Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mi Cabeza Está Quemada!

I have a new toy, and you can find it as well at Edufire! I've been wanting to learn foreign languages, particularly Spanish and Japanese, for a long time now. Growing up in Arizona, I knew some Spanish - not a lot, but enough to hold my own in a very basic conversation - but I've lost most of it over the years. I don't really have the money or the opportunities in this area to attend classes, and I find I just do not learn well on my own. Intrigued by this fairly new service, I signed up for their Superpass and got started with some Spanish classes.

What an experience. In one class I attended, it was only me and one other student. In the second, I was the only one there. And this tutor made us talk...constantly. It was so uncomfortable. I struggled every minute. I felt like my head was going to spontaneously burst into flames and I wrestled my brain for every word. It's like that dream you have where you have to give a speech in class and you've forgotten your notes, and everyone is staring at you. In your underpants.

And I think this is exactly what I need.

Because this is why so many of us never get very far, isn't it, with our Spanish for Dummies and our Learn in Your Car CDs. We learn it, we read it from the pages of the textbook, but we get far too few opportunities to put it to use. And when we do, we shy away. Attempting to speak a foreign language we don't know well makes us feel lost, ignorant and foolish. I could be using what little Spanish I know to order at the Mexican restaurant, or to speak to the cashier at the local mercado I occasionally visit. But I'm so afraid I'll drown in the ensuing conversation, I chicken out. And there's no chickening out with this tutor. For a solid hour, he speaks almost nothing but Spanish, and neither do I, though I don't understand 100% and every fiber of my being is screaming to escape. In English, this is the sort of thing you would have heard in my class, with occasional corrections and gentle prodding:

Teacher: And what did you do today?
Me: the store...and wash, no, washed...the clothes.
Teacher: Do you go to the laundromat? Or do you have a washer and dryer?
Me: I...have a washer and dryer.
Teacher: And did you dry the clothes in the dryer? Or did you hang them to air dry?
Me: Uhhhhh....uhhhhhh....what does "hang" mean? (he writes the verb and translation on the screen). Oh, no, I don't to hang, uh, hang the clothes. I...dry...I....dried...the clothes in the...dryer.....

And so on. A painful, hair pulling process, and one I've always shied away from, but this is how I'm going to learn. I'm sure of it.

They have a variety of other classes as well, from mathematics to health classes, but these are just starting to come about - those pickings are still slim, and the main focus of the website so far is language classes. You can attend a 'class', or you can request one-on-one tutoring. You can pay per class, or there are many classes that qualify for the "Superpass", a monthly fee for unlimited classes. All you need is a computer, internet access, and a headset or microphone (I would strongly suggest a headset). Webcam is optional - some tutors use it and like to be able to teach face-to-face, but a lot don't.

So if you always wanted to take a class or get some tutoring but didn't have the resources out in the "real world", check it out. And if, like me, you're a struggling beginner wanting to practice your Spanish (though he has other skill level classes as well, from the very beginnings to the more advanced), look for "Enrique", my delightfully relentless profesor, and join me in one of his beginner/intermediate classes. No, really, I need the company so he's not talking to me the entire time!

Nos vemos allí!

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