While listening to Wayne Dyer recently, I learned that just ONE IDEA is enough to make a dramatic improvement in my life. Just one thought, one insight, one new direction, one idea can change my life for the better.
That’s probably why I feel compelled to keep writing a weekly email to all my amigos. I have no idea how many people actually read what I send, but I believe that if just one thing said, one time, somehow or another helps just one of us to improve our Spanish, it is all worth it. So here (in so many words) is the one thing I would like to say today.
For most of us, fluency is the goal. However, many language learning experts say that the later in life that you start on the second-language path, the less likely it will be that you become fluent. The key issue is time-on-task … when we were children, we had seemingly all the time in the world to learn another language, but as adults we have many competing priorities. It’s really not about capacity to learn as we get older, although mental functioning does change somewhat over time, but in reality the key issue is how much time and opportunity we have to learn. And the good news is that language learning is good for the mind NO MATTER when you start the process, and here is an article that supports that fact: http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/18/foreign-language-learning-good-for-your-brain/?hpt=Sbin
And the ONE THING that I would like to share with you today is that YOU can and should define what fluent looks like for you, because you don’t have to rely on, or be bound by, what someone else defines as fluent. If Spanish fluency is defined as having the same grasp and command of Spanish as I have of English, well I can tell you right now that it is highly unlikely (save an act of God) that I will ever achieve that type of fluency in Spanish. I’m not an English scholar, but I feel that I understand English pretty well … and since it has taken me 50 years to get to this point with English, which includes near complete immersion in the English language for 50 years, then by reason it would take the same amount of time and immersion experience to get to the same level of Spanish mastery. Do I need to leave everything and everyone, move to a small Spanish-speaking village in Central America, and hope to live to be 100 years old? I think so, because that is about what it would take to get to the same level in Spanish that I now have in English … and it might take even longer since I might not find Catholic nuns in that small Spanish-speaking village to make sure (by discipline, piercing stare, ruler, etc.) that I learn my lessons.
So what does it mean to be fluent? Here are some dictionary definitions:
- Merriam-Webster – Capable of using a language easily and accurately
- Cambridge Dictionary – When a person is fluent, they can speak a language easily, well and quickly
Goodness gracious! By those definitions, I am not sure that I am even fluent in English!!
How about this one:
- Dictionary.com – Able to speak or write a specified foreign language with facility
I like that one … able to speak “with facility.” What does that mean? Who knows, so I may as well claim it and tell the world that I can speak Spanish with facility!
In one sense, I have already achieved what I set out to do with Spanish … that is, I already have the ability to help two people communicate with each other – one that speaks only Spanish, the other that speaks only English. I may not be the best interpreter in the world, but I am already an interpreter. So for me, everything from now on is gravy … whatever more Spanish I can learn will only make me a better interpreter, or should I say intérprete.
So define for yourself what fluent looks like, if in fact fluency is your goal. If a few Spanish sentences roll off your tongue fluidly, then you should be heartened by the fact that you were fluent in that moment. Fluency is only a matter of degree, and you are somewhere on that fluency scale with everyone else who is learning Spanish. And that’s my THEORY OF SPANISH RELATIVITY.