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Language Learning Autobiography 2

Ana María R.

My name is Ana Maria, and I am 19 years old. I was born in Mexico, so I speak Spanish, which is my mother tongue (L1). I learned Spanish in two ways: formal and informal. When I was a baby I spoke since I was 1 year 3 months of age. I think I imitated people because I heard them or something like that. I was not aware if what I said was right or not.

In kindergarten I learned the vowels and how to write and read. I went to  elementary school at the  Colegio Alfonso de Ligorio, a private school.  I remember that in first grade we read every day from a textbook which had a lot of good readings with drawings and in that way my classmates and I improved our first language.

Another thing I remember is that the teacher taught to us how to create sentences with subject, verb and complement for example:  “La niña salta la cuerda” and in the same grade I started to learn English until sixth grade which is my second language.

After that I studied in a public junior high school. I think that the English level of the school was very basic because I noticed that what I had learned during 6 years in elementary school was the same as in junior high.

During high school I learned the conjugation of every verb, which was a very old method, but it has worked very well because even nowadays I have not forgotten how to conjugate the verbs.

In the last year of the high school I changed what I wanted to study. I decided to study the major in languages. I never thought that I would study languages, but I decided to study this because I have a lot of goals in my life such as working as a teacher of languages, traveling around the world, communicating with other people who do not speak my language, making friends, studying in an exchange program, etc.

Before college, I had never studied other subjects in English. I mean my classes were taught in Spanish and that was the biggest problem which I had to face when I started this major. I'm a shy person and since the first day I had to speak in English and I noticed that everybody spoke the language very well.

I got used to listening to the language quickly. The first semester was easy even though I had trouble expressing myself in English but I never gave up; I continued learning English outside of class by watching movies without subtitles, listening to a lot of songs and reading in order to improve the language.  The second semester was very hard for me because I took five classes in English and that was a great challenge to me but finally I lost the fear of speaking in front of my classmates.

Sometimes during the first semesters when the day ended,  I was very tired of listening to another language all day.  Then when I reached the third semester I was really excited to start French, which is a beautiful language because of its pronunciation, etc.

I have been learning French better than English because in English I have to think about what I want to say and then translate it in my mind quickly, but French  is totally different because what I have been learning in class. I use it in conversations with my friends and I do not have to think in my own language and then translate it. I just say what I want to say directly in French even when I do not know much vocabulary.

At the beginning of my French course I did not know anything about French; I started at 0. I heard the teacher speaking and I did not understand anything and I was very frustrated but my most remarkable difficulties in French were how to pronounce correctly because in French there are a lot of letters that you do not pronounce like the final s, etc. Time went by and I improved my level of French a lot by using “Tell me more”, and reading books in French. I was very motivated because I love how French sounds when people speak that language.

Along with the French class, I took Italian but only for 1.5 hours a week, while French was 4.5 hours per week. Italian was very easy for me, because it is more similar to Spanish than English.  I got an almost perfect average in Italian but my problems came when I started confusing things of French in Italian, when I had to write something or when I participated during the class and I used words of French but I did not notice that until the teacher corrected me.

I have always thought that if I had started studying languages since childhood, things would be different now. I have seen that my niece Debanhi, who is 6 years old, when I taught to her the numbers in French, she learned them like in 20 minutes and if you ask her right now she can remember what the correct pronunciation of every number is and she never forgets even though she does not learn French in her school, but she is very intelligent.  Maybe it is also because of her brain plasticity and because she does not have a great knowledge of her first language like an adult.

My motivation was integrative because I always wanted to learn more of each language and this boosted my efforts to acquire the language in a successful way. I used to chat online with strangers from different countries and as long as I understood what they were saying, I felt successful.

My advice to second language learners would be that if you are a teenager, you should choose a language because it is more important nowadays to know a language because of globalization, and the advice to the parents is that if they have the opportunity to choose a school for their kids in which they speak English or another language they should do it in order to give them an advantage in contrast with other people.

As I want to be a second language teacher in the future, the advice that I consider the most efficient is to make everything dynamic and fun if you are going to teach children and teenagers. Some materials that you can use in class are power point presentations, posters, images and to improve all the phonology stuff you can use music and movies.

I consider that communication between students and their teacher is very important because you have to know the level of each student so you can know from what level you are going to begin to teach. You have to be realistic and include the goals that your students have in mind in your class.

Next semester I am going to study German here in school and many people have told me that German is a difficult language to learn because it has a different structure such as different grammar rules. I think with the phonology is not a big deal but the problem will be that there are a lot words which can be conjugated as a noun, verb and other things that in Spanish we do not use.

In my major there is a requirement that I have to travel to another country where people do not speak Spanish in order to practice the language and learn other things like culture, food and other themes. I believe that this experience will be the best of my life.

At this stage I consider that I am a multilingual speaker even though I have not reached the last level of every language but even in Spanish every day I am continuing learning words when I read books. I will never give up in this because it is what I like and what I want to do for the rest of my life.

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