Practice Speaking a Foreign Language

As I write this post I have been in Argentina for the past week. Prior to that I was Rio de Janeiro for a few days too.  In both cases I have been surrounded by North American students who are studying a foreign language.   In Rio I was observing students who are enrolled in a summer program that is sponsored by the University of Florida.  Both graduate and undergraduate students from a number of US universities take classes at IBEU in Copacabana.   What impressed me most was their dedicated focus to try to speak the language.  It is one thing to try to speak Portuguese with the Brazilians, but these students were also speaking Portuguese to each other.  It takes impressive self-control to artificially use Portuguese when surrounded by others who are also native speakers of English.  Then I arrived here in Córdoba, Argentina to accompany our students from the University of Texas.  Once again I have seen how hard the students buckle down and try to speak Spanish, even among themselves.  Way to go gente!

Often we hear of the disadvantages that are associated with learning a foreign language as an adult.  But in these two instances I have also seen one of the advantages, that is to have the ability to artificially “pretend” and speak the foreign language with your peers.  Granted, most of these students are intermediate to advanced level learners and so they are able to get their messages across.  Still, their desire to get better is matched by their self-control.  A second observation I have made is that it has been much easier for these students to speak with each other in Portuguese and Spanish because that is how they first started.  From the moment they arrived, they started speaking to each other in their new language.  Once started, they have been able to keep it going. So, adult learners, it’s a matter of self-control.  This is something that the students in Brazil and Argentina have been able to show me over these past two weeks.  Thanks for the demo, it has inspired me to try and do the same.




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