Yin and Yang: An Asian philosophy that will improve your spanish

The funny thing about living for 2 years in Thailand and learning to speak Thai is that SOME people will think I am now an expert at all things asian. This couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all I am not an expert at anything and Thailand has its own unique wonderful culture that I learned to love during the two years I was there.

So I do not profess to be an expert at any of the philosophical nuances of the next subject that I am about to talk about, which is the chinese Taoist concept of Yin and Yang(The picture on the left is the most interesting picture of Yan and Yang I can find)

Uh, isn’t this a blog about spanish?

Just work with me here, I will get to spanish soon enough. Like I said I am not an expert at Taoism, but if you want to get a pretty good treatment of Yin and Yang or Taoism in general, Wikipedia is probably the best place to go. To summarize, Yin and Yang refer to fact that all things have their opposites such as Hot and Cold or Left and Right. These opposites may seem to contradict each other, but in all reality they depend on each other and exist with in each other. opposites are inseparably connected and to understand one, you must understand the other.

Ok that’s cool, but I still don’t get what that has to do with spanish.

The way yin and yang applies to language learning is that one must use seemingly opposite types of language learning philosophys to maximize your ability to achieve your goals as a language learner. I have often touched on the importance of using both Input and Output in your language studies, but I haven’t really spoke about another pair of opposites. This pair is structured vs unstructured activities.

What do I mean by structured vs unstructured. There are those who recommend that you just turn on spanish TV/radio and passively watch/listen. Others will recomend that you should just go and start talking to every spanish speaking person you can. Just speak/listen. By doing this, you will somehow learn all those hard spanish phrases and become masters at spanish all just by listening or speaking it. In other words, don’t prepare just do it.

At the same time there are people who think that if one just study courses and practice all these controlled conversations in these nice controlled environments that only speak vocabulary and grammar that you already know without using slang(except for that slang you already have been introduced to) that you are going to just magically be able to go into the real world and speak and understand spanish perfectly. In other words, these people think they can prepare themselves for every possible situation.

The thing is, is that both methods are just Yin and Yang to each other. One should not emphasis one and just ignore the other. If you choose to ignore your Yang then your Yin will not get you there or at least not as well as if you practiced both Yin and Yang together.(Say that 10 times fast)

Ok so what are your Yin and Yang activities?

To be consistent for my blog, Yin will now equal Structured controlled type activities and Yang will be Unstructured uncontrollable activities. Why? Because that’s the order I put them in. I have mentioned before, in my PspanishX post, I split my activities into Input and Output days. To see a current list of what I am doing you can go to my new page about what my current learning system looks like.

To be more precise, my input /output day switching applies to monday through friday only. This is due to the fact that my weekends are just so inconsistent that I can’t really get a good 5 mins together to do anything consistently. I consider weekends as bonus days.

The other thing you will notice in the learning system page I created, is that my output has only 4 activities and only one of those is a Yang style activity. Now the perfect addition would be to have a regularly scheduled language exchange. Unfortunately I am lucky to have a regular conversational exchange with my spouse, let alone a regular 30 to 60 min exchange with some stranger.

What I think would be the next best thing would be to have a website/service that is like a lang-8 that is audio based instead of writing based. A service that would let me submit my recordings and have them corrected. If anyone knows of a service or some other type of Yang style output activity I could do, let me know in the comments below.

So this is the perfect system to learning spanish then?

One of the first things I learned when I became a parent was that everyone loves to give advice. The second thing is that most of that advice wont apply to you and your kid. And the Third thing is that everything you learned about raising your first kid, probably wont apply to your next one. This is not the magic pill that will make Spanish the easiest language to learn. What I am saying is that this is what works for me, for now. The only advice I can give that applies to everyone, everywhere, in any circumstance is found in my last post, don’t wait to start.


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