Practice and a leap of faith

We’re currently working with a client to produce an e-learning product ‘The Science of Learning’ and it’s had us reflecting on some differences between learning skills and learning information.
Last week I went to my first Spanish conference thanks to a kind invitation from Belbin Spain. It was a curious mixture of business, finance and psychology and I learned from the talks, ie the information, but I learned more from the experience and the skills practise.

When you go to conferences regularly they begin to feel familiar; you know the people, what to expect, how to interact. I even speak at them regularly so it’s not a new experience.  But in another country, culture and language what was going to be different? Would my Spanish stand up to a whole day of talks? Were there different conference customs?  That’s where the practice came in.

What has helped with practising?

  • Small steps: I’ve already been to some short talks (charlas) in Spanish and each time managed to understand a little more of the gist if not all the details.
  • Making connections to what you know/ do – The topics of the talks were familiar so I could build on my previous experience to make connections where I didn’t completely understand.
  • Practising specific elements: My goal was to specifically listen out for the Spanish words and phrases corresponding to my work rather than general conversation. The most perplexing for a while was RRHH which I knew stood for Recursos Humanos buut I was desperately searching for other words to add to Human Resources for the extra H and R. Until I remembered that the USA in Spanish is written as EEUU (Estados Unidos). It’s simply a way of making a plural!
  • Practising in different situations: I had just spent a whole weekend with a Spanish friend speaking only Spanish. Even though it wasn’t work related it was valuable to build my general language skills.

My biggest challenge for this conference was something I do pretty confidently in the UK – network. Suddenly I wasn’t sure of the protocol and somehow believed I didn’t know how to start a conversation. Fortunately one of the talks was about taking a leap of faith to take action. So the next person I was standing next to I simply asked them if they’d enjoyed the talk (Has disfrutado de la charla?).

I’m sure you can see it really wasn’t that difficult at all but my mindset had held me back at the start of the day. Having taken that leap of faith I was rewarded with some rich conversations in Spanish that I understood and contributed to and I’ve made some new contacts.  And finally I need to reflect on and evaluate my skills: which is why I’ve written this blog in English and Spanish (click here for Spanish version)

When you’re learning skills, rather than information, you need multiple opportunities to practise, to take that leap of faith and simply have a go. And then reflect.