I took 2 years of Spanish when I was in college. I went to every class. Visited the language lab where I put on headphones and listened to recordings of native speakers. I got an A.
Soon after, I went to Spain where I discovered that I could not speak a word of Spanish. Nor could I understand anything in my encounters on the street.
This was the first time that I really felt that I needed the skill from a class I took and was unprepared in a real-life situation.
Of course, the class did what it was designed to do. It took me through 2 complete books of spanish where I could conjugate verbs, fill in blanks, circle grammar inaccuracies and match words to pictures.
I had been learning Theoretical Spanish.
Around that time, I went to work in Berlin for 3 months. I couldn’t speak a word of German. I was surrounded by the language. I was forced to find words at the store, count out my money, read menus and road signs. Everything I learned was relevant to a real-life situation I was in.
About 2 months into my work, I was forced to answer the phone in my office (something I never dared to attempt). I carried on a simple conversation in German, answered the caller’s question and hung the phone up.
My co-worker looked at me with wide eyes. Somehow, I managed to go from 0 to speaking German in 8 weeks. I had figured out the basics. I couldn’t tell you anything about conjugating verbs, but I somehow was finding my way through it.
I was learning Applied German.
Those 2 experiences influenced how I teach music. I use sound to teach the songs, make the skills as relevant as possible and provide as many playing opportunities outside of the studio as possible. I want students to have my Applied German experience.