Learning A New Language

In the State of California, High School Students had to take 3 years of a foreign language or preferably 4 years.

Now this Foreign Language requirement, especially with an Apraxia Journey, has mixed reactions. Parents usually freak out because how in the world can their kid learn a different language if it took years of therapy, practice, and work just to speak English.

Whereas the kids themselves have a variety of reactions: Some students need to take speech therapy to learn a different language, some just struggle at languages given how their brain works (I'm the same way with Math!), and some even excel.

Point blank: There's not a single journey that's the same as the other.

I'm often asked about how I learned a foreign language given my speech disorder background, hence this post. I feel quasi-odd describing this, just because how do you describe "how" you learned something. You just ,well, learn it with tutoring, studying, practice, etc.

My foreign language experience was actually pleasant though. When my parents discovered that I had to take a Spanish 1 class as a High School Freshman they set a parent-teacher conference to discuss my speech disorder, my accent, and their nerves.

To which, the teacher assured them that as long as I worked hard, studied, and gave my best effort then I would be fine. Despite the generic advice and reassurance, I did just this.

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I absolutely loved Spanish. I could give a whole presentation in Spanish and not once was I asked about if I was from England; I actually sounded more white-girl American, which was a relief.

I loved Spanish throughout High School and even minored in it at Emory University. I lived in Spain for about 4 months while on study abroad and ONLY used Spanish. Since I was drinking age in Spain, I even adapted to speaking Spanish while drinking alcohol. Now, when I drink a little too much, I slip into Spanish mode.

It's so much easier than English!

The irony though, in all of this is:

Talking to people in Spain in Spanish, I was asked if I was from the United States.

In the States while speaking English, I'm asked if I'm from England.

It's quite funny honestly.

Perhaps the 13+ years of speech therapy may not have eliminated my British Accent, but it did equip me with the additional knowledge helping me in Spanish.

In speech therapy, I learned all about tongue placement. In English, when you say R, you strictly pull your tongue back. It's a harsh, strong movement. A movement that I struggle with today.

However, in Spanish, it's a fast speaking language and you have to 'roll' your R's. There's videos on Youtube, but basically to roll your R in Spanish you CANNOT pull your tongue back. Your tongue is relatively relaxed and loose; whereas in English it's short and strong movement.

I never explicitly had a Spanish teacher tell me about this tongue placement, but it was easy for me to notice given all the years in speech therapy.

Naturally, I preferred to say my R's in Spanish words merely because it was easier for me and it seemed to be the only way I could pronounce my R's correctly (for once). Plus, in Spanish, I did not need to pull my tongue back as harshly as I always had to do in English.

In addition to quickly noticing the tongue mechanics in Spanish, I have to admit my memory helped a lot. See, ever since I was a kid, my grandmother made me play memory games. Even when I was non-verbal, I would play Go-Fish with her. She said memory would help me in the future, but I had no clue until I got much older. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my grandmother and I could successfully play Go-Fish with two 52-card decks. Memory is actually how I learned to spell in English. Even when I couldn't sound out words. I would photographically memorize the order of letters for each word-almost like mini-photographs in my head knowing how each word was spelt but not how to say them. I know it sounds crazy, but this photographic memory applied in Spanish as well.

I could look at vocabulary words and memorize the placement of each letter and accent mark, just by mentally photographing it in my head. During exams when I got stuck on what word to use or how to spell it, I'd close my eyes, visualize myself flipping to the textbook page (even the exact page number was written in this photographic image), and just see whatever word spelled out on this mental image of the textbook.

It sounds so weird and crazy, but I suppose that's how my brain is just wired.

This is only my brief, personal experience with learning a foreign language though, it is not the same for everybody at all. To a certain extent I believe Apraxia can hinder the learning of a foreign language, but that's only one factor out of hundreds. For some, learning a language is just difficult due to how their brain wiring works. I also know that not everybody has the same photographic memory abilities.

Plus,some subjects are easier for some to grasp and some are more difficult. And. trust me, there's a lot of people without Apraxia that struggle to learn a foreign language.I just wanted to share my own experience in learning a foreign language, this however is not everybody's same journey.