Teaching Myself a Language

So as a teacher, I am aware of several different learning processes that are occurring in my mind. The major learning process right now is that of Spanish. Oooof.

So when we were kids in kindergarten, we didn't throw fits because we couldn't read. We may have been motivated to read.. but we were probably so interested in playing with Barbies and Tonkas that we didn't have time to think about it. We answered our teacher's and parents' questions about the alphabet when they quizzed us and beamed in their praise of our accomplishments. We eventually began putting the visual symbols together with the sounds we could make with our mouths. Then we began to blend the letters and sounds together to make words, and then we put together words to make sentences... etc.

We are so excited the first time we can read a book... but remember our first books? They consist of "Ball. Doll. Dog. Cat." One word per page. Lots of pictures. We graduate to reading books with a whole sentence on a page, usually consisting of repitition sight words. "See the dog run! See the cat run!" or something like "This is a fish." "This is a snake." The picture clues are really what make these books possible for little ones to read. Our parents read to us the more complex books and storylines that we might memorize to then "read" to our stuffed animals.

We learn more and more and continue putting the pieces together and then we fast forward to high school and read books like "Of Mice and Men" and "To Kill a Mockingbird". Then in college, we read the whole C.S. Lewis series as well as textbooks with no pictures (welllll... I probably read about 60% of the textbooks... depending on how interested I was in it or how pertinent it was to the test... true confessions).

THEN some of us crazies decide it's time to learn a new culture and language, and while we're at it, we want to read the classics of the culture we are living in. I am currently borrowing La Alquimista from my tico family, and apparently, it's a classic, but I can't understand very much!!! What I have retained from the first two chapters is that it's about a shepherd who is describing his whereabouts.

I am reminded of why I don't give these complex, "adult" books to my 4th graders. Not necessarily because the content is too mature, but because it would frustrate them to not understand everything. Children's listening vocabulary is more developed than their reading vocabulary, especially as they're learning another language, so I can read out loud to my students books like "Number the Stars" and "Esperanza Rising" without them getting frustrated. But if I expected them to read these books all on their own, it would be sure to not last long (or kill their desire to read).

My thoughts have returned to my current Spanish reading level, and I probably speak at a 6th grade level or something... not sure. But my reading? mmm... I'm probably still in the picture book level, using picture clues and picking up on grammar patterns.

Today I'm going to the bookstore... you can find me in the picture book section. :)

1 comment:

KristinAmara said...

Well said! I completely understand this and was often frustrated in college when I probably had a reading level of middle school and was asked to read hispanic "masterpieces" like Pedro Paramo and Cien Anos de Soledad. Talk about frustrating!!