A few weeks ago, I had a chance to sit down with our lovely--and thoughtful--teacher, Fabian, to pick his brain about his teaching career and thoughts on anything and everything. The first thing you need to know about Fabian is this mantra: “Live to remember, not just to live.” This sentiment is a major driving force in his life, a motto, a pick-me-up, and is highly applicable in his philosophy of language-learning. He brings this attitude wherever he goes.
While growing up in small-town Argentina, Fabian started learning English at eight years of age and he was hooked. He’d spend one day each week learning with his tutor at the Argentinian Institute for British Culture. A few years after beginning his studies, Fabian’s godmother moved to California. Once that happened, his motivation multiplied tenfold. He needed to experience America. He needed to see the beautiful land of opportunity that America promised. At one point, his parents couldn’t make the payments, and Fabian did what any child would do in a proper family negotiation: he cried. His argument was effective, and his parents made it work. They cooked meals and cleaned the rooms where Fabian took his lessons. Fabian still remembers the main characters-- Milly, Lizzy, Sam, and Nick--from his textbooks over the years. That’s time well spent.
Once he built a strong enough English base, Fabian made his move to New York to pursue his acting career. Like many New Yorkers, Fabian needed a side hustle. One of his professors had written a book on teaching Spanish as a second language. Fabian, wanting to progress from bussing tables, found this to be a solid fit to his skillset comparatively, and just like that he began teaching college students Spanish. He hasn’t turned back since, building lasting impressions on students of all ages ever since. Sometimes passion finds you.
When I asked him about the importance of learning languages, Fabian put it relatively bluntly, saying it “opens you up to other cultures, makes you want to travel, learn about other cultures, makes you smarter.” It’s “another way, like a book, to transport you to other worlds…” Literally.
Oh, and for, say, practical purposes, Fabian brought up hireability. The world is globalized. Why limit one’s self to one language?
Now that you’re sold on why you should learn at least one second language, here’s how to do it, according to Fabian.
Step 1: Listen.
Step 2: Repeat.
Step 3: Listen and Repeat.
This is where Fabian’s motto is applied in real time. The act of remembering is fostered by practical use in one’s life. Language learning takes practice and immersion. That’s the number one way to learn languages. As much as it might hurt your ego, Fabian suggests learning like a five year old. Focus on the basics and REPEAT. LISTEN to the language as much as possible. There are a gazillion free online resources online. But, practically speaking, you can find some new favorite music on Spanish radio or watch a show in Spanish (with English subtitles as training wheels). Money Heist is GREAT one. He also suggests (for spanish learners) simply eavesdropping on conversations in a coffee shop in one of the many Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of NYC, if you want to get a little social listening practice going.
Regardless of which method(s) you choose: listen, repeat, and listen and repeat. These skills will not only bring you bountiful treasures of beautiful vocabulary, but they will also help you communicate more effectively as a human being.
Live to remember, not just to live.