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Frustration With Learning


Teaching methodology, learning techniques, linguistics-- any of the various aspect of learning or teaching a foreign language.

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Old March 17, 2021, 11:24 AM
DenverGuy DenverGuy is offline
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Frustration With Learning

I started with a teacher 6 years ago. I have been working with the same one for the last 4 years. And for the past year I have been doing two sessions per week on Skype. We are working with a book. I study, go through the tests, memorize words, conjugations, etc. She says that I am at the intermediate level. The truth is that I can barely read a Spanish sentence without getting stuck on a word I haven't seen, an idiom, verb tense, etc. And I can forget about having much of a conversation with anyone. Watching and understanding a Spanish TV show? Nope.

And there is little to no review. I had to look up "tal vez" today because I haven't seen it in a while. Working through the book is dry and boring.

I did the Rocket Spanish video online course, but that is all about memorization.

I have seen a lot of the YouTube Spanish teachers, but how to get a handle on this seems more confusing than ever.

I just e-mailed the teacher and have told her that I am backing off for now. I'm just really frustrated that I'm not further along.

Any suggestions for a better path? Thanks.
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Old March 17, 2021, 12:50 PM
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Rusty Rusty is online now
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The very best way to learn Spanish is total immersion. Since that's not possible for most people, the next best thing is to befriend a native speaker of Spanish and try to communicate in their language only.
Another way to learn is to get a hold of one of your favorite books that has been translated into Spanish and to read it out loud, preferably to someone else (like your Spanish-speaking friend).

Every method has its pros and cons. However, the more you communicate and the more senses you involve, the better the outcome will be.
Learn to ask the questions "¿Qué es eso?" and "¿Cómo se dice ____?" Repeat the answer you receive, ask for its spelling, write it down, look it up when you can. Make the word yours.

To make a word yours, create a short phrase or two that contains that word. That way you'll know what words work in conjunction with the new word. Remember, adjectives must agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify. In other words, learn 'la casa blanca' and 'las casas blancas' instead of just 'casa'; learn 'quiero comer' and 'quería comer', 'no lo sé' and 'no lo sabía'. The more phrases you know, the better. If you don't have access to verb conjugation charts, you can find one here or here (I entered the infinitive 'dar' to get these links, but you can substitute another infinitive at the end of the URL for - you can also substitute another infinitive in the URL for OR you can enter a conjugated form of the verb to see what its infinitive is (and every other conjugation).)

Last edited by Rusty; March 17, 2021 at 09:13 PM. Reason: augmented
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Old March 18, 2021, 08:15 AM
DenverGuy DenverGuy is offline
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Great Post

Rusty, many thanks. I will take your suggestions. I appreciate it.
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Old March 18, 2021, 08:22 AM
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You're quite welcome!
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Old March 28, 2021, 10:44 PM
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RufflesHaveRidges RufflesHaveRidges is offline
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I have heard two suggestions that should help you:

(1) Learn on your own, without a teacher. Various software tools may help, like Anki. Public education and its texbooks are *extremely* inefficient for many reasons I won't go into, unless you want me to. The main exception about learning on your own is that a teacher is particularly useful for learning proper pronunciation, but online software tools can help there, too.

(2) At least you are aware that your main deficiency is vocabulary. Remember that no one in any language, even their own native language, learns every word. Think of learning vocabulary as in infinite chore you can never complete. Vocabulary is the most important part of language learning, more so than pronunciation, script, spelling, or grammar, because if you know the words you can communicate somewhat, even if the words are in the wrong order or pronounced wrong. The following guy has a radical solution, but it takes a lot of work, and it is unwise to memorize the vocabulary for an entire book, but for an entire chapter or entire page I believe he has good advice:

Sep 21, 2018

The minimum amount of vocabulary you need to begin to get by comfortably in any language is in the 2,500-3,000 word range. I have many references for this, which I can provide, especially if I can attach a document here, if you want. In short, learning a language is a *lot* of work, and should not be undertaken lightly if you intend to speak and understand it well. The vocabulary takes the most time to learn, but the grammar takes the most intellectual effort to learn. Ideally you should learn the pronunciation before anything else, even before you learn a language's alphabet, but most people don't do that, even though pronunciation can be learned in a matter of weeks and will speed up the learning of everything else.

Here's one guy who learned how critical a large vocabulary is, when he took a crash course in Spanish:

Spanish in a Month - Learn Spanish Documentary
Nov 30, 2015
Connor Grooms

This polyglot also emphasizes the need for learning a lot of words:

Learn Vocabulary Fast
May 14, 2018
Steve Kaufmann - lingosteve
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Old May 17, 2021, 01:14 PM
Tyrn Tyrn is offline
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I have no choice but to read, and read, then to read some more. It's frustrating in the sense that you can't feel any progress. It makes you sick looking up the same word for the tenth time, doesn't it? But if you bite the bullet and just carry on, your vocabulary will grow dramatically in a year. Then it turns into pleasure, unbelievably.

Spanish is my second foreign language; when I had been studying English, there were just the dictionaries on paper, and none of your Duolingo; I was younger then, though

I've got just 2.5 years of daily Spanish studies, consisting of Duolingo, no less than 2000 pages of plain fiction (half of them in the last eight months) and less than two hundred questions here. Nothing more. I can't speak, of course, yet I can read without sinking into depression. If nothing bad happens, in a year I will be a happy reader.

Of course, total immersion among people that can understand only Spanish is better still.


When I decided to really learn English, I made a list of the approaches which won't work (based on my high school experience). So I keep no records, and keep artificial exercises to a minimum. Of the natural practices there are but two: talking in dead earnest, and reading.

A note on reading: choose fiction with a lot of dialog; don't stick to one author, as the personal vocabulary is always limited and idiosyncratic.

Last edited by Tyrn; May 18, 2021 at 03:44 AM.
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