Neuroplasticity At Its Best

Turner Slaughter
Engineering Major
Spanish in Quito, Ecuador

I’m surrounded in every direction by the Spanish language. My host family speaks Spanish with me as often as possible. My professors teach in Spanish. My fellow students and I practice speaking Spanish with one another about as often as we speak English. The staff at all of the local shops and restaurants only speaks Spanish. Television programs and movies are in Spanish. There is no escaping the language, and that’s kinda the point. I have picked so much Spanish in my time here. As I am writing this, I am about a week into the program, and already my understanding of things said in Spanish has jumped from about 40% to about 70%.

The thing that I have found is the most instrumental in improving my ability to use the language is when I help my host brother with his Algebra homework. Math is something that I am extremely good at and am comfortable around (which I damned well should be seeing as to how I’m an engineer). I not only had to find a way to explain advanced algebraic concepts so that they’re easy to understand, but I also had to do so in Spanish. I taught algebra in the past, so the first half of that wasn’t a problem. I just had to translate everything I could into Spanish in my head as I was explaining how to do advanced quadratics. So, you know, no biggie.

Photo Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1686883/images/n-SPANISH-CLASSROOM-628x314.jpg
Photo Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1686883/images/n-SPANISH-CLASSROOM-628×314.jpg

Neuroplasticity works by connecting information that you already knew to new information found in your environment. The more connections you are able to make with older ideas, the more you are able to grasp the new ones. By connecting Spanish to my understanding of both mathematics and teaching methodology, I am able to grasp the Spanish language much easier.

I have been noticing more and more that common words or phrases in Spanish are starting to come to mind very quickly while speaking. For example, I answered my phone and exchanged pleasantries in Spanish without even realizing that I was speaking in Spanish. It has been said that you are truly fluent in a language when you are able to effortlessly think in that language. I can feel myself getting closer and closer to being able to do that with every passing

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