Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is Your Level?

If you’re interested in getting practice in listening and reading and getting an idea about your level in those skills at the same time, check out GLOSS .  I have used this page personally and have recommended it to others who are learning or perfecting their skills in the languages available there.

This link will take you to the site’s main page where you can choose the language you are working on, the level you’re at or trying to reach, then click on “Search Lessons”. From there you can select one to start on. Each lesson takes about an hour and except for any writing assignments as a final activity for a lesson, there is feedback available when you click on “Check Answers”. What level should you start at? This site is from the Defense Language Institute and uses the government’s ILR scale. You can read the level descriptors for listening here. If you think you might be at level 2, for example, you could try out the lessons for that level. If you get most or all the answers right on a variety of lessons for that level, you are likely at that level. But if you only get answers right about half the time you’re probably at level 1+ for the modality (listening or reading) that you worked on.   Regardless of the level you're trying to reach, you're sure to find the activities challenging.

I hope that the GLOSS site will be a valuable resource to all those who use it.

Whom Do You Talk To In Your Second Language?

I used to talk to anyone when I was learning Spanish. Every Spanish speaker was potential practice. Although I never said anything like “I’m learning Spanish will you talk with me?” , I would either look for an excuse to approach a person or sometimes in social settings, I’d go up to people and ask “¿Tú hablas español?” just the way I had seen native speakers do amongst themselves when they wanted to connect with other Spanish speakers. I too wanted to engage in this kind of cultural and linguistic bonding. It usually worked; I made friends and got natural ‘practice’ out if it and consequently, more confidence in speaking.

These days, I’ve become more selective about whom I choose to address in Spanish. I don’t need ‘practice’ per se, and the type of motivation I had in the past has been fading. I came to realize this just a few weeks ago when I went to an auto parts store to pick up a part for my husband who was repairing his truck. When I got there, I saw that one of the employees was bilingual (next to his name tag, it said “También hablo español”). I thought for a minute about asking for the part in Spanish but I decided against it. It would be weird, that is, awkward, socially, and there was no reason for both of us to use Spanish. English would have been the assumed preferred language because we are in the U.S. and Spanish is a minority language here in my area. I also imagined that employee would assume I preferred English and was simply practicing the language and in reaction to that would more than likely just switch to English. I figured the inertia to overcome that situation wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Besides the issue of negotiating the most efficient language to use for the transaction, there was no possibility of cultural camaraderie so I just used English.

Under what circumstances would you speak to someone in a naturalistic setting (not a learning situation where both you and the other person are in the role of student and teacher, respectively)? I invite all my readers to share their stories!