amount of sleep. Constantly being in the Spanish-speaking environment, combined with the intense heat and the long days of my first month´s intensive language immersion activities, I ideally go to sleep at about 9:30pm. If I go to sleep much later than that, the next day I cannot understand anything that is going on around me, nor can I form the even semi-coherent sentences that I usually use when I speak.

This is interesting from my perspective as a future teacher because I can see how students who have recently begun to learn the language they are being taught in will have obstacles in so many ways. Before this, I could understand it from a textbook perspective. Now I can really understand it from living it. It´s exhausting being in a new place. You´ll have good days and bad days. The other day, I couldn´t understand anything that anyone was saying. It was beyond frustrating. That night I went to sleep at about 9:15pm, and the next day I was better able to understand other people and better able to express myself.

I´ve been keeping notes for myself on how I feel in regards to my language acquisition. I really want to get my hands on some second language acquisition textbook, to see where I am now in my development of the language, and where I´m heading next. Though I guess living it is better than looking it up in a textbook. To see what´s going to happen next, I just have to wait until tomorrow.


Blogger Dree said...

I just finished a class about teaching reading and writing to English Language Learners, and we learned about the different stages of language acquisition. It's kinda cool to read about it from the perspective of an English speaker trying to acquire a second language. Good luck with it! Can't wait to read more about your experiences!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

I'm really excited to be going through it, and being able to note when different things happen! :)

1:05 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Man, reading this made me regret my decision not to go to Guadalajara for a month this summer. Too much life happened that kept me home. Thanks for sharing this. It's getting me fired up about trying this trip again in the future. Hang in there kid!

1:13 PM  

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