Overcoming personal struggles and reaching new heights in language acquisition is at the heart of your journey to fluency. In a series of interviews with italki partners and polyglots, you will learn about personal stories from these language learning experts and be able to access novel and insightful language learning tips from those who have ventured on this journey.
In today’s feature, italki sits down with Silvia from Aprende inglés-Sila! Read on to find out what Silvia has to say about learning English.
Tell us about yourself, what do you do?
My name is Silvia (you can also call me Sila). I have a B.A. in English Philology. I lived for more than five years in London, where I was an usherette at the Lyric Theatre (a lovely theatre in the West End of London), I was also a secretary at a Tutorial College.
While living in London, I noticed the level of English that Spanish people possess was (in general) low, my own English included. As a result, I was determined to help those Spaniards who similarly struggled with the English language.
To accomplish my goal of helping others improve their English, I created the blog Aprende inglés-Sila, where I teach English in an entertaining and easy way...the way I wish it was taught to me.
Without a doubt, native English speakers have their own way of teaching the language. Not to take anything away from their teaching methodologies but I once struggled learning English in that fashion: the new sounds, tricky grammar, different culture and even mannerisms influenced by the language.
I took a step back and analysed the difficulties I’ve encountered learning English; and now, through my learnings, I am able to share and help Spanish speakers overcome similar difficulties while learning English -- through my blog Aprende inglés-Sila.
So, putting together everything I acquired while living in London and what I learned in university (phonetics, morphology, lexicology, syntax, history of the language, literature, history of English speaking countries, etc.), I created my own methodology of teaching English.
What languages do you speak? What language(s) are you actively learning now?
I speak Spanish and Catalan as my mother tongue(s). I am proficient in English and I’m learning German at the moment. I love the complexity of the German language and its declensions, no matter how weird and unique it may sound to non-German speakers.
How do you motivate yourself when learning a language, and what do you expect to achieve?
My main motivation is being able to use the language that I’m learning in context on a daily basis so that I can communicate with someone else.
This can prove difficult when I don’t live in a place where the language that I’m learning is spoken prominently. Therefore, to fully ‘live’ the language you’re learning, it is helpful (dare I say necessary) to possess a high level of imagination and creativity.
So that’s when watching films in original version, listening to the radio, reading on the target language, and making friends that speak the language all become a huge part of your day to day learning of your target language.
How has language learning changed your life?
Language has changed my life enormously. Before I spoke English, I could hardly communicate when travelling to any country in the world where Spanish wasn’t spoken. Moreover, it changed the way I see the world, as learning a new language means knowing a different culture and a new perspective on how someone else views life overall.
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but the fact that I can read books by English authors like Jane Austen or John Fowles in original version or I can appreciate the acting skills of actors such as Anthony Hopkins or Vanessa Redgrave have offered me the chance to enjoy those books and films in a genuine way.
Needless to say, English has become a passion of mine and I can even make a living teaching it.
What are your favorite ways of improving your speaking abilities?
I believe one of the best ways to learn a new language is living in a place where the target language is spoken. Not only because you are surrounded by people who speak the language daily but also because you will be forced to practice it in order to survive. Even simple tasks as buying groceries will be a rewarding challenge because you have no other choice if you want to be able to communicate with the rest of the locals.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the chance of living abroad temporarily, then I recommend, as I said before, to immerse yourself in the language by watching films, reading books, and watching YouTube videos.
What final inspiration would you like to share to our readers?
Everyone needs to find their own motivation. If you are learning a language just because you “have to”, the path will be bumpy and uneven.
If you really want to learn a new language, over time your perspective will change and you’ll find the inspiration within yourself.
However, it proves very difficult to feel inspired by something that’s not interesting or appealing; so you need to find resources to trick yourself into feeling that the language adapts to you, instead of being the one to adapt to the language you’re learning. That’s why I create resources to adapt to Spanish speakers depending on their learning styles.