This week I am interviewing Jason from SpanishVault.com . On his site, he encourages and gives great tips to Spanish learners so that they can become more confident and fluent. Despite his tips can also be applied to other languages, Jason makes a great work in awareness for learners to be motivated with their learning.
Here are his answers 🙂
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?
My name’s Jason, and I’m from Minnesota (one of those cold and snowy states in the United States). I’m a clinical psychologist, so I get to do therapy and different psychological testing with both kids and adults, working for the county right now.
How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?
I first started learning languages back when I was in middle school. Like a lot of people, it was a requirement in school to learn a foreign language, so I decided to learn Spanish. Then I got a job working at a restaurant, and I was able to talk with a lot of the Spanish-speakers working there and get to know them better by speaking Spanish with them.
I stopped learning Spanish in high school, and about 10 years later I started to learn Spanish again on my own. After that, I found that a lot of the polyglots on Youtube motivated me to learn on my own. Watching videos of people like Luca Lampariello, Benny Lewis, Richard Simcott, and Moses McCormick really inspired me and helped me to believe that it was possible to learn a language well without sitting in a classroom to get there.
Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?
I think that even though none of my family or friends is interested in learning languages at all, they’ve been supportive of my interests in it.
When I want to watch a movie in Spanish, my wife is just fine with it if I have English subtitles on. My parents ask how my language learning is going, and my friends have been really encouraging since they know that it’s a priority for me.
Did you ever face a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?
One really hard moment for me was when I was on my honeymoon in Italy. I had only been learning Italian for a couple months and it was my first language that I was learning from scratch.
I got really frustrated not being able to understand what other people were saying and not being able to say what I wanted to say, and in that situation, I really didn’t overcome it. I just got so frustrated that I gave up.
That decision really changed the way I approached speaking when I went to the Dominican Republic this year. Even though I had a really hard time understanding the Dominican accent and struggled more than I’d like to when I was speaking, my attitude was totally different.
After every screw-up and every time that I didn’t understand someone, I just told myself, “Don’t get frustrated. You have to make thousands of mistakes on your way to being good at something.” Then I’d go and try to find the next situation where I could practice.
What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your lifehacks for that language?
Right now I’m focusing on Spanish. I’m interested in a lot of other languages, but I’m trying to restrain myself and focus on just one.
I try to practice in a lot of different ways. For example, I’ll talk to people on Skype, listen to podcasts or the radio in Spanish on my phone, read the news or blogs on topics I’m interested in in Spanish, etc.
I think that one of the most important things is consistency, so I try to challenge myself to learn as many days in a row as I can. I usually do one of two things to help me.
First is the Lift app (that you can download for free). You can keep track of your goals and it will tell you how many consecutive days you’ve gone, like saying that you’re on a 5-day streak of learning Spanish.
The second is just using plain paperclips. Every day that you practice or learn your target language, you would add another paperclip to the chain and see how long you can make it. When you miss a day, you have to start all over again, but I think it can really help to see that chain growing visually and make it a goal to grow it as long as you can.
Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you will not be able to learn it properly?
I’ve been interested in learning Swedish for a while even though I know it wouldn’t be useful at all in my daily life. My grandpa is 100% Swedish, so growing up, I always remember having Swedish foods on the holidays (and smelling the foods, like the stinky lutefisk that would smell up the whole house).
There really aren’t many opportunities to speak Swedish here in the United States, and I would have to actively search for ways to practice. That hasn’t made me any less interested though since I’m really interested in the culture, the literature, and just generally love the sound of the language.
Can you tell me a short, positive anecdote about your language learning history?
When I worked for the restaurant when I was younger, I was going through some relationship troubles at the time. For some reason, all the Spanish-speakers there used to like asking about my relationship (probably because it was like listening to a soap opera back then).
One day, I got into a conversation with Pepe, the dishwasher, where he decided he was going to solve all of my relationship problems. He told me about how I needed to surprise my girlfriend at her front door with roses and told me all the romantic words I needed to say. (“Mi amor… Te quiero mucho…”)
As we were standing there, one of my co-workers walked by and gave me this weird look. Then I stepped back and thought, “If I didn’t start learning Spanish, there’s no way I’d be standing back here, having a heart-to-heart conversation with Pepe while he gave me free love advice.”