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Living In Mexico And Taking Spanish Classes - Why?

Feb 8, 2008
The wife and I walked downtown from our East Guanajuato Barrio today. On the way back, I stopped in one of the local Spanish Schools. I wanted to talk with the guy in charge to see about making an appointment to talk about taking classes again. The school was abuzz with students. This is good. When we first moved to Guanajuato, the school was struggling. It was a good school then and is even better now.

When I was in the school, I encountered what I am sure to hear over and over again in the weeks ahead:

"You mean, you live here and have for five years and you are coming back to Spanish class?"

Why?

I am sure to hear this once I get ensconced in class and introduce myself. I was dreading this. The fellow classmates find I have been living in the city and immediately will wonder why in God's name am I sitting in a classroom taking Spanish instruction. I was dreading this sort of encounter until I realized just why this is going to be a question asked of me repeatedly.

The answer, I think, is that it is assumed if you actually live in a Mexican town full-time and have been living in the town for five years, then you would have somehow, as if by magic, simply absorbed Spanish. You will arrive by some mysterious process to being able to discuss Quantum Mechanics in Spanish with the local university's scientists. There will be no Spanish task too hard for you, so why are you sitting in a classroom?

I really think the issue, about which I have written in earlier articles, "Language Learning" versus "Language Acquisition" is the principal reason for the confusion that will prompt a bevy of questions and confused looks. So few really know the difference. They will spend a small fortune to come and study in a classroom in the country where the language is spoken expecting some kind of miracle to occur. The guy I talked to today told me once, many years ago, that many, if most, come to Spanish class with a fantasy expectation of learning Spanish. Nor is there a miracle waiting for you if you move here. There are more opportunities to practice if you take advantage of them.

Miracles are not waiting in the town in which you come to study, or even live, but what awaits you is hard, hard, hard work.

What is absolutely pivotal is to correctly understand the difference between Language Learning and Language Acquisition. What most people who spend the time, money, and effort to come to Mexico to study Spanish want is Spanish Speech. They want to be able to speak the language. Some do, of course, come with the desire to learn something about the language (grammar), but most want to be able to speak the language. And, what they do is put the cart (grammar) before the horse (speech) instead of the other way around.

I always advise those who ask to get as much Spanish Speech training under their belts long before coming to Mexico to study Spanish.

What you will encounter if you don't is what is going to sound like mush instead of comprehensible speech.

Acquire Spanish speech first.

Learn Grammar second.
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