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Old 26th March 2006, 07:20 PM   #1
richardksa
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Ok eveyone, I need help. The grammar I understand - it's (almost) quite logical. I can read Spanish and get most of it - with a bit of help from my dictionary. I can even say simple sentences and happily find my way a menu, check into a hotel, but.....that's as far as it goes.

The problem is retention of the words. How do I recall the words to enlarge my vocabulary. I spend ages with a dictionary, I fumble with flash cards, I label everything in Spanish and spend hours listening to CDs and when I read the word and sometimes on hearing the word I know it's meaning. Then I try to make a sentence and the mind's a blank. I don't want to be able to converse with only waiters and hotels receptionists. Anyone got any tips?
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Old 26th March 2006, 10:42 PM   #2
Alan
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I found a great program called Vocatude. It's freeware, and you can get it from http://vocatude.gaja.hu/uk/ . It supports all languages as far as I am aware, so it's even useful for learners of Chinese or Arabic. I have a vocabulary list I made up for it if you're interested in that too. Another good one is the Rosetta Stone, but it's pricey.

Your flash cards and dictionaries don't work because your brain needs all the words in context. Organise your vocabulary into topics, and learn the basics first. As for the CDs, most of them go too slowly for it to have any effect. Your brain works VERY quickly. Read a word, learn the translation. Do it again. Pick another. Do it again. Again. Pimsleurs and the like speak too much English and too much time is spent on the same Spanish sentence. You need to hear a word used in MANY different contexts to begin to understand exactly where it can and can't be used. For example, for too long, I was able to ask where the toilets were but couldn't ask where the supermarket was because I hadn't learned how to conjugate the verb in that way.

I find that lack of vocabulary is my problem with French, but the key is to read, read, read. You can't do it any other way. Just do as many things as possible in Spanish in your day to day life. For example, when I want to know the news, I look up El Mundo. I'll watch RTVE for the TV news (available in streaming video) and I'm reading Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal (I thought a kid's book would be easier . . . ). Even switch your DVDs to Spanish if they have that option. I think in Spanish when possible too. The more you keep Spanish as your "working" language, the easier it becomes.

Alan

Last edited by Alan; 26th March 2006 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 27th March 2006, 12:11 AM   #3
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When you're not living somewhere that uses the language and aren't immersed in it, it makes things very difficult. I think the above advice is good. Read and involve yourself in Spanish media as much as possible.

One thing I always try to do throughout the day is think to myself, "now how would I say that in Spanish?" If I'm watching the news and someone got hit by a car, I think, "I know I learned that verb at some point, but what is it? Oh, that's right, 'atropellar'!" The other day I saw someone putting some groceries in the trunk of their car, and for the life of me I couldn't remember how to say "trunk". I ended up having to look it up (something I do only as a last resort). If you force yourself to remember it instead of looking it up, you're less likely to forget it again. However, now that I went through that effort of trying to remember the word, failing, and looking it up, I'll be less likely to forget it.

If you've lived in a Spanish-speaking country for any length of time, chances are you already have a good base. It's just a matter of maintaining and retaining things, which is something I've constantly struggled with.

Another great thing is to keep listening to Notes in Spanish! Every podcast I learn a new word or two. It's fantastic!
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Old 27th March 2006, 07:19 AM   #4
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I had a great English teacher who used to say that in order to learn a new word you need to use it in a sentence at least 8 times. (We learn by repetition)

It's true that sometimes I've heard a word before and know the meaning, but until I make it "mine" by using it, it'is very possible that I won't use it in a conversation.

So I would organize weekly lists (not very long, 5 to 10 words) and try to build a new sentence for each word every day. You have to be very constant, but it works.

Last edited by Marina; 27th March 2006 at 07:03 PM.
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Old 27th March 2006, 05:32 PM   #5
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I wrote a post about this a while ago which may help with a few more ideas: click here to take a look.
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Old 27th March 2006, 11:49 PM   #6
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I agree with what the others have said. To really get the most out of learning a language, you have to be immersed in it. You can read plenty of grammar books and do plenty of exercises (flash cards, etc) but when it comes down to it, you have to place yourself in situations where you can't escape the language. In my experience studying Spanish, I have discovered that reading, writing, hearing, and speaking are all separate skills that can advance (and decline) independently. For example, because my concentration in Spanish has been focused on independent study and written text, I found it easy to read and write the language but to hear someone speak the same was baffling. You need equal parts of all four (reading, writing, hearing, speaking) to really "get it". The Notes in Spanish podcast is an excellent resource for hearing a normal conversation in Spanish. It would also be beneficial to have a partner who is knowledgeable enough of the language and willing to force you to use it. Another fun thing to do is find some Spanish music that you like, preferably music you aren't familiar with already, and listen along with a prinout of the lyrics. You may find lots of words you do not know but once you look them up, chances are you will listen to the song again and again and the word will be written to that little harddisk in your head. I find methods like this much more useful (and natural) than simply doing written exercises or flashcards. A forum like this would be a good place to connect people trying to learn the language.
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Old 28th March 2006, 08:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by outpostbabu
A forum like this would be a good place to connect people trying to learn the language.
I'm really open to ideas about how the forum might be used for that. Should there be a seperate section for that? I'm mulling around ideas with the intercambio theme too. Any input would be really appreciated.
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Old 28th March 2006, 08:40 AM   #8
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I agree, learning songs is a very useful way to learn vocabulary, collocations and prepositions (which I still get wrong all the time). They have helped me lots to get some right answers in many exams.
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Old 28th March 2006, 09:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by outpostbabu
I found it easy to read and write the language but to hear someone speak the same was baffling. You need equal parts of all four (reading, writing, hearing, speaking) to really "get it".
Couldn't agree more. Reading and writing are totally different to listening and speaking. One of the big hurdles is trying to identify the words in the stream of sounds when someone is speaking. This can only come with practice, practice, practice. If you don't have someone to talk with, listen to whatever Spanish language sources you can (radio, TV - great for picking up on physical mannerisms as well, internet radio, DVDs, etc). Only with exposure can you get to identify the "music" of the language. If you have no-one to practice with you could always try repeating phrases that you've heard from one of these sources until you thing you've got the intonation and pronunciation correct. Eventually, though, you'll need to find people to converse with, to force you to think on your feet.

Good luck.
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Old 28th March 2006, 09:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timg
Eventually, though, you'll need to find people to converse with, to force you to think on your feet.
Totally true. Maybe what's needed here is a skype intercambio set up... hmmm... Would that interest anyone, intercambios via skype with Spaniards who also want to learn English? 20 mins in Spanish 20 mins in English for example? Food for thought anyway...
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Old 28th March 2006, 02:06 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben
Totally true. Maybe what's needed here is a skype intercambio set up... hmmm... Would that interest anyone, intercambios via skype with Spaniards who also want to learn English? 20 mins in Spanish 20 mins in English for example? Food for thought anyway...
I think something like this would be awesome, via Skype or any of the voice-enabled chat applications out there.
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Old 28th March 2006, 02:48 PM   #12
che escocés
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Hi Ben,

I had exactly the same thought about intercambios over Skype! I think it would be a great idea!

I also have some 'face to face' intercambios coming up so I also would be interested to see what sort of themes/topics are useful for them.
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Old 28th March 2006, 03:07 PM   #13
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I've opened a new post and poll on this to get some more opinions.
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Old 28th March 2006, 03:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by che escocés
I also have some 'face to face' intercambios coming up so I also would be interested to see what sort of themes/topics are useful for them.
Just imagine it was a blind date! What would you talk about to keep the conversation going with someone you had never met? Work, holidays, family, interests, ambitions.... the sky's the limit! It really helps if you click with the person straight off though. Watch out though, one of my first intercambios went so well that I ended up marrying her
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Old 28th March 2006, 07:56 PM   #15
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Thanks to everyone who has offered advice. It's probable the lack of conversational practice that is my problem. I'm stuck in a rather remote location and while there are about a dozen languages in use around me all day long, none of them are Spanish.

I have been re-listening to all the notes in Spanish and agree they are a great help in general comprehension. As someone said, each time a little bit more sticks. I just wish I could have some conversational practice, but that will have to wait until July - that's the next time I will be in Spain.

Outpostbabu (I'm sure there's a reason behind that name) mentioned the small hard disk in my head. I have a feeling it has some corrupted clusters!

I shall go off now and persevere, following all the excellent advice you have given. Luckily I do have CDs of Spanish songs. I like Joaquin Sabena as his enunciation is quite clear. And as well as Ban and Marina's wonderful contribution to my education, both lingual and cultural, there is also a podcast called "Hablemos", which is quite useful.

Last edited by richardksa; 28th March 2006 at 08:00 PM.
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Old 28th March 2006, 10:22 PM   #16
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Hablemos is good, but I was under the impression that it had stopped. I especially liked it because it was available in both Spanish and English, so you could test your comprehension.
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Old 28th March 2006, 11:16 PM   #17
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I agree with just about everything that's been said, in particular the theme of daily contact, and also the 4-pronged approach of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

My problem was (is) finding the time, and as i have this desire to learn the language, I would feel some guilt each time I'd let a day go past without studying. Also, I would find that a day would become an week, a week a month.... and so on, so i'd sometimes go weeks without putting in very much effort.

The answer for me was to sign-up for formal study. I'm doing a course which involves submitting regular tests for marking by a tutor, and missing one deadline might be OK, but two or more late submissions wouldn't be accepted so easily. So now I get that daily contact, because the pace of the course demands it. Now the stress is doing the work! rather than the self inflicted stress when I dropped the books for a few weeks.

Good luck with your studies.
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Old 31st March 2006, 08:29 AM   #18
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I'd like to extend one hand of empathy and one hand of anecdote. I've studied Spanish since high school (i'm now a post-graduate) and visited both Puerto Rico and Spain twice. My college courses were intense immersion experiences with lots of literature and history. Yet still today I have a terrible time with auditory comprehension. For years I've had varying advice on how to improve my listening skills which all failed for reasons not appropriate here but one thing that has helped me, isolated from Spanish/Latin culture as I am, is simultaneously listening/reading the news. RNE, Radio Nacional de Espana, Canal 5 - Todo Noticias can be listened to live over the web at http://www.rtve.es/rne/r5/index.htm Most stories being discussed on the programmes can be read on the site's main page. For me, hearing and reading about the news at the same time makes some connection in my brain that comes awfully close to participating in actual dialogue. And of course, you learn about the goings-on in Spain. It's a bonus package. I hope this is helpful to somebody. Chau.
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Old 9th April 2006, 05:39 AM   #19
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Rabbitoh,

That's a great link for people who want to hear spoken Spanish. Some of the people on the broadcast talk really really fast! Thanks for pointing me in that direction.
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Old 10th April 2006, 12:41 AM   #20
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Anyone with Sky should check out channel 802, some interesting programs, news, documentaries, films.

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