Learning a language

How Learning a New Language Helped Me Find My Voice – Condé Nast Traveler

Summary

Like most writers, I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the written word. I obsess over sentences, shuffling them around until everything reads just right. I don’t know how or why I got to be so fastidious—I’m not this way in any other area of my life—but arranging words on paper has always given me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and control. I feel like I can express myself exactly how I want, without reservation. 

Because of the heightened importance of writing i…….

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Like most writers, I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the written word. I obsess over sentences, shuffling them around until everything reads just right. I don’t know how or why I got to be so fastidious—I’m not this way in any other area of my life—but arranging words on paper has always given me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and control. I feel like I can express myself exactly how I want, without reservation. 

Because of the heightened importance of writing in my life, speaking has never carried the same weight. I rarely need to talk things out with a big group of friends, and I still keep a journal for jotting down my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a social person who can communicate effectively and confidently. But my speaking voice is less assertive than my written one, and I often feel shaky and tongue-tied whenever I’m put on the spot—say, when I’m in a new place and need to ask for directions, or if I’m traveling with a big group and want to express my desire for some alone time.  

I never recognized this as a problem until I traveled to Mexico City with my boyfriend, Philippe, who speaks Spanish. For months, I’d been studying Spanish via Duolingo and Pimsleur Method and was excited to practice what I’d learned. But when we hit the streets and started interacting with locals, I fumbled with my words and second-guessed everything I knew.

At a café in La Condesa, I froze when I went to the counter to order: “Podría tener un café y un…” I began, then trailed off. I’d forgotten the word for a “glass” of water. I turned to Philippe for help. “You know this,” he said gently, and I did. Yet for such a low-stakes interaction, my embarrassment levels were through the roof. So, I nudged him to finish ordering.

A version of that incident played out so many times throughout our trip that at a certain point, I asked Philippe to take the lead on conversing. It was nice to be relieved of the pressure to speak—yet it frustrated me to be so dependent on his translation services. I felt voiceless. 

Once home, I stepped up my Spanish learning with Duolingo podcasts and YouTube videos, but my confidence continued to be easily knocked by the most minor of mistakes, like forgetting a basic vocabulary word or mismatching the gender of a noun whenever I had a chance to practice with a native speaker. As a last ditch effort, I signed up for private tutoring via the virtual language platform Preply and scheduled a session with a tutor named Julieta who lives in Rosario, Argentina.

Her warm, down-to-earth manner put me at ease. “Excelente,” she exclaimed throughout the lesson. She insisted that I speak exclusively in Spanish, so I had to make …….

Source: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/how-learning-a-new-language-helped-me-find-my-voice