Do you have some habits you wish you didn’t have? Like channel-surfing the internet, looking for stuff that isn’t that interesting anyway? Like reading trash books you don’t like that much anyway? Like watching TV all day while it adds nothing to your life? Welcome to my world!
When I was still majoring Computer Sciences (and when I couldn’t even say ‘hi’ in Spanish) I played World of Warcraft. No, I wasn’t the nerd that had no friends as I actually played it with some really close real life friends. And while it brought me a good amount of fun, it wasn’t really adding to my life.
So I was playing an online video game to relax a bit. That’s okay, nothing wrong with that. The bad thing started when I started learning Spanish and continued playing World of Warcraft (in English!). First it was some innocent ‘me time’; now it was eating away precious ‘Spanish time’.
So what did I do? I quit playing the game, although I liked it. My friends continued playing it, but I went Spanish only. The only game I played was Civilization IV (with the Spanish language pack installed) and the rest of my time went to massive listening and television watching (all in Spanish, of course).
But a few months ago I started thinking: “What if I didn’t stop playing World of Warcraft? What if I didn’t stop doing all these things I did before, but changed my situation just a bit so that it would fit in my Spanish ‘diet’?”
The biggest shock of really learning a language is getting rid of things you formally did in English. But it doesn’t have to go that way! It’s possible to do exactly the same things, but in Spanish. Sure, it takes some time an thinking to come up with a plan moving your English-language stuff into your new Spanish environment, changing everything around you into Spanish.
When I redesigned my life (language-wise, but I knew this would have a BIG inpact on my social life as well; this later turned out to be something positive, so you probably won’t end up alone ), I was only looking at of how many things that weren’t in Spanish I could get rid off. Big mistake! This actually made the transition from English/Dutch to Spanish a bit painful. If I had thought a bit and took some things from my former environment and did them in Spanish instead everything would’ve been a lot easier.
But recently I did some serious thinking about what I left, and how I could get it back… but in Spanish.
So, I started playing World of Warcraft again, but ‘rolled’ (started a character) on a Spanish server and installed the game in Spanish. Now I’m interacting with natives on a daily basis while playing my favorite game (in moderation, of course).
Unfortunately I can’t play with my real life friends anymore (they don’t speak Spanish, and my Spanish-speaking friends don’t play the game), but when it comes to game-related things I can have nice conversations with total strangers (Spanish strangers!).
I’m also using this technique in other parts of my study. Sometimes it’s difficult to find an original book in Spanish that I like, but I already know what writers I like in English. So instead of leaving reading for what it is, I’m buying Spanish translations of books I like in Dutch or English.
The time of looking excuses for not doing something in Spanish is over. You can’t complain about the ‘fact’ it’s so hard to switch to Spanish only either. There’s always something you like doing in your own language that you can do in Spanish. I looked for excuses (but decided to not listen to myself) and went Spanish only the hard way. You can go Spanish only the easy (but effective) way.
Stop looking for excuses and get to work in Spanish. NOW!
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