How to learn Spanish?

BAHibs

Registered
I'd recommend one on one classes on the language learning site Italki, you can find veey reasonably priced tutors from Argentina.
 

Iznogud

Registered
Yep will try that ... If only they had the stories with IZNOGUD and the calife it would be a little more fun the learn!
Since it has already been mentioned twice, I'll cast my vote for the horizontal dictionnary.
That's how I learned french at the Université and got acquainted with Le Grand Vizir.

Would suggest reading too but without pronounciation.... and then again, that's how i learned english. :)

Iz
 

Alby

Registered
  • Always keep in mind that there are two languages to learn: written Spanish and oral Spanish. This is something no teacher and no textbook ever makes explicit (or, I suspect, in most cases even notices). The two are quite different and have different uses. Be clear on the differences and be clear which you are learning at any given moment.
  • Be aware the biggest failing of formal language teaching materials is that they rely to a great extent on written representation of the language (e.g., whiteboards) and the written grammar (e.g., textbooks) and thus, whilst purporting to teach us the vocabulary and grammar of the oral language, inevitably teach, model and demonstrate something quite different: the grammar and vocabulary of the written language. It is a huge problem and you need to recognize it and not be sidetracked into (i) learning grammar and vocabulary that will not serve you in conversation and (ii) not learning the grammar and vocabulary that will serve you in conversation.
  • Be aware that most of the most common nouns (and to some extent the verbs) that a textbook teaches you are not words that people actually use (e.g., it won’t help you when the textbook tells you the word for “clothes” is “ropa” when you go to the laundromat and they ask you how many “prendas” you want to leave). Again it is a huge problem that you need to work at actively to overcome. Pay less attention to the basic vocabulary in the textbook and more attention to the vocabulary you hear people using.
  • Use the dictaphone in your cell phone to dictate any word you hear on the street or in conversation, or that you read in a newspaper, then at home note it down in your own personal glossary together with its meaning. Then work the meaning both ways (from English to Spanish first and then from Spanish to English) IN WRITING WITH A PEN AND PAPER (not on a keyboard). Do this several times. Every so often, once the list has grown to a few items (you will know yourself when the time is right) take the piece of paper and go for a walk, practicing the word out loud in sentences (it is now easier to walk around in public talking to yourself like a lunatic because you are behind a mask and nobody hears you). But…
  • …Do not try to actively learn a word until you have come across it three times. Much time and effort can be expended learning a word that seems interesting but that you will never come across again and never have reason to use yourself.
  • Learn words that crop up in chatty emails or other forms of personal written communication. If word appears in such a place, that probably means it is common and useful. More importantly, such words are always more salient to us if they have appeared in a personal communication directed to us; therefore, they are easier to remember.
  • Be aware that some words will stick in your head with surprising ease whereas others will remain frustratingly elusive for months or even years. There is no rhyme or reason to this; just accept it as part of the process and keep working on the stubborn ones.
  • Don’t get hung up on pronunciation. Most Spanish varieties have only around 28 sounds, whereas most English varieties have in the mid-40s. This means it is much easier for you to learn spoken Spanish than it is for a Spanish speaker to learn spoken English. Get the vowel sounds right and you will be fine. Then focus on the grammar and the vocabulary. There are tremendous rewards for getting on top of the latter and few for trying to sound like a local.
  • Always keep in mind that if it weren’t for the verbs (and the pronoun system that goes with them), Spanish would probably be amongst the easiest language for a learner coming from English. Work the verb and pronoun system as hard as you can for the first two years (and learn the basic verbs and nouns for intimate one-on-one conversations as a way to bed down the verb and pronoun system). Keep at it, no matter what, because once you get through the verb and pronoun stage, you are 90% of the way there. But...
  • ...to begin with focus only on the personal pronouns “yo” and “vos/tu”. Formal classes and course materials err by teaching us the full range of pronouns from the start, when, as beginners, it is many months before we do anything other than struggle painstakingly through informal conversations with just one other person during which we only make reference to ourselves and to the other participant in the conversation.
  • Keep in mind that while some estimates put the number of words in Spanish at 100,000, (about half as big English) you can perform daily life in Spanish by learning perhaps as few as 2000-4000 of those. And on average (once you’ve got past the verb problem–see above) you ought to be able to explicitly learn 1000-1500 words per year—if you are dedicated and conscientious, using techniques like the ones mentioned above. So it is definitely doable. And once you have reached a learned productive vocabulary (i.e., words that you have taken the trouble to acquire using techniques like those mentioned above and would personally speak or write if the need or opportunity arose) of somewhere between 8000 and 10,000 words you are absolutely flying. Again, very doable over a period of few years. And, better still, due to the similarities of English and Spanish, many of the remaining 90,000 words you can guess when you see or hear them, or work out from the context. The rest are too obscure, archaic, or technical, or regional to need to know.
  • As another poster has said, learn the vocabulary of the issues or knowledge areas that interest you and that you discuss most in English (whether it be golf, nuclear physics, or whatever). It is particularly useful to learn nouns and verbs of the occupations you have worked in, because we love to talk about ourselves and what we have done in life. In English we tend to steer conversations to the things that interest us and that we are knowledgeable in. There is no reason that it would be any different in Spanish. You will be much more motivated to speak and converse and will have much more to say, if you can talk about the things that you are passionate about. As a corollary, ignore the situational syllabus that formal language courses will give you (e.g., “Going to the dentist”). It is amazing how little time we spend in the situations that are portrayed in the textbooks and how much of those situations we manage (on the odd occasion they do crop up in our lives) by incomplete grammatical sentences (often just single words) and physical gestures.
  • Always keep in mind that the grammar system (including the verbs and pronouns) is finite and achievable, whereas the vocabulary is huge always growing. Although we are not conscious of it, we remain language learners our whole lives even in our native language, so the aim is not to be as good in our second language as we are in our first, but to keep moving forward constantly with our second language to keep narrowing the gap (which tends to keep growing simply because we are constantly still learning new English, even if we are not fully conscious of it). But…
  • ...bear in mind also that if you get good enough, you start to learn new things about the world in Spanish, and once new knowledge is being acquired in our second language, you are suddenly more competent in that part of your knowledge in Spanish language than you are in English—amazing!
  • Equally, don’t try and be a better Spanish speaker and writer than you are an English speaker and writer. We tend to assume our written and spoken English is outstanding and feel disappointed that our Spanish lags far behind. In fact, the gap may not be as great as we imagine: if we heard ourselves speak English, or had somebody else review our written English, we would probably discover we are not nearly as good as we assume.
  • Ignore the textbooks that purport to teach you “the writing skill”. They do no such thing. They do nothing more than help us practice the finer points of formal grammar. They do not teach us how to write in Spanish. If we know how to write well in English, we will know how to write well in Spanish once we get enough Spanish language in our heads; if we don’t write well in English (and few of us do), we will never write well in Spanish, no matter how much Spanish language we get in our heads and no matter how much study we do of the “writing skill” in Spanish.
  • It is amazing how often numbers crop up in conversation and in daily transactions. Learn how to say and hear the following numbers: 0-30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 10000, 1000000. Once you have them in your head, you can work out every number from 1-1000000.
 
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florence

Registered
Be direct, whenever you start a conversation with someone you don't know. The first words out of your mouth should be: "Disculpe, no hablo bien el castellano." This sets the bar low, before they have a chance to get frustrated with you. Once alerted to your difficulty, I have found, universally, that they slow down and really try to be helpful.
 

Iznogud

Registered
Let me be blunt. RULES DO NOT APPLY until you are half way fluent.
Screw grammar, pronounciation, verbs, nouns, etc.
Getting the message across is what will get you where you want. Let the other individual do some of the work.
Worry about perfecting your skills in due time.

Depending where you live, i'd suggest to be trusty or not with us locals.

Tip well and you'll be greeted with a smile and a positive attitude.
If you enjoy going for coffee or lunch, i've found that waiters/waitresses open up and become chatty quite easily.
I'm the obnoxius one but the wife makes friends at every cafeteria we frequent.

Iz
 

Alby

Registered
  • Do not believe any teacher (or textbook) that tells you (and who may even believe) that a verb is reflexive. There is no such thing as a reflexive verb, and reflexive verbs do not exist as a category of verb that you have to learn to identify and treat/learn separately. There is, however, a reflexive pronoun. You can use that reflexive pronoun to extend the meaning of any verb (though doing so in some cases won't make much sense), but applying the reflexive pronoun to a verb does not make that verb a reflexive verb.
  • Do not waste time trying to follow textbook explanations of the differences between "por" and "para". Learn instead the (comparatively fewer) instances where "por" is correct and use "para" for everything else. It won't work 100% of the time to begin with, but eventually, you will effortlessly get the hang of using each without having had to memorize the so-called and largely irrelevant differences.
  • Do spend too much time trying to memorize the textbook explanations of the difference between "ser" and "estar" and between the preterit and the imperfect. The guidance on these matters the textbooks provide is useful to a point but general at best, and there will be 10-20% of usages that you will hear native speakers correctly apply but which make no sense to you when you compare them to the guidance in the textbook. Take the textbooks with a heavy grain of salt. Instead (once you get good enough to pick up what people are saying), listen to native speakers switch between "ser" and "estar" and to their choice of preterite and imperfect and analyze why they do so, and look for your own patterns.
  • Read a lot (out load). But apply the rule mentioned in the previous post about only trying to explicitly learn a word you come across in your reading when you have come across it a third time.
  • Look for a non-native Spanish speaker to coach you. Only a non-native speaker of Spanish (and in your case a native English speaker) can fully appreciate why certain structures are so hard for you, because only such a teacher can have come up against the same problem or point of confusion and found a way to overcome it. Most native speakers of Spanish (even teachers of Spanish) just can't get why some things don't make sense to us and have little to offer other than to tell us that it's the way things are. There is a series of particular and seemingly intractable problems that almost all learners coming from English will encounter, and the best person to help you get through them is someone who has done so him or herself.
 
  • Do not believe any teacher (or textbook) that tells you (and who may even believe) that a verb is reflexive. There is no such thing as a reflexive verb, and reflexive verbs do not exist as a category of verb that you have to learn to identify and treat/learn separately. There is, however, a reflexive pronoun. You can use that reflexive pronoun to extend the meaning of any verb (though doing so in some cases won't make much sense), but applying the reflexive pronoun to a verb does not make that verb a reflexive verb.
  • Do not waste time trying to follow textbook explanations of the differences between "por" and "para". Learn instead the (comparatively fewer) instances where "por" is correct and use "para" for everything else. It won't work 100% of the time to begin with, but eventually, you will effortlessly get the hang of using each without having had to memorize the so-called and largely irrelevant differences.
  • Do spend too much time trying to memorize the textbook explanations of the difference between "ser" and "estar" and between the preterit and the imperfect. The guidance on these matters the textbooks provide is useful to a point but general at best, and there will be 10-20% of usages that you will hear native speakers correctly apply but which make no sense to you when you compare them to the guidance in the textbook. Take the textbooks with a heavy grain of salt. Instead (once you get good enough to pick up what people are saying), listen to native speakers switch between "ser" and "estar" and to their choice of preterite and imperfect and analyze why they do so, and look for your own patterns.
  • Read a lot (out load). But apply the rule mentioned in the previous post about only trying to explicitly learn a word you come across in your reading when you have come across it a third time.
  • Look for a non-native Spanish speaker to coach you. Only a non-native speaker of Spanish (and in your case a native English speaker) can fully appreciate why certain structures are so hard for you, because only such a teacher can have come up against the same problem or point of confusion and found a way to overcome it. Most native speakers of Spanish (even teachers of Spanish) just can't get why some things don't make sense to us and have little to offer other than to tell us that it's the way things are. There is a series of particular and seemingly intractable problems that almost all learners coming from English will encounter, and the best person to help you get through them is someone who has done so him or herself.
This is the best, easiest video explanation of por y para I have ever come across.

It's not perfect, but it will help you be correct in each use 90%+ of the time.

 
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