METM19 presentation

Improving a source language after years of immersion 

Emma Goldsmith, Madrid, Spain 

Translators who emigrate to their source-language country soon gain an intuitive feel for the nuances of their source texts and an ability to communicate clearly and concisely with their source-language clients. But after achieving fluency in a foreign language, non-natives reach a plateau. Continuing to expand vocabulary, correcting ingrained grammar errors and losing a foreign accent remain elusive.

After several decades of immersion, I have decided to focus on improving my Spanish for the next six months with an intense, ad hoc, self-learning strategy. At this presentation I will explain how I assessed my level at the start (including tests to compare my vocabulary against average figures for monolingual and non-native speakers), which methods I used (handwritten word clouds, online apps, corpora, novels, podcasts and blogs), how I set about correcting spoken errors and brushed up my grammar, and the outcome at the end of that period. 

Attendees who feel they have reached a plateau in their source language – especially those, like me, without higher education in linguistics – may find it interesting to compare notes, be encouraged to follow a similar strategy and decide which learning methods might work best for them. Some Spanish resources will be mentioned, but in general the presentation will be of interest to anyone who wants to improve their non-native language.
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About the presenter

Emma Goldsmith is a freelance Spanish to English medical translator. She originally trained as a registered general nurse in London and later retrained – informally and formally – as a translator in Madrid. Emma moved to Spain in 1987 and since then she has worked actively on retaining and improving her native English, while being immersed in Spanish language and culture. She currently serves as membership chair on MET Council.