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Old 5th October 2006, 12:07 PM   #1
Ben
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Default General Spanish learning tips

This is a list I published a while ago on the NFS blog. I thought it would make a useful stickie post here in the forum, but it is by no means exhaustive, so please do continue the list underneath!


One: Motivation.
To learn any language efficiently, quickly, and well, you need to be very motivated to do so, otherwise it takes forever. And I mean very motivated. If you only have the ‘I might try and learn a bit of Spanish’ kind of motivation, then give up and do something else. You need to be desperately keen to learn Spanish, longing to get out there and speak it fluently. Motivation ‘targets’, or reasons, include: ‘I want to move to Spain a.s.a.p.’, ‘I want to be able to talk to those beautiful Spanish girls/men,’ ‘I’m obsessed with Spain and I want to go as deep into the culture as I can…’ N.B. You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to move to Spain. In 6 months you can go from zero to conversational, and to fluent in 9, if you move here and surround yourself with it.


Two: Hard work and hunger.
Once the motivation is in place you’ll need to really throw yourself into it, working on the language constantly and consistently, devouring as much Spanish as you can get your hands on at every possible opportunity, which leads me to the next point…


Three: Total Immersion.
Surround yourself with Spanish, bath yourself in Spanish! Watch Spanish films, or Spanish TV via satelite or the net, read Spanish magazines and newspapers, get a decent text book from the local bookshop, buy a decent dictionary (and a pocket one). Get hold of novels or ‘readers’ that match your abilities. A reader is a reduced, graded book with a range of vocab that matches your level. Estimate your level by picking up a reader in the bookshop and reading a page. If you have trouble with around 6 words then this is your level. More than 6 and it is too high, less and it is too low. More or total immersion here.


Four: Prioritise.
Think, ‘do I need to know such a complicated word yet? Have I learned enough useful stuff already?’ For example, if you come across the word for ‘railing’ before you have learned basic shopping vocab, then you may want to let it slip out of your memory for now, concentrating on the basics for the time being. I hope that makes sense, it really worked for me!


Five: Join a class.
Learning with a group isn’t just a social thing, it’s really motivating to be in the same boat as others, and a bit of inter-group competitiveness never does any harm. Plus, teachers structure language learning nicely and pull you up on those recurring mistakes. The bi-weekly classes I took in my first year in Spain made a huge difference. If the teacher is boring, change class ASAP.


Six: Enter yourself into an official exam.
Honestly, it isn’t that terrifying and it really gives your motivation a kick. The Instituto Cervantes offers official diplomas (the ‘DELE’) and has centres all over the world. I did the Intermediate level exam years ago and later the ‘Superior’, the latter really honing those damn subjunctives.


Seven: The Intercambio.
You meet with a Spanish speaking person once a week, in a bar, cafe, wherever, and speak for an hour or more in Spanish, then the same in English. That way both parties benefit. Look or advertise on language school or college (especially Erasmus/ foreign students) noticeboards, and in the ex-pat press and LoQuo in Spain. An Intercambio is invaluable for practicing your speaking, and really is my top tip, the single best thing you can do to improve your Spanish. Be warned (or not): many a lasting relationship, marriages included, have begun with an intercambio - here is one who speaks from experience!


Eight: Some random techniques.
Some people use white stickers to label every object at home in Spanish - worked for my sister. I used to carry a sheet of paper around with all the basic tenses and verb types on, testing myself on the metro… Old fashioned vocab sheets work a treat - English words on one side of the page, Spanish on the other - you cover one side and try to remember the words’ translations. Self-testing whilst walking around -’Do I know the word for that?’ (whilst looking at a lamp post, letter box etc). Carrying the pocket dictionary everywhere is great for that.


Nine: Think in Spanish.
Another old language learning trick, but it works. If you can’t regularly talk to others in Spanish then you can always practice by holding an internal dialogue with yourself!


Ten: Learn on the go.
An obvious one. This really applies when you are actually in Spain (or South America etc). Need to open a bank account? Learn the relevant vocab before you go into the bank. Same goes for shopping at the market, buying bread, getting a haircut, chatting up the ladies/men on a night out, buying a train ticket etc etc….


Eleven: ENJOY IT!
Use the techniques that work for you and aren’t too tiresome. If it’s boring or no fun you’ll soon give up. This is where things like classes and intercambios really help, especially when the latter has an element of the blind date thrown in for good measure (podcast no. 18 goes into this!)

Please continue this list with your top tips below!

Last edited by Ben; 5th October 2006 at 12:15 PM.
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Old 5th October 2006, 06:51 PM   #2
Nic
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Twelve: Remember that you learn through mistakes...

You cannot let mistakes get to you. Everyone makes them! Its what makes you human. This is something you have to take on board when learning a language. So what if you said 'polla' when you meant 'pollo'?

People forgive and forget. Mistakes are how we learn. Just laugh about it and move on...
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Old 5th October 2006, 07:12 PM   #3
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How could I forget that! Well done for bringing up a very important point. It is essential to feel happy about making errors or you will never get anywhere. Be bold, get things wrong without worrying about it, and the whole process (especially speaking, obviously) advances so much quicker.
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Old 5th October 2006, 10:47 PM   #4
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Two tips on a variation of the total immersion and reading themes...

If you're lucky enough to already be in a Spanish-speaking country, make use of any of the free newspapers that get handed out in the streets morning and evening. On my way to work in Barcelona, I pass a girl handing out copies of "Qué" which I then read over lunch, and on my way home, I pass a guy with the "ADN" paper. I then call into a cafe and have a well-deserved caña and read it while letting other people's conversations seep through my ears. This way, you also learn about some of the local current affairs that don't normally warrant any attention by the big newspaper websites.

My other tip is to get drunk. No, seriously! After a hard day in work feeling like I'm understanding nothing of what my colleagues are saying and feeling like a complete failure who doesn't deserve to even attempt a foreign language, there's nothing better than heading out for a few drinks and seeing the difference. This isn't a scientific discovery of mine of course, and you'll have to be careful not to get completely plastered!! Obviously, if you're totally wrecked then you'll have no real perception of how your Spanish is coming across and you certainly won't learn much from your conversations, but being mildly drunk de-activates that annoying gland in the back of your brain that makes you subconsciously check every word before you say it. With me, that gland "spoils" my Spanish as I end up thinking too much before each word resulting in a big disjointed mess. Before you know it, you'll find you just let the words come out. Many will be wrong of course, but your conversation will flow like never before. And if nothing else, it gives you a boost to be able to feel like you're communicating freely, and what better way is there to round off a hard day??

Last edited by Pepino; 5th October 2006 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 5th October 2006, 11:02 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pepino View Post
Two tips on a variation of the total immersion and reading themes...(...) but being mildly drunk de-activates that annoying gland in the back of your brain that makes you subconsciously check every word before you say it. With me, that gland "spoils" my Spanish as I end up thinking too much before each word resulting in a big disjointed mess. Before you know it, you'll find you just let the words come out.
LOL, you're right, a bit of alcohol always loosens the tongue, but not too much or you will get incoherent... in vino veritas est!
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Old 10th October 2006, 05:38 PM   #6
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Two tips on a variation of the total immersion and reading themes...

but being mildly drunk de-activates that annoying gland in the back of your brain that makes you subconsciously check every word before you say it. With me, that gland "spoils" my Spanish as I end up thinking too much before each word resulting in a big disjointed mess.
I totally agree! I have a private tutor for 2 hours at my house every other saturday aft, but invariably I sometimes have to reschedule to Fri evening 7.30 til 9.30. I always have a couple of drinks through the lesson because I like a drink at the end of the week and my tutor agrees that I'm on fire throughout the lesson.

It's not really ideal to be constantly on the verge of intoxication but it works for me at the moment
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Old 21st December 2007, 09:05 AM   #7
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Pepino said, "My other tip is to get drunk. No, seriously! After a hard day in work feeling like I'm understanding nothing of what my colleagues are saying and feeling like a complete failure who doesn't deserve to even attempt a foreign language, there's nothing better than heading out for a few drinks and seeing the difference. This isn't a scientific discovery of mine of course, and you'll have to be careful not to get completely plastered!! Obviously, if you're totally wrecked then you'll have no real perception of how your Spanish is coming across and you certainly won't learn much from your conversations, but being mildly drunk de-activates that annoying gland in the back of your brain that makes you subconsciously check every word before you say it. With me, that gland "spoils" my Spanish as I end up thinking too much before each word resulting in a big disjointed mess. Before you know it, you'll find you just let the words come out. Many will be wrong of course, but your conversation will flow like never before. And if nothing else, it gives you a boost to be able to feel like you're communicating freely, and what better way is there to round off a hard day?? "


Drinking a bit seems like it would work wonders for my Spanish! (too bad I don't drink!)

Last edited by Kathy; 21st December 2007 at 09:11 AM.
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Old 7th November 2006, 03:23 PM   #8
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I get really flustered while using the phone. I seem to lose my confidence so quickly. It's actually pathetic when I practise a few times before actually phoning someone. I try to speak clearly but few people understand me. It's frustrating sometimes.
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Old 7th November 2006, 03:25 PM   #9
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I think the phone is the biggest barrier of all, so don't worry, you are not alone! Why is it so much harder to speak to someone on the phone in another language than it is in person?
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Old 7th November 2006, 04:14 PM   #10
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Looking at a person while he speaks helps you a lot; gestures, the movement of his mouth... You loose all of that on a phone call.

For me the phone is by far the most difficult part of learning English
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Old 10th April 2008, 10:53 PM   #11
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I think the phone is the biggest barrier of all, so don't worry, you are not alone! Why is it so much harder to speak to someone on the phone in another language than it is in person?
Couldn't agree more. I had a nightmare conversation with the owner of a hire bike shop when the two bikes we hired got 3 punctures. Having ridden about 12 kilometers into the next town, we were a bit stuck so I tried ringing the store. Never again, there were lots of ''no entiendos'' and ''que se dice'' but they didn't come to pick us up. My husband trudged back to our apartment like Beau Gest in the midday sun to get our hire car and drove back to pick me and the bikes up. Even our Spanish teacher says she doesn't like speaking on the phone in England and she has been here for years.
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Old 4th June 2010, 03:20 PM   #12
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I think the phone is the biggest barrier of all, so don't worry, you are not alone! Why is it so much harder to speak to someone on the phone in another language than it is in person?
That's because we also lip-read when we talk to someone. Especially when we talk with somebody using a foreign language, we tend to read the lips to help us understand what they are saying. We cant do lip-reading over the phone, which makes it difficult talking to someone using a language we just learned, especially when they are talking really fast.
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Old 21st October 2010, 02:34 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Nic View Post
Twelve: Remember that you learn through mistakes...

You cannot let mistakes get to you. Everyone makes them! Its what makes you human. This is something you have to take on board when learning a language. So what if you said 'polla' when you meant 'pollo'?

People forgive and forget. Mistakes are how we learn. Just laugh about it and move on...
agree with you, if we make the mistakes and then correct them we will remember about the correct variant next time. it is my personal experience also.
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Old 30th January 2007, 01:40 PM   #14
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Una traducción madrileña para "He's cheap":
"Gasta menos que Tarzán en corbatas".
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Old 13th February 2007, 05:12 AM   #15
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íHola a todos! I'm Liz [Isabella] from New Zealand and I am a bit new to adding messages so pido disculpas if I make a mess of it. I am studying for a BA in spanish at uni and I have found that immersing myself in Spanish music [perhaps more of the Concerto de Rodrigez type] for a few minutes before starting my studies really helps both sides of my brain to kick in.
I speak other languages and I find that the same technique works equally well - I literally drift off in my chair and let the beauty and often the sadness of the music take over. I should tell you that I am 80 this year so it is quite easy to sit in a chair and drift away!!![Joking] .If I am not boring you all too much, the other trick that helps me is to take down notes in the form of 'mind maps' as this engages both lobes by introducing both colour and statistics. Ojalá que paseis bien. Liz
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Old 19th February 2007, 07:02 PM   #16
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Hi Isabella,

Thanks very much for sharing your tricks with us. I agree with you that music can help a lot with a language. What other languages do you speak???
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Old 20th May 2007, 08:22 PM   #17
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I agree when it comes to music . I keep searching for lyrics of songs and sing along with the CDs. If you try and imitate their accent, it first gives comical effect but then it really teaches you something. By memorising the lyrics, I always have a song to sing when I'm on my bike on my way to work .
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Old 20th May 2007, 09:48 PM   #18
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I agree when it comes to music . I keep searching for lyrics of songs and sing along with the CDs. ....
I found a lot of lyrics here - plus a lot of adverts but I suppose that pays their costs
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Old 7th April 2008, 10:10 AM   #19
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Could anyone recommend some books to read in Spanish, as I haven't read any yet. I tried the library but they only had translated novels which were way too hard.
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Old 6th November 2008, 09:12 PM   #20
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I found the site xxxxxxx with some useful (free) exercises for Spanish beginners.

Last edited by greytop; 7th November 2008 at 08:45 AM. Reason: link removed
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