Just do it !

Remember that motto? Just do it! I think it was a Nike campaign slogan. According to a book that I am reading,Surprisingly…Unstuck: Rewire your brain to exercise more, eat right, and truly enjoy doing so., it doesn’t exactly work that way.

Maria Brilaki’s book teaches you how to go about making changes, she goes into the types of changes and what sort of results each one returns. The biggest bang for your buck comes from radical change, which is the most difficult to achieve. She gives an alternate strategy, but this post isn’t about that, her book explains her method much better than I ever could.

The other day, I was listening to another person complain about the nebulous they who don’t try to learn Spanish. She was rather contemptuous of those people. While I didn’t exactly take her to task, I did put forward my needs must theory of language acquisition,  in other words, I think that unless you are super motivated, you learn exactly as much Spanish as you need. Of course, need is a subjective term.

It seems to me, that there are other factors at work too. It seems simple, the idea, learn Spanish. However, there are road blocks along the way that we don’t really give much thought to. First, you have to decide what method you want to use. Wow, think of all those choices! Do you want to go to a brick and mortar school or study online? Or are you autodidactic? How much money and time are you able to invest in becoming bilingual?

Suppose you chose to do it yourself. When are you going to study? What’s a good time for you? How many times a week are you going to study and for how long? What course are you going to use? Are you going to buy CDs or download the information.

Wow, maybe formal lessons would be easier? Now you have to decide on a teacher or school, private or group lessons. How are you going to get to your classes? When are you going to study or practice?

I’m sure that there is more groundwork that has to be set up that I haven’t even thought of. After all of that, the actual learning of Spanish is a piece of cake. No wonder people put it all off.

I decided that my method is best, like in many things, choosing the correct parents is key. While I didn’t get the tall willowy parents I did manage to be born into a family where I heard Spanish all my life. The fact that the California school system had mandatory Spanish in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades and the option to take Spanish to fulfill my language requirements in high school and college also have given me a boost in the language department.  So I am mostly learning by osmosis, adding vocabulary and understanding as I go along.

So, what do you do? Not being a life coach, I can’t tell how to proceed. I just wanted to point out to the self righteous, non-empathetic among us that learning a new language isn’t as easy as just deciding to do it. It is doable however and the actual learning is not as stressful as the deciding to learn and figuring out  what method to follow.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Hi, I’m Maria, the author of the book “Surprisingly…Unstuck”. Thanks for reading and talking about it:)

  2. Mommy with Commuter Husband,

    thank you.

    What I find interesting is that the same people who will critize ex-pats in Mexico for not learning Spanish fast enough would be horrified if they overheard someone NOB critizing a foreigner for not speaking English.Which would be a great topic for some other blogger.


  3. “I just wanted to point out to the self righteous, non-empathetic among us that learning a new language isn’t as easy as just deciding to do it.”

    well put and so, so true …

  4. Teresa,
    I don’t think I could learn Japanese. When I was taking Judo we had to learn a little bit and I was awful at it. I bet you know more than you give yourself credit for.

    I think you will find that most Yucatecans are very helpful and patient, though it can make you crazy when you get someone starts guessing and doesn’t let you finish your sentence.

    Sorry that I deleted your comment.I feel like a dummie.
    I agree with you, if you speak Spanish you get a lot more out of living here. However, I think it’s normal to get overwhelmed when you have so many options. It’s like when I go shopping NOB,sometimes there are so many choices that my brain overloads and I don’t get anything at all.


  5. I accidently deleted Joanna’s comment!Here it is from my mail:

    Joanna has left a new comment on your post “Just do it !”:

    This seems to be such a complex problem but really it boils down to one thing. As you say: How much do you need? But (there’s always a but…)if you learn Spanish your life in Mexico will be so much richer. You will be able to have real conversations with the people who live here. Method? I think watching telenovelas is an excellent start. My sister has learned a huge amount from just that. Saying it right? Don’t worry about that. Mexicans are the most forgiving, patient people. Just learn the basic vocabulary and start talking, they will listen and fill in the gaps.

  6. I wondered which was the best route for me also. Took Spanish for two years in high school.
    Forty years later I’m preparing for a move to Merida and chose Pimsleur. 30 minutes a day and it’s starting to all come back.
    It’s comforting to know that the wonderful people of Merida will have patience with me until I become more proficient.

  7. i can totally relate to what you’ve brought up. the choice for me in learning japanese was easy. i am lucky in that my husband’s compnay pays for it and the teacher comes to my house. forcing myself to study however is a totally different endeavor. i keep telling myself to study at least half an hour a day, but sometimes days go by without my opening the books. however, i am not shy or afraid to make mistakes, so i use the little i have learned. if i make an error, i just try to learn from it.

    Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu!!!

    Happy New Year in, you guessed it, Japanese.

    Teresa in Nagoya

  8. Shannon,
    That’s amazing. Congratulations! I am totally impressed.

    As habits go it’s sounds like a positive one. Plus it doesn’t take up space in your sewing room like being a fabric-aholic does.


  9. I think that by now I have tried most of those methods. I studied for 2 years with CDs before I left Vancouver and then also went to 2 semesters of Spanish at one of the local colleges there. One year I had one more week holidays than my husband so I went ahead of him to Morelia and took an in depth course at Baden Powell. Then I moved to Patzcuaro and went to the school there for 2 weeks. I then spent 5 years talking to Spanish speaking people(there were not a lot of English speakers in Patzcuaro), and developing bad habits.
    A year ago I moved to San Miguel de Allende and have taken levels 3, 4 and 5 at Warren Hardy. Since there were no further classes there I am now taking a conversation class twice a week at a local cafe. Do you think I’m addicted to Spanish classes? LOL.

  10. Steve,
    I think that most people get stopped by perceived complexity. Especially those of us who think that there is only one right way and are affraid to chose wrong.
    I try to remember that when something doesn’t work for me, it’s just more information. You do just have to start somewhere, somehow. Once you set your foot on the path you can always take another fork. It’s getting on the path that is hard.

  11. You touched one of my favorite issues — learning Spanish. You are correct. Choosing methods is tough. Unfortunately,I think I use the complexity as an excuse.

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