Top 10 Tips for Learning Spanish
Posted: 23 March 2010 07:34 AM  
Tourist
Total Posts:  6
Joined  2010-03-22

So many of my foreign friends and acquaintances here in Spain desperately want to do something about improving their Spanish language skills.  Some have tried quite hard, but get quickly frustrated. So what can foreign immigrants do to improve their Spanish enough to carry on meaningful conversations with the locals?

As a former languages teacher, teacher trainer and UK schools inspector I have seen first hand what works and what doesn’t. Not just in the UK, but in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.  So, here are my top 10 tips (13, actually!).

  Enrol on a course - a free one, if possible -  and attend the classes regularly. Did you know that the Junta de Andalucía provides funding to town halls for free Spanish lessons for foreigners?  In Ronda, where I live, for example, my non-Spanish-speaking friends receive three mornings a week of free tuition.

  Find a Spaniard who will give you conversation practice in exchange for reciprocal conversation in English (your average Spaniard is desperate to improve their English).  That way it doesn’t cost you anything.

  Buy a good course book which you can work through on your own.

  Carry a little notebook with you at all times to jot down new words and phrases for learning later.

  Get into the habit of learning new material every day, eg from the above mentioned notebook, or from the coursebook or homework from your teacher.  That may sound like a chore, but, believe me, very few of us can just pick up a foreign language by osmosis, as it were, just because we happen to live in the country.  Most of us have to make a lot of effort.  Take my own case: a four-year university course which took me from zero knowledge to honours degree standard, followed by another 36 years of continual learning.  Yes, I’m still learning.  I live in Spain now and I reckon I learn something new about the Spanish language every single day.

  Watch Spanish TV, especially the soaps and the news.  Quiz shows are also good.

  Listen to the radio too - the standard of spoken Spanish there, especially on RNE (Radio Nacional de España) is pure castellano and of the highest quality.

  Read a newspaper regularly, though not El País, La Vanguardia, ABC or El Mundo, as they’re all rather turgid and dull.  I like the style and language and content of Sur and Málaga Hoy better from a language-learning point of view.

  Read children’s stories.  Fairy tales, where the stories are familiar, are particularly suitable.

  Play language-learning tapes and/or CDs in the car and hone your pronunciation.  Practice out loud!  Nobody can hear you!

  If you have British TV, record and watch the BBC’s Spanish language-learning output, which has always been excellent.

  Buy a decent dictionary, nothing smaller than the biggest Collins or Larousse you can find.

  Take a Spanish lover, but check that it’s OK with your spouse or partner first!

But really, the secret, above anything else, is to “wallow in a bath of Spanish”, as I used to to tell my students.  Listen actively and attentively to as much Spanish as you can, and then gradually begin to imitate and emulate what you hear.  That’s, after all, how we learned our mother tongue.  ¡Mucha suerte!

©  don Pablo

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Posted: 23 March 2010 03:31 PM  
Expatriator
Total Posts:  738
Joined  2008-06-23

My top tip for learning a new language is too first learn your own.

If your an English speaker from say the UK and don’t have a secondary school English qualification to at least an O Level or GCSE grade C or above you will struggle and take a long time.

Most language schools or teachers never really ask your qualifications, after all its not there fault you don’t understand Past or Present tense etc.

My second tip is don’t expect to learn quickly, its not going to come over night unless your very clever or have come from a latin speaking background.

Many students with good classroom skills struggle as soon as they arrive in Spain for the first time, local dialect, slang and speed can rarely be taught, that only comes once you’ve spent time in Spain.

My Spanish OH still finds words that are unfamiliar in Castellano but wildly spoken.

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Posted: 23 March 2010 04:42 PM  
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My advice would be to just speak whatever Castellano you can, all the freakin’ time. In the shower, walking down the street. Get an imaginary friend and talk to them in Spanish.

Best ways to learn Spanish from Beginner to Advanced

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Posted: 24 March 2010 10:45 AM  
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I assume Santi’s tongue is firmly in his cheek!  Did he deliberately make so many spelling/syntax errors in his post (I made it seven in all)?  Perhaps he should heed his own advice!  Seriously, though, he has a point, although learning to communicate in a foreign language is not wholly dependent on knowing the grammar of your mother tongue.

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Posted: 24 March 2010 04:56 PM  
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Does it matter on an internet forum, really.wink

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Posted: 10 January 2011 05:11 PM  
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Yes, if you’re trying to make a serious point, as I think you were.  wink

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Posted: 26 February 2011 01:02 PM  
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Thanks, daypet - glad to be of service. smile

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Posted: 24 March 2011 07:00 PM  
Expatriator
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Good tips here. Perhaps I could add to them. I never studied Spanish before I came here to live so my tips are for learning once you are here.

1) Buy a newspaper every day and try to read it (at least in your mind try to pronounce the words correctly), regional papers are easier to read than the nationals.
2) Look for the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, sign up for their Spanish for immigrants courses. Not only are the courses very good, you’ll also meet other people in the same boat as you. Because they are part of the public education system they are chap, with good teachers and the course is recognised officially. On my course there were Brits, Americans, Brazilians, Chinese, Romanians, Japanese, French, Germans and Italians: with such a mix one had to try and speak Spanish to communicate. You can also post exchange classes with the Spanish students there who want to practice your language.
3) Wait a while before getting satellite, I’m still waiting ten years on.
4) Listen to the radio - Radio 1 & 5 are the best coz they don’t have adverts.

Santi is right, it is much easier learning Spanish if you know how the grammar works in your own language, I was lucky enough to have a Spanish state schoolteacher teach me English grammar!!

Remember that when you speak, the structure of what you say is not important. Spoken words disappear very quickly; the important thing is that you convey the idea of what you want to say.

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Posted: 21 June 2011 11:59 PM  
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These are good generally tips but your level should dictate how you learn. Starting with a generally audio course is a great way to begin and as a beginner and it isn’t really beneficially to spend time watching Spanish movies when you could be listening to modified Spanish (unless you are doing a full immersion). As The Expatriator mentions, speak as often as possible. For some this may be difficult as if you are shy in your native language it’s difficult to change your personality when speaking Spanish. But if you’re scared of making mistakes then just forget about this and put yourself out there.

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Posted: 30 June 2011 06:26 PM  
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Jeffry76Cruz;

Your post deleted irrelevant SPAM in signature link

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Posted: 13 March 2018 10:45 AM  
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thank you so much for advice!

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