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Language Learning Autobiography 3

Jessica F.

So far in my life, I have learned English and a little bit of French, but in the fifth semester I will start to learn German, which is a language that I consider the most difficult. My life’s plan is aimed at languages, so I am studying a degree in languages, and hopefully I will work in what I like the most.

I was in junior high school when I started to learn English; my parents decided that it would help me a lot in my life so they enrolled me in Harmon Hall Tampico at the age of twelve. Then when I was fifteen, instead of having my “sweet fifteen” party, my parents sent me to Europe as a gift. I was really excited, but I did not know that this trip would have its benefits later, because when I came back to Tampico I realized that languages are not only very important for everything but  very necessary. I made the decision to learn English as my second language and then take courses in a third language.

When I was in France, I wanted to know in which gate I had to take the train to Albi, but I did not know anything about the French language, so I felt worried and stressed.  Simple things like buying a sandwich or a souvenir were strange and I could not ask for directions as easily as I wanted, so I knew that I definitely had to start learning French someday.

When I was in high school, I did not know what I wanted to be, or at least I was not sure, but I decided to study a degree in languages and of course I do not regret it. My experience in Europe was one of the most influential in my decision to study this program. Another one is that my father always tells that languages are synonymous with culture, globalization and open-mindedness.  I agree because I think that they open the doors to a whole new world in which communication is not a problem and where any aspect of culture has its place. Here I highlight culture because my parents are architects and they know a lot about culture; as a result, I am interested in culture too. I am trying to cultivate myself, and there is no better place to acquire knowledge of culture than in the world of languages.

Going back to my English acquisition, I learned a lot during the courses at Harmon Hall, but I reinforced my English at the IEST, because the degree is basically English and the analysis of it. Nowadays I have a better level. I can say that I am able to read a whole book in English and I can speak with an English speaker. I had problems with my fluency, and I think that this area is one of the most difficult for me, but now it is not a huge problem.

Since the very first semester, the teachers started to help us with English issues because they all are very good in the language so it helped me to improve my level and to reinforce what I already knew. I think positive feedback is the clue for a good acquisition; it totally helps a lot to make you see in which area you have to work the most.

English was never a difficulty for me, but problems and challenges came with French classes.  Even though my teacher is very intelligent and she really knows how to teach French, the acquisition has been very difficult for me. The phonology and the way to conjugate the verbs are the areas which have been a real challenge.  For example, in English there are not a lot of exceptions like in French, past tense in English is easy but in French there are two ways to conjugate a verb in past, and of course there are a lot of exceptions too. Undoubtedly English is easier than French in so many ways.

Although I had not taken French classes until last semester, I am not that lost. I can distinguish some vocabulary and verb tenses when I hear French, but what I cannot connect that well is grammar with speaking, which is very important because without good grammar you cannot have a good conversation with anyone.

I have a long way to go in French, but I will make it because I have everything in my favor. Soon I will spend a month in France in order to practice the language and hopefully it will improve my French, especially the speaking area. Of course the experience will be totally different from the first time I was in Europe, because now I will be able to speak the language of the country and communication will be much easier than the first time.

What teachers recommend is to read books in the language we want to improve.  For example, I started to read a book in English but I found it very difficult because the kind of writing is tough and heavy to read so I chose  a book with a different topic and writing style and I can understand almost everything. Another good piece of advice to improve speaking is to read out loud but alone in a small room in order to listen to yourself and try to correct the pronunciation whenever it is wrong. I practiced this technique when I was learning English because I was not that good in pronunciation, and now I can recommend it because it has helped me a lot.

Even though I am not really good in French, I feel that I know a lot considering the time I have been learning it.  Some teachers say that French is easier for Spanish speakers because they have similarities. Sometimes I find similarities with Italian too; I took some Italian classes, but it is too bad that it is not obligatory to take this class. It is optional and it is just a class per week, so that is why I did not learn that much. If I take an Italian course in the future, I am sure that I would learn it very fast because it is easy and the phonology is as simple as in Spanish.

Next semester I will start taking German classes in college as part of my program and I have to confess that I am really afraid because my friends from the sixth semester told me that German is very difficult. I know that I have to make a huge effort in order to achieve my goals in German, and to my future teachers I would suggest that they have a lot of patience and  give interesting classes.   What I like is when teachers add culture to their classes; for example, if he/she is talking about how to say hello in German, I want to know what is rude for Germans or what is polite for them, so then I could have an idea what I have to say when I go to Germany.

As I said, I have a long way to go in languages. I would like to learn more than five languages, even though I saw in my second language acquisition course that young children learn languages more easily, I think that older people can learn languages more successfully than children, because older people know what they want to do with a language, whether to use it for communication purposes or to use it for something more concrete like medicine or engineering purposes.

To those who want to start acquiring a second language, a good piece of advice is not to ever give up.  For some people, the language  may be very difficult and they might feel that they cannot learn anymore and for others, it may be simple, but they always have to think that they will achieve their goals, maybe fast or maybe slowly, but somehow they will reach the goal. What I recommend the most is to listen to music in the language they are studying, or read novels or light and fun stories in the language so like that they will have what they need in order to get used to the language. "Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another." (Walter Elliott)

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