Language

Lifelong Learning 

Glossolalia, Palma de Mallorca,  language school

I’ve lived and worked on our beautiful island for almost eleven years. When I first moved here I could barely speak Spanish, let alone Catalan. Now more than a decade later, depending on who I am speaking to, I can “get by” in most conversations. But I can understand more Spanish than I can reply, and boy is that frustrating when I want to complain about bad service or tell a joke. I want to be better at languages, and try to get some understanding of Catalan, and I don’t accept that common myth that it’s “harder for the Brits” to speak a language, we just don’t have the same compunction to learn.

Aside from the obvious benefits of learning to speak a language fluently there are additional health benefits that I would enjoy whilst I am learning.  By taking in new information I would also improve my cognitive functions, my brain would strengthen becoming faster and more flexible: as if I was taking my little grey cells for a workout at the gym. My memory would improve as a result and I could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  As a result of learning a new language it also means my ability to express myself in English will improve. It sounds counter intuitive but it´s been proven that as you focus on one language and its abstract concepts of grammar you also apply your new understanding to your existing mother tongue.

Glossolalia, Palma de Mallorca. language school

But how will I achieve this? Especially when time is of the essence: I don’t have much free time to spare. I’ve studied Spanish off and on over the last decade with mixed results. Why haven’t I just “absorbed” Spanish the way that some friends of mine have done. I think partly it is because of the work that I do: I produce thousands of words in English every week, so how am I going to break out of this pattern and finally go from “frustrated beginner” to “UN translator” although I would settle for “advanced and completely competent”. And perhaps I just haven’t given it enough of a go yet. Glossolalia, a language school based in Palma, say that it’s normal to learn a thousand words in one week on one of their courses, but then they don’t teach in the conventional way. Their courses are guided by the results of advanced psychological studies in how we learn. The secret they say is to apply the techniques of “Super Learning” by using a method called “Suggestopedia”. A Bulgarian psychologist called Georgi Lozanov pioneered the method in the Seventies. Key differences to conventional teaching have to be followed. The physical surroundings and atmosphere in the classroom are vital factors to make sure that the students feel comfortable and confident, and various techniques, including art and music, are used by the trained teachers. In order to help the student remember the information it is delivered in several different ways: repetition in active and passive ways, with reinforcement through the use of different sorts of games in a comfortable setting. The Glossolalia method uses classrooms with audio-visual aids, comfy chairs, physical activities, excursions out for lunch and trips, role-playing games, memory training, speech therapy exercises and linguistic exercises.

Glossolalia, Palma de Mallorca, language school

Comfy chairs? I’m in!

 

Once upon a time I was confident that I would be able to speak Spanish fluently, whenever I am asked by a Spanish speaking person how long I’ve lived here I want to lie because my language skills should be spot on by now, surely? But I’ve decide that it’s not time yet to give up on my ambitions. It’s got to be worth a shot. I want to stop feeling embarrassed about my language skills and hold my own down the pub. And the doctors. And the post office. And at my daughter’s school, my workplaces, the garage… you get the idea? You can follow my efforts at www. mallorcamatters.com and get more info about their super learning techniques at www.glossolalia.com

By Vicki McLeod

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Normal service will be resumed

The medical form....

The medical form….

Regular readers of this column will have noticed that I have been anything but regular recently with my column, and for that I apologise. I’ve been getting to know the Spanish health system. Now it’s nothing to worry about, I’m not about to announce a terminal disease or a pregnancy but I have been coping with a new and unexpected development. I’ve become one of those people who has back problems, despite my indignant denial of the situation.

Which is how I found myself in Son Espases Hospital at 9.30am a couple of Sundays ago waiting for an MRI. There is a little known skill that a Britisher has to develop once they have moved to Spain: the ability to recognise their surname when a Spanish person pronounces it in a waiting room. You don’t want to jump up and cry “Ese soy yo!” and then be embarrassed to realise that they have in fact just called Senora Mendoza, crivens no, that wouldn’t do at all to draw attention to one’s self would it? On top of that there is the immense translation task which is the medical questionnaire, in Catalan. Back in 2004 when my husband and I moved to Mallorca we very quickly had to use what was then Son Dureta Hospital for a mystery illness (which turned out to be a very nasty bout of reactive arthritis) I had to cart around an enormous Spanish English dictionary with me in order to be understand, much to the amusement of the nurses. At least now I can use the Google Translate App on my phone, (if you haven’t got it, get it, it’s free and very handy for tricky vocabulary. I didn’t know the Catalan word “imant” meant “magnet” for example).

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have an MRI. Although I’d seen plenty of them on Casualty, I still turned to my Facebook mates in the group “I have a question” to find out what advice they had for me. “You have to stay still but don’t panic”, “make sure you go for a big wee beforehand”, “it’s quite noisy but it’s okay they give you earplugs”, and “I played an alphabet game in my head to distract me” were the four most key pieces of advice that played through my head (wishing I’d remembered the advice about the wee), as I lay down on the trolley and slowly slid into the tube. I fought off the temptation to have a panic attack when I realised that I was in an expensive coffin-like structure and started to write this column in my head.  My friends were right, it is noisy, but the sounds themselves are very much like what you would expect to hear coming from a teenager’s bedroom: a repetitive twanging guitar sound, one note only, a stuck record (vinyl, remember them, even older than my massive dictionary) and a jack hammer. Well, depends on the type of teenagers you know I suppose.

I’ll be back next week. (See what I did there?).

http://www.familymattersmallorca.com

Vicki McLeod 2014