By Georgina Palencia.
What does it cost you more when you study or practice Spanish?
The response of our students is undeniable:
1. Listening comprehension practices (PCA) and
2. Understand a movie, a conversation between natives, the radio….
For those who study a language, or any subject, the verb costar applies in two meanings: value in money and difficulty.
The more you delay in progress, the more you will have to invest money, that is, the more it costs in money.
And some apprenticeships and practices cost more than others, they are more difficult for someone than others, but what is undoubted is PCA is a great challenge for everyone.
There is a reason that makes this skill more complex than the others. There are 4 skills a literate native speaker develops to become competently communicative: speaking, hearing, reading and writing. Two of them are oral and two written. Two of them are production and two are comprehension.
Those of us who teach a second language dedicated to the same task: the development of these four skills. Those of us who teach Spanish do it in a more balanced way. Because some say, for some languages, reading and/or writing is not important and it could even be detrimental for oral skills development, depending on certain characteristics of the target language.
In the Spanish case, as it is a phonetic language and has very stable structures, both reading and writing contribute to the development of oral skills, especially for correcting them.
It turns out that there are two reasons to make listening or listening comprehension as we also call it, the most complex skill for a second language speaker.
One reason is psychological and the other sociolinguistic.
The psychological reason is related to our obsessive desire to control everything.
Listening is the only skill that is not in our hands. It is the only one over which we have no control. So, we become discouraged and frustrated in front of it, it is very hard for us.
When we read, we control the reading time, we look for in the dictionary the words that we do not understand, we analyze the structures …
When we write we use the time we want, the vocabulary and structure resources that we have available in our minds, we help them with the dictionary, and we correct as many times as we want….
When we speak, we take advantage of time and use our known resources, few or many, but ours.
When we listen, all the power in a message structure is held by the one who produces what we listen to.
I do a paragliding.
It is as if you have had four children. With three of them there is harmony because they inherited your tastes, assimilated your values, and they are gentle in their behavior, but one of them has a different personality, which on top of it, you do not agree.
You ask him to sleep early, tidy up his room, study medicine like you, turn down the music, save, and he doesn’t do any of that. None of those characteristics makes him worse than the others, they simply show that he has his personality.
What you want is to be in control of your life. And his life is in his hands.
This is oral comprehension. It is the skill whose success is tied to the oral production of others. And when it is different from what we have mentalized – kept in the mind – and what we know and feel comfortable with, we become discouraged and frustrated over and over again.
What do I recommend you?
What do we insist on Present Perfect to our students?
Do not try to understand every single word, every sentence, every tiny idea of what you listen to. Try to open up to the experience of listening and flowing; try to understand globality, congratulating yourself if you understand a little more.
When a student understands a little more what he listens, he is not changing what he listens, he is changing his attitude towards what he listens.
Again, the parallelism. When the mother opens up to the experience of living with a different child, without wanting to change him, without wanting to control him, a process of detachment begins, calms and brings you closer to him from acceptance, and acceptance is understanding.
It is about exchanging apprehension for learning. They are very different processes.
The sociolinguistic reason to be a necessary migraine for oral comprehension is, since the other has the power, everyone could include very particular linguistic resources, for example:
-the speed your interlocutor speaks naturally, which will always be faster than in a language class.
-localisms, which are their own words of the particular and regional dialect.
– particular phrases as sayings, expressions and other compounds that often are not the total of the parts.
So, also to get closer to the level of naturalness in a language is why in advanced levels we accelerate the speed and teach more words to name a thing according to a dialect variety, and we show the vast Spanish refractory culture.
Calm down, step by step. As you know more you will understand more.
-Understand global ideas first and help yourself deduce them with everything: tones of voice, gestures, everything.
-Then you will understand more specific ideas and even sentences and words. Not all, but more.
-Finally, you will become familiar with the expressive culture. Not only the language itself but its regional peculiarities and the games that Hispanics play with them.
Students often say I understand everything when the teacher talks to us, but even when he talks to other teachers, I don’t understand anything. It is natural and at the same time wonderful.
In a Spanish course the teacher talks to you with the resources he knows are already stored in your mind. He knows the words, the verb tenses, the structures that you already know. If you understand everything to the teacher, it is a first step in your career for understanding.
When you listen, you understand, because you listen to everything you know.
Congratulations on that!