2011-08-24

The Importance of Teaching Languages

Written by Ross McDermott
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Living in a globalised world has meant it has never been more valuable to speak another language. The ability to move freely between countries has meant we are now far more likely to encounter other cultures and languages than previous generations, and speaking another language helps us to integrate properly and understand more about how different societies live. Most importantly however, it is vital they are taught correctly in order to preserve the understanding of the spoken and written word.

I arrived in Buenos Aires at the start of June having listened to several hours worth of Spanish tapes convinced I could speak some basic Spanish, however it proved far more difficult than I first thought. Whilst I could repeat some basic phrases droned into my head, I was unable to comprehend any answers, or react to unforeseen questions. Thankfully I started my Spanish course a couple of days later, which has helped immeasurably. I started with intensive Spanish for four hours a day, which was split between grammar and vocabulary.

Despite the difficulties in learning a new language, the process was smoothed by the attention to detail of the teachers (the grammar class was one-to-one). Gradually, as I understood more of the language, I was invited to speak more with other students in order to help improve my fluidity and my ability to understand others. For me, the most important aspect of the course was the grammar; whilst verbs and vocabulary can be learned outside of the classroom, it is imperative to understand the grammar in order to be able to adapt in conversation.

Learning in a class has also helped me understand the nuances between languages. I have often been caught out saying distinctly un-Argentinean phrases in Buenos Aires and having a teacher to confide in has helped me realise my mistakes. Having completed four weeks of Spanish, I ‘graduated’ with a very good understanding of the basic principles of Spanish. The relaxed environment of the classes did not make it feel like school, whilst all of the teachers all make you feel part of the community. I hope to continue learning Spanish when I return to the United Kingdom through meeting up with Spanish natives and I feel confident enough to do this now. Whilst it may take me a lot of practice and effort to improve substantially, I feel I have benefited greatly from the experience of learning Spanish through the classroom and would thoroughly recommend other beginners to follow the same path.

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