Monday, October 08, 2007

Learn English!

As I’ve said before, Latin American designers must speak English. This will open up doors for them everywhere!

However, I am not the bearer of good news. I think when it comes to English (or any other foreign language, for that matter) there are two kinds of people:

· Those that really have to work at it.
· Those for whom it just comes easy.

Unfortunately most people are in the first group, and that’s the bad news. Such people need to really work at it and be disciplined to learn.

There are basically two (and a half) ways to learn English, in my opinion:

Option 1: Take a course.

This means doing all the exercises and walking the extra mile by enrolling in every English speaking activity they can think of. Watching TV in English (no subtitles) like news and movies, listening to music in English, attending events organized by the UK and American Embassies or English institutes such as Berlitz.

So, if you’re up for the challenge of being consistent, disciplined and reaching your goals, this is a way to do it. If this option speaks to you, allow me to recommend the British Council and Wall Street as two good institutes.

Unfortunately, I don’t know the first person that has really learned like this. Learn to speak well, I mean. Anyone can “kind of speak pigeon English”.

Option 2: Travel abroad.

In my opinion, this is the fastest and best way to learn English. And most people have this idea that maybe it’s too expensive. I can assure you, there is always a way. Spend at least six months abroad, learning. I recommend you do this through an institute, so that you have some structure to follow.

Now here comes the “half”:

For those special people for whom English comes easy (like me, it’s a gift) there is another way. I never did go abroad to learn English, the first time I went to the US, I’d been speaking English for years. In fact, I learned in about six months when I was twelve years old.

How? I used to be a TV-holic, so just by watching English spoken TV shows with closed captioning (subtitles in English) I learned how to use sentences, the context, grammar and pronunciation. I did help myself with some English textbooks to understand the structure better.

If you are this kind of person, congratulations! All you have to do now is work at it, so that you won’t forget it. Watch TV, listen to shows and write in English daily!

And here's a little tip for all of you who are learning: Don't over pronounce words so much. We spanish-speaking people tend to over pronounce, but in english there's no need to do that. In fact, english can be pretty much mumbled and it will still sound ok. This will make your speech sound more natural, less latin.

I guess the advantages of speaking English are obvious:

· You can access tons of information on the web (and many different sources, such as books and newsletters), about every topic imaginable.
· Podcasts and audiobooks are at your disposal.
· You can join networking communities online and exchange information with people from all over the world.
· Out of this networking, great business opportunities may arise.
· Access to the latest global news.
· A valuable asset for your resume.

I have an English friend (from England, actually) who’s learning Spanish and he says that as an English speaking person, if he learns Spanish, he’ll be able to communicate with the vast majority of the planet. I think he’s right.

And in this day and age, Colombian (and Latin American) designers cannot afford to be left behind.

All the best!


Graham said...

Excellent post. I spent about 6 months in South America over a period of two years, and could help myself with the basics after a while. I agree with the "sub-titles" it works well. I also obtained very basic childrens books. Eg "This is a cow" " Johnny goes to the shop" . I studied Latin for 6 years and that helps a lot with the general meaning of words. People speaking "Germanic" languages like Dutch, Flemmish, German and Afrikaans have an advantage in the pronunciation of the words and grammar set up.

Carolina Ayerbe said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Graham! I will direct my english speaking acquaintances to visit your Silly Signs blog. It is not only amusing, but a good way to learn english as well! All the best, Carolina. (PS: I've seen in travel shows that Cape Town is beautiful!)

George Spark said...

Hi Carolina thank you for saying this. I have many friends in Latin American countries (particularly Argentina and Brazil) and I keep telling them the same thing: learn English! I'm from Holland originally (left 15 years ago to live in New Zealand and now in Australia), we learn a lot of English in school because Holland is such a small country, however speaking English does open up the borders of the world. It's the difference between getting a job as a dishwasher or a cleaner (with bad English, regardless of whether one is a university professor in their home country) and getting a job that has real prospects in someone's chosen career field in an English speaking country.
My next challenge is to learn Spanish (which is real hard when you speak Portuguese whilst it's not your native language - all the time the two languages get mixed up because they are so similar), and I hope one day I will be able to post in Spanish to your blog :-)

Carolina Ayerbe said...

Thank you so much, George! Great comment. I had the opportunity once to be in Brazil for a few months. I did pick up some portuguese, but overall, I wasn't very good at it. Though I could pretty much understand what they said, it was virtually impossible for me to utter a full sentence. All I could say was "Uma picanha grellada, mais uma Coka, por favor". And "Obrigada". Hahaha. Looking forward to your comments in spanish, Carolina.