Tip request from a student:
How to stop making the same mistakes over and over .
Response from Caro:
The first step in correcting any mistake, in Spanish or otherwise, is knowing what it is. If you know what mistakes you’re making then you’ve taken the first step. If you don’t, ask your teacher.
Once you know what mistakes you’re making, decide which one you want to work on first. And be specific, don’t choose verb conjugations, choose for example the preterit tense or don’t choose speaking, choose improving my fluidity or improving my pace. In other words, be specific.
Once you have one priority, work on that one priority until you’re satisfied with the results. If it’s the personal a for example, you may be satisfied with the results in one month, but if it’s the preterit, it may take 3+ months on one subject. The amount of time you need is going to depend on how you approach it, how much time you dedicate to it and the difficulty level of what you’re trying to improve.
Now you need a game plan. How are you going to improve this area? This is something you could ask your teacher about or something you could ask me to address in the blog.
In general I would say:
- Get your hands on everything you can about the subject. Read everything, do all the exercises you can, etc.
- Tell your teacher what you’re working on at the beginning of class, so that he/she knows what you most want help with that day.
- When you’re corrected in class, make sure that you go back and say it correctly. Writing it down the correct way helps as well.
- Decide how much time and when you will be dedicating time to the subject. Schedule it on your calendar or it won’t get done.
- Find a way to measure your progress. For example, if you’re working on your comprehension skills, listen to something on Day 1 and take notes. For example, you could write down the basic percentage of how much you understood, the difficulty level for you, new words you didn’t know, etc. You could listen to the same show/podcast/movie a few months later and compare. Learning a language is a lifetime commitment, so we don’t always realize how much progress we are making on a monthly basis.
- Listen to your teachers 🙂 I’m approached by students all the time who are frustrated because they’re still in the same level after a time they feel is inappropriate. But many times I (we – the teachers) have the same conversations with students over and over again, but things don’t change. For example, some students are told that if they improve their grammar, we will be able to move them into the next level. We suggest that they work on their grammar outside of class and also repeat when corrected. It doesn’t happen, and 6 months later they’re frustrated that they’re still in the same level. Other students are told that they will move up if their speaking pace improves and to try to let go a bit when it comes to grammar, so that they’re not thinking so much when they speak, which really slows them down. 6 months later their habits haven’t changed, therefore they’re not making progress in that area. If you continue to do the same thing, you will get the same results. It doesn’t mean that you’re not learning in class, but it may mean that you’re not improving what you need to get into the next level. I know that making changes is uncomfortable, but that’s what it takes to keep moving forward. I say this with a lot of love and a little frustration 🙂 If moving to the next level is important to you, follow your teacher’s advice. And be consistent. There is nothing more important than consistency when it comes to learning a language.