Quarantine Activity: Learning a New Language

During my first year of university, I enrolled in a beginner Spanish course at the University of Saskatchewan. I had always wanted to learn Spanish, despite my inability to roll my R’s, but I had never had the time. Throughout the class, I developed my Spanish vocabulary and grammar skills, but as the course drew to a close, I realized that my newfound knowledge would likely be pushed to the side and forgotten. And that is exactly what happened. School, work, and my social life all took precedence over learning the language and eventually I lost the knowledge I had worked so hard to obtain.

However, my “lack of time” to pursue a new language slowly became an invalid excuse when social distancing kick-started in Saskatchewan in mid-March. I found myself looking for something to occupy my mind and my large amounts of free time. Classes were still operating online but I was no longer commuting to school, working my part-time job, volunteering, or hanging out with my friends, and as a result, I was bored. I remember scanning my bookshelf in my room looking for something to read when my eyes stopped on my old Spanish textbook from two years prior. It was at that moment that I decided the best way I could make use of my time during social distancing was to start learning Spanish again.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to begin learning Spanish, especially on my own, so I decided to begin with the only method I could think of: flashcards. I pulled out my stack of unused flashcards, set aside for the finals I no longer had to write, and began writing down basic phrases, colors, and animals. From there I began to test myself on these terms and slowly I would write out more flashcards to add to the pile. This method seemed to work at the beginning and my Spanish vocabulary was increasing. However, I still felt as if I needed to do more to keep myself engaged.

Language Learning Books”. Pixabay

I downloaded Duolingo, a language learning app, and began to incorporate that into my daily routine. I enjoyed listening to Spanish from the app, as well as the practice of speaking, reading, writing, and listening that it provided me. I definitely think Duolingo is a great place to start for beginners looking to build vocabulary and pronunciation skills. There are a lot of languages to choose from, and best of all, it’s free!

I continued using Duolingo and my flashcard method, and after a few weeks of practice, I decided the final thing that needed to be added to my Spanish routine was to actually practice having conversations in Spanish. That is when I decided to reach out to my friend that I met in Peru back in February. I asked if he would be willing to practice speaking Spanish with me and he agreed. We started speaking on the phone several times a week and my Spanish began improving quite quickly. Speaking can be one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language, so I was very fortunate to know someone who could practice speaking with me. Even though I only knew a bit of basic vocabulary, I was still able to use what I knew to practice and I developed more vocabulary and language comprehension skills as time went on. Learning a language can seem intimidating and challenging but it doesn’t have to be. Just start slow and try not to be too hard on yourself. Learning a language takes practice but it is really rewarding, and a great way to spend your time. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn a language, maybe now is the time to give it a try!

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