About The Author
I am an artist, soy artista, writer and native English speaker from The Untied States who has moved to a small remote island in Panama. I live off-the-grid with solar power and a water catchment system and I am currently working diligently to learn Spanish in my newly adopted country. You can visit my website and view my artwork at A Walk In The Art
This Blog Post
This post is going to cover my experience thus far learning Español, including little tricks that have helped me. I am improving every day but have a long way to go.
It Takes Commitment
Learning any foreign language takes a degree of commitment. It is not enough to get a book and study occasionally if you want to progress to fluency some time in your lifetime. Below are some resources that I have I have used that I hope will be helpful to those studying any new language.
My Favorite Phrases
These phrases witch should be in your vocabulary are:
“Disculpe, ¿puede decirme más despacio?” “Excuse me, can you please tell me more slowly?”, ” Estoy practicando mi el Español “, “ I am practicing my Spanish.” These are the magic phrases that will get almost any native speaker to be extra helpful and patient with you. I think they honestly appreciate your efforts instead of expecting them to know your language in their country.
I believe learning another language will be a life long process. After all it is for native speakers as well. None of these methods are perfect, and I am not an expert, but these have been my experiences and what has worked for me.
Some Tricks I Personally Use
◊ Practice talking and especially listening skills with native speakers. For me listening is more difficult.
◊ Practice writing in the foreign language. This allows you to take your time and think about what and how you want to say.
◊ Although not perfect.. Google Translate lies..LOL, but use it and SanishDict to look up new words and phrases.
◊ Post on Facebook and other social media in Spanish and your native language.
- Switch Google Translate to Spanish and type in what you want to say in Spanish. Then see what the translator says you have written. You will be surprised
about what you have gotten right and learn from your mistakes.
- Tip, I will copy what I have originally written and switch between Spanish and English to see if the translation stays the same. Sometimes it does sometimes it changes. Then you decide for yourself if what you original wrote is what you want to go with. Luckily you copied it before Google got a hold of it and butchered it.
- When I first started doing this I had to look up numerous words and how to construct sentences. As I have progressed in this area I find that I am looking up maybe one word here and there depending on how difficult the subject matter is. This is a great way to learn new words.
◊ Flash Cards:
- I found flash card to be very useful when I first started to learn. Studies have shown that we memorize items most efficient using 7-10 cards at a time until you have them committed to memory.
- You will find as you progress that your stack of cards has grown beyond your control and you have piles of them laying around the house. At least I did. Time perhaps to start practicing phrases and put them on a larger card.
- Now instead of flash card piles flowing off my desk and counters and nightstand, I stated keeping new words and phrases in a notebook. I bought a 3 subject notebook sectioned for new words, verb conjugations and lastly new phrases. This has worked very well for me. I have to say I am almost ready for a new book.
- I watch movies in English and Spanish, with subtitles. With the English movies I write down words and phrases form the subtitles. Tip: The subtitles can fly by quickly so sometimes I will photograph the subtitles with my tablet and review them later.
- For Spanish movies I just hold on to my seat and let the words roll over me. As my skills grow I can now hear more words that I know and even understand some of what is being said. The same can be done when around Spanish speakers.
Try to reset your keyboard to both languages. Sometimes you will have to switch modes. On my tablet it will auto correct my Spanish spelling for me. This is very useful as I know the word but my spelling is off. To be honest I can not spell in English at all. I know the quadratic formula but I am a bit dyslexic and spelling is not my thing.
A Few Words About Spanish Speakers
- I have noticed as I am learning to speak Spanish that native speakers usually are very patient and understanding when I make a mistake.
- Non-native Spanish speakers, on the other hand, are very quick to correct. This has been a mild source of irritation, for me at least. I become self conscience about my skills and I am hesitant to keep trying to practice around them.
- I noticed just the other day however, that I,… hmm… do the same thing to those who have less Spanish than me.
I ask myself why, myself included, why, do WE do this. A few reasons cone to mind.
- People truly do want to help you learn.
- People who have gone out of the way to learn Spanish as a second language, and learn it correctly, are all up in your face because they know a bit more and gosh darn it you should too.
Entonces, here are a few things that I think will help those who are learning and those who are more advanced.
- Let the person say what they are going to say and THEN wait a few seconds before correcting. I often know the very moment the word comes out of my mouth it is wrong or I missed the conjugation. I need a moment to re-evaluate how I said it and what I need to change and restate it. Then perhaps depending on the person, you can offer a correction.
- When the person who speaks less Spanish is asking OK, I think what I am saying is right and wants clarification…That person is not trying to argue or discount your input. It is simply part of the learning process. As we learn we should try to be confident in what we say in our adopted language.
- For those of us learning, we need to understand that those who have more experience are really just trying to help and perhaps tell them you need a moment. People treat you as you allow them to. It is a good idea when you are with people you see often, to establish some parameters when offering help. That is up to us, the students of the language, who are learning.
- Keep trying wherever and whenever you can. Immersion and using your skills, in my experience has been the best way to learn.
What is next for me?
My plan now, is to have a native speaker speak to me normally as they would naturally do a sentence at a time. Then the fun begins. I have to try and tell what they have said. Native speakers can run words together and then they become in our minds a totally different word we don’t recognize. A simple phrase like “Te gusta” can sound very very different and almost unrecognizable when native speakers slur words together.
I am going to continue to be a student of my second language and I hope you will continue as well in whatever language you are in the process of learning.
So this artist writer plans to get back to the work I love, painting, taking photographs and learning all I can in life. You only live once so make the most of every day. Also, please don’t wait until you are 70 to retire and then go forth to discover the world. It is all about choices that we make and the things we choose to prioritize in out lives. I think I may have just found my next blog topic.
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