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Glen March 11, 2017 08:56 PM

Suggestions for adult learners of Spanish
Based on things that have helped me, and still help!

Suggestions for learning Spanish as an adult

Focus first on learning how to say what you want to say, rather than simply accumulating random vocabulary words. Proper grammar will come along naturally in the process. Make notes of ideas to look up later – a short pencil beats a long memory.

Watch DVDs that you like, in Spanish audio with Spanish (not English) subtitles. Not all subtitles are reliable, so for the most authentic experience check out original works such as Cantinflas, El Chavo del Ocho, La India María etc. As an added benefit, those are also good ones for learning the body-language and gestures that go along with the spoken word.

Immerse yourself in the language. For example, listen to news broadcasts and weather reports, since they tend to repeat the same material over and over. In addition to satellite TV or cable, a shortwave radio offers (free of charge!) many Spanish-speaking stations from around the world. Online, both the BBC website and YouTube have a lot of Spanish to listen to.

Immigrants learning English have the advantage of total immersion here while we have to seek out – and even pay tuition for – such opportunities. Consider volunteering at a Spanish-speaking organization, or joining a Spanish-speaking church with whose theology you agree. Or do both!

Learn the way a child does, by doing more listening than reading. Having to visualize what a word looks like on paper before being able to understand what it means from the sound only, can be a stumbling-block for adult learners.

Pay attention whenever a Spanish speaker, especially a beginning learner of English, speaks in English – from his accent you can pick up many hints about the proper sounds of Spanish.

Get hold of a pocket-size digital (not tape) voice recorder and carry it everywhere for making spur-of-the-moment recordings to review later, including how your own accent sounds (it can be a real eye-opener!)

Along with an English-Spanish dictionary, use an all-Spanish one. At first it’s a challenge but it really speeds up the learning process, because in looking up the meaning of the definitions themselves you come across even more new words.

Always pick up any dual-language brochures from businesses, stores, hospitals etc. to check out how they translate things for better or worse.

Work crossword puzzles and word games in Spanish.

Make your shopping list, mark calendar appointments, configure your cell phone etc., in Spanish.

In self-checkout stations at Lowes, Ingles etc., choose the Spanish option and ignore any rude stares you might get.

Learn a new word every day and use it in context twice that day. Even better, learn its synonyms and antonyms as well.

Practice forming entire sentences with those new words, making the sentences longer and longer each time.

At home, practice in front of a mirror.

Carry around any small book written in Spanish by a native speaker (not a translation) to read whenever and wherever you have some spare time.

Talk to yourself in Spanish, trying to describe what’s happening to you or what you’re doing at any given moment. The goal is to think directly in Spanish, since having to mentally translate things first really slows down your speech. You know you’ve arrived when you wake up to having had a dream where the dialogue took place in Spanish and not English.

Swallow your pride, have fun and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – everyone occasionally gets things wrong - in both languages! Most Spanish speakers will be patient with us for simply making an effort to learn their language, and will good-naturedly correct us if we ask.

JPablo March 12, 2017 07:34 PM

Amen to that, Glen.

Seems like a very good approach!

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