Introduce yourself: Tell us your background, where you live, and what you do?
My name is Cecilia, 31, I am French and I originally come from a little village in Normandy. I moved to London about 6 years ago, I wanted to learn how to speak English fluently and had planned at first on staying only a few months in the UK but as it has happened to many people before me and for very good reasons, I fell in love with London and decided to stay.
Like a lot of people I started learning English at school but I soon realised that I had to relearn everything when I moved to London. I just couldn’t understand the different accents. So to speak well and as quickly as possible, I decided I would only live with English native speakers (I have lived in a few flatshares) and I also went to conversation exchange meetings with English speakers looking to learn French.
Six years later we can say I am doing alright in English. I work in Customer Success with clients based in the UK and Europe. I get to travel to visit my clients regularly and to discover a bit of their culture every time I see them. I always tend to talk about food and ask where are the best places to go get something local but I’m French, what I can say, food is everything.
What language are you learning and why are you learning it?
Now that I know how to speak English, I have decided I would learn Spanish. I did Spanish for 2 years at school and remembered I liked it. As Spanish is very close to French I also thought it would be easy so why not give it a go. Also I did think that if I could add Spanish to my CV, that would give me more professional opportunities and I am sure that one day it could but for now it is not my priority to use Spanish at work.
One of my goal was to be able to have a conversation in Spanish with someone by the time I turned 30, I need to set myself these sorts of goals otherwise I do nothing. Well that didn’t happen though. But I didn’t give up on my goal and carried on learning from a few books here, a magazine there and then I decided to go to a class to get my basics right. I attended a great Spanish school in London where we were only 6 students per class. I did that for about 4 months, going to class every Thursday for 1h30. I really enjoyed it at first and that did motivate me and gave me some basics I really needed someone to teach me about.
But after a while, I got a bit frustrated as I had the feeling the other students were stopping me from progressing faster. I had the feeling when English people were trying to pronounce a word in Spanish, that it was not the most efficient way for me to learn how to pronounce it properly.
So I went to Spain for a week. I went to Madrid to do a sort of intensive course for 5 days. But what I realised is that there is no such thing as an intensive course as you pretty much just join a longer course which is already taking place and they fit you in the week when you are likely to learn the most. They put me in a class when the theme was the subjunctive and I wasn’t ready for that yet. That was still a great experience but I was again missing something to get to the next level with my Spanish.
And then one day, someone told me about Rype. At first I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t really find any info or reviews about Rype and just thought I would end up get my credit card hacked by a fake Canadian company. But I am glad I took the chance as this is not what happened! I signed up for a free trial, had a chat with 3 different teachers and loved it straightaway.
Share your first A-HA moment with us: The moment when you felt that your language skills advanced to the next level. How long did it take to achieve this result?
I signed up for 6 months with Rype at first to give me a clear timeline and a goal to achieve. I practiced every week for an hour with my teachers. I was clear from the very beginning that I wanted to be able to speak socially with Spanish people and learn how to speak fluently and understand the culture but I didn’t really want a structured and boring program when you have to go through something before moving on to the next level. I didn’t really know where to start but my teachers helped me by asking me questions and setting objectives, so during each class, I learnt about a new theme and new words, about a grammar or conjugation topic or idioms, it all came naturally as I spoke, my teacher spotted what I still needed to work on.
I must say that at the very beginning I struggled a lot with the tenses, I just couldn’t conjugate anything which is a bit annoying when trying to be understood. But my teachers helped me and I have had lods of A-HA moments since I started working with Rype. The last one was during my last class just a few days ago when I just said something using a past tense. I looked at my teacher waiting for her to tell me that was wrong but I had nailed it! That was a great feeling, it was as if it had all come naturally without me having to overthink it. I felt very proud.
Tell us about your learning schedule. What time of the day do you take your lessons and how much time do you spend learning per week? How do you find time to take lessons with your busy schedule?
I have now been working with Rype for 7 months and I still can’t believe how it has helped reach so quickly the level of Spanish I have now. I can now have a conversation in Spanish with my colleagues and friends, which I couldn’t do before starting with Rype. I was only dabbling before and now I can speak properly. To get here though, I have been dedicated. I have never missed a lesson or gave up, I have had my one hour Spanish lesson every week for the past 7 months. Sometimes 30 minutes here and there but always an hour a week to spread the time spent learning evenly throughout the month.
When I schedule my classes varies a lot. If I have a very busy week at work, I will schedule my classes over the weekend, usually first thing in the morning so I enjoy the day, I know I am done with my Spanish and can move on. Otherwise I would set up my classes at the end of the day, after work and before I take the train home so I have achieved what I wanted to do and can get home and relax.
Who was your teacher(s) at Rype, and why did you select him/her as your teacher?
I started with 2 teachers at first, it was good for me so I could get used to different accents. I had one teacher from Spain and one from Colombia. But after a few weeks, I decided to work with only one teacher to give me more consistency. I actually found out that my Colombian teacher was currently living in France so when there is something I don’t quite understand in Spanish, she can explain it to me in English and in French which allows me to learn faster when linked to my native language.
My teacher Yasmin has just been so patient over the months with me that I can only be grateful for her hard work. She is always smiley and pushes me to learn and practice even when I feel lazy or tired after a long day.
Could you share some top language tools and resources you use to learn a language?
To me there is no secret, to learn a language you need to be consistent and to vary the sources. So on top of my lessons with Rype, I receive every fortnight a magazine called Vocable. It is a French magazine where you can find articles in Spanish with the toughest words translated. It is great to know what’s happening in the world and to learn new words of course. Then I also listen to the radio and podcasts.
On my way to work in the train, I listen to a Spanish podcast called Vuelta y Vuelta (RNE). They cover new topics everyday which is great for the vocabulary. And finally I watch Spanish films and series (Almodovar films, series called Vis a vis, La Sonata del Silencio, all available on the RTVE website). I don’t tend to read books as I find them more difficult to deal with but I think this will be next on my list.
What are your top recommendations and tips for new language learners?
I would say go for it and stop finding yourself excuses, you are only wasting time and you could already have learnt so much by now! When learning a language you need to be patient and not too hard on yourself. There will be times when you feel you are not learning anything new, that what’s the point really? But if you carry on, you will reach that level when you will be able to speak with a friend, a colleague, a local on holiday, help a stranger in your own city or speak at a conference why not and it will all make sense.
Your efforts will pay out eventually and you will feel proud as it takes resilience to learn a new language and everyone could do it, but you are the one who can say, I have done it!