The Spanish language is not a brick wall, although you may feel you’ve ran you head into it more than once.
Nor is the language learner like a brick wall.
Building a brick wall uses the same process as gaining language fluency and offers us a solid metaphor for language learning.
As a bricklayer begins building a wall, he joins the bricks together with mortar, placing each brick carefully, and ensures that the wall rises vertically at 90 degrees.
Each Spanish word you learn is a brick. You begin placing them at the base of your language learning, joining them together with the grammar rules you are learning. You place one word upon another, just as with bricks. One of the first words you learned was libro, then when the word librería came up, you easily placed that brick upon the first one and your Spanish language structure became stronger. When you learned of libreta, librero, and libresco those bricks were easily secured to the structure based on the foundation of the previous words.
Every time you learn a new word, it becomes attached to the language structure you are forming, strengthening the structure. As the structure grows and becomes more solid, it becomes easier and easier to add new words.
A House of Cards
We are building a brick structure, firmly mortared in place, and not a house of cards. Be deliberate with every new word. Give yourself a reason to remember it. Relate it to previous words you already know and use, causing it to adhere firmly to your structure. If you let words in one ear and out the other, it’s like throwing a brick at your wall and wishing it would magically find it’s place and stick there, even becoming a foundation for other new words.
It won’t happen.
Randomly studying the language without taking the effort to consolidate what you’re learning into a strong and well-understood foundation is like building a house of cards. You can only build so long before it crashes.
Drive-Thru Language Learning
We’re spoiled with instant this and while-you-wait that. People want a fast-food language learning experience. Instead of investing the time to properly marinate the steaks, they want to pull up, order, and drive away with a steaming bag of McSpanish.
Language learning shouldn’t be rushed.
Take your time to carefully lay just a few bricks, and wait for the mortar to harden before adding more. Take a single paragraph of real, live Spanish from a newspaper and force yourself to learn every single word in it. Use each one of those words in a new sentence. Then review those words every day for two weeks. You’ll be laying good solid bricks that will allow your language learning structure to grow larger than, and last longer than the Coliseum.
Bricks and Mortar Together
You’ve probably seen ancient dry stone fences and walls. They can be strong and last a long time, but are usually made by interlocking the stones. You could build a dry brick wall with carefully laid bricks, but if you use mortar, it’ll be stronger.
As you continue to learn words and expand your vocabulary, you also need some grammar and some knowledge of how to put those words together and form sentences. Would you build a house using only bricks or using only mortar? What good it is to know grammar but not know any words so you can put it to use? And how can it help you to have a large vocabulary if the longest sentence you can muster consists of two words? Try to strike a balance so you can grow your language with the correct mixture of bricks and mortar.
Now go buy a periódico, pick a paragraph, and start laying those bricks.