Thursday, April 29, 2010

Learning Spanish

I thought I would once again jump on my How To Acquire a Second Language soapbox. I have written both a paper back book (click here for paperback) as well an eBook on this subject.
The vast majority of potential epats who move to Guanajuato seem to be retirees. I have more or less given up on trying to convince this group that acquiring a second language, Spanish, is not an impossible task and most certainly a reachable goal. The reason for my "throwing in the towel" is that this group is so old that they have these unchangeable preconceived notions (untested assumptions) that their age would prevent them from developing a high degree of spoken fluency so they don't even try.

What I cannot seem to get through their heads is that the human brain is "hardwired" for acquiring languages. Notice I did not say "learning languages." If what they mean is that their age might affect the memorizing of thousands of vocab words and grammar rules then they might have a point.

But, as I have painstakingly pointed out in four books and hundreds of articles, learning a language is not the same as acquiring speech. That is what is sought--speech. Speaking in Spanish is the goal and should be engaged in first long before studying grammar or memorizing anything!

More and more families with young kids (and teenagers) are moving to Guanajuato. I just wonder if they really know what they are getting into.

Think of how kids are prone to swallowing things that they shouldn't or falling off roofs or whatever. (My brother fell off roofs more than once.) Do these parents think that in provincial Mexico there are going to be English speakers sitting around ready to translate and interpret when seconds count in a critical medical situation?

I am personally acquainted with a situation with an elder gringa woman who keeled over in a plaza. The gringo man with whom she was walking managed to get her into a clinic but between the both of them they could not communicate to the doctor what happened or her very complex and dangerous medical history.

Imagine this with kids!

How are the parents going to communicate in a situation where no interpreters are available and when seconds between life and death could count?

I mean to tell you this scares me just thinking about it.

I read an article, and quoted it in this blog site, how the police head hancho in SMA opined that learning Spanish is the single most important safety tactic you can take when moving to this country.

So, that about sums it up. In my view, I think that moving to Mexico with kids and without a high degree of spoken fluency first is madness. I do not mean to offend at all. Just let your mind meditate on this for while and all the horrid possibilities that could happen and when seconds count, you cannot tell the emergency room medics what is wrong.

And, do not count on English speaking hospitals employees being in the clinics scattered around the city of Guanajuato. Though I would not go as far as to say GTO is a backwater Mexican town (I can think of towns far more provincial) it does come close and the chances of happening upon a clinic with an English speaker approximates zero.

I say, "Why wait until moving here...start now, in your home country, to learn Spanish. There are dirt cheap courses and free online resources that you can use to begin Acquiring Spanish long before you arrive in Mexico to begin your expat adventure.



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