Monday, September 28, 2009

Everything You Learn Well You Will Remember Forever

Everyday I talk to people who are interested in learning or improving a second or third language. Here in Ontario of course, a lot of this interest is focussed on French.

I have faced a lot of customers who say that they took some French in high school but after so many years they don't think they remember any of that and they assure me they need to start all the way from the beginner level.

It's funny, because something very similar happened to me. More or less 12 years ago, when I was looking for a job (my first serious job, that is, because by then I had already taught piano and English tutoring lessons at home and I had tried to sell promotional mints to all sorts of bussinesses), I found this ad in the newspaper for people interested in teaching English to adults. I had studied English my whole life in a bilingual school (Spanish-English), but that was through a traditional method in which the teacher would be the one speaking and I would only take notes and written tests; so, in theory, I knew English... but could I speak it? I was so desperate of making my own money (to pay University) that I applied and got an appointment for an interview.

I arrived punctually (something I learned from my father) to the address I was given and was met by a tall, British, very polished lady who led me to her office for the long expected interview. I was so nervous, so many things went through my head even before she started speaking... but the one thing that kept coming back again and again was the thought of me not being able to respond to any of her questions, I was going to make a fool of myself.

Well, surprisingly enough, it was only after a few minutes that I realized that I could speak English and I was not doing it badly at all... I got the job and 12 years later I am even able to write these posts for my blog. Of course, I have learned a lot more ever since and I have had the chance to practice everyday, but still everything I needed in terms of language for that interview came out without me being conscious of it.

So, what I always tell those people who say they have to start from the beginner level even though they studied the language before is, "believe me, if you woke up one morning and found that everyone spoke that second or third language only, the hidden box in your brain labeled "X language" will open and all those words and structures you once learned will come out streaming; just like what my grandmother used to say -everything you learn well you will remember forever-".
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