When you decide to learn Latin American Spanish, you may be confused with all the programs out there.
- Do I want to to try a free program? Of course you do if you believe it will work.
- If I go for a paid program, many may think that the most expensive will work better – not necessarily true.
- Can I really learn the language simply by listening to an app? Probably not.
I wish to give you a quick insight into my experience.
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Why I Needed To Learn Latin American Spanish
When I decided to learn the Latin American Spanish language, my needs were straight forward – I needed to learn the language quickly!
My employer had decided to start a new venture in the Caribbean and offered me the opportunity to be a part of it, one of the stipulations being that I learn the language as he needed his own “eyes and ears” present to protect his investment.
I had been meaning to start learning the language for several years to help me on my vacations to the region, but now I had to act.
I researched and tested out a few different courses and materials, among them Berlitz, Rosetta Stone, Living Language, but I was not particularly impressed and didn’t feel as though I would make it past ordering a coffee or beer.
A few years ago there was not the variety of language learning programs available as there are today. I would say that the number of quality programs has greatly increased over the years and there are also a lot more “language learning systems” that are absolute crap.
On this site, along with articles about the lifestyle and culture in Latin America I will try to outline and review a variety of the courses available.
Right now, I will tell you a little about the course that I selected and why I chose it, a course that I still recommend today, although several more have come on the market, including a couple that I feel are superior.
Why I Decided On A Course
I knew a Spanish instructor at a large university here in Canada, and this was in 2003, who recommended one specific course to me – The Pimsleur Method.
It is important to mention here also that classroom instruction was not an option for me due to my parenting and work commitments. Also, it was hard for me to find enough “quiet” time at home to study without being interrupted, therefore an audio course was my preferred option.
She told me that I only needed this course and also recommended that I buy a good dictionary because you will come across words you don’t know or understand, as we do in English. Discipline yourself to stop and look up these words. You will soon agree that it’s a good idea.
What I liked was that I only needed the audio material – no books, no computer, just myself and my ears! This lack of other material did make me a little skeptical but I trusted the Spanish professor.
You choose the best format for you – Download MP3, CD, Software for Mac, PC, Audiobook from Audible.
There are price points for every learner as you can take the course in small chunks, or as a complete series. They also now offer a subscription service.
A Fast Start – So Important
The Pimsleur method is basically to build conversations by using frequently repeated words and phrases in such a way that they stay in your memory, These conversations are then gradually expanded at planned intervals to allow maximum memory retention.
That apparently is the science of it and it works.
What Happened To Me?
I can’t explain it very well but the bottom line is, the words and expressions stayed in my memory quite easily. You have no need to “rewind” as everything flows at a natural speed. However, I did occasionally repeat a lesson if I was not convinced that I had perfected it, but that happened maybe one time out of every ten lessons.
The instruction is clear and precise. My progress seemed to be rapid, continuous and, what proved to be crucial, gave me great motivation and encouragement to keep going.
Looking back, the results were quite astonishing as from my first trip to help plan my employer’s project in July, when I knew no Spanish, to my second trip in October that same year, I could carry on a basic conversation, exchanging pleasantries, arranging meetings, accommodations, travel plans, banking transactions, small talk at parties, etc.
If others talked at 100 mph, then I did get lost, but a simple polite request to speak a little more slowly and a smile, did the trick.
Remember, I achieved this on my own – I was not surrounded by Spanish speakers, neither did I have “study partners” to work with.
Within a very short time I felt very comfortable with the language. Yes, I would still ask my colleagues to speak a little slower at times, but that was not an issue for them. During my time back home I kept practicing but my progress kept me motivated.
The Courses I Recommend Today
I find the best courses available today are Rocket Spanish, and Ouino.
My review for Rocket Spanish includes links to the program. As you can see, they offer a free trial.
Also, follow this link to Ouino’s site.
With hindsight being 20/20, if I had to start over today, I would probably opt for Rocket Spanish, even over Pimsleur.
8 thoughts on “How I Learned To Speak Spanish”
Hello Xavant, this is very interesting information that you are providing for your readers. I have never heard of Pimsleur Method. It certainly is nice that you can learn from it with just the audio versions (and using a dictionary – essential in all cases) A listener could even learn while in the car. I always say, never stop learning.
Hi Angela: Thank you for your kind comment.
Yes, I did most of my learning in my car – that is the beauty of the system. The dictionary was invaluable as I supplemented my learning by reading newspapers etc. on the internet.
I like this and it is definitely interesting. I know there are methods that make learning more effective but I never looked for the info until now. May i ask, how fast did it go for you? What could I expect if I start the course.
I guess there are other languages available, am I right? Anyway, thanks for the great tip and info!
All the best!
Hi Igor: I did one 30 minute lesson every day (sometimes, I did two), and after only 2 or 3 weeks I had a very basic understanding. After 3 months, I could get around on my own in the Dominican Republic where, off the tourist path, very few people speak English and I felt comfortable at parties, etc.. I had to ask them to speak slowly but that was no problem. Within six months, I could hold conversations very comfortably and could translate for other people travelling with me.
Yes, there are many languages available (I think 40 or 50).
I am very intrigued by this product. I have always wanted to learn spanish (living in So.Fla most of my life) and i have also tried a million different programs.
Ill have to give it a shot next time I get a chance. Exactly how long did it take you to learn spanish from this program?
Thanks for your comment. To learn basic “tourist sentences”, it just took me a few days – that would be asking for directions, prices, numbers, names, etc..Just remember the “touristy” part is easy because you are asking the questions and driving the conversation.
It took me about 2-3 months to feel comfortable with a general conversation, as long as they spoke a little slower than normal – that was never a problem for them. For example, I went to social functions where I was the only one that spoke English, and survived without feeling left out of everything. Just as in any part of the world, most of the conversations consisted of things such as asking people what work they do, family issues, sports, general news topics of the day. Being a visitor, I was usually being asked the questions so I always got lots of practice this way. You could do it quicker but remember I was living in the North West with no Spanish speakers around me to practice with and I only travelled to Latin America every 2-3 months. In South Florida, I don’t think that is a problem!
Combining this course with the learning tips on my site, I considered myself to be fluent to the point of feeling comfortable conducting business in about 6 months.
I’m fluent in European Spanish, but it’s not so different. The two are much closer that the varieties of Portuguese. Anyway, regardless of the standard you chose, I think it’s one of the easiest languages to learn and it gives you access to one fourth of the world, so it;s definitely worth the effort. Listening is one of the most important skills to begin with, and it’s a great stuff to make use of the time you spend commuting.
Keep studying guys! 🙂
Thank you Marta for your comment. Excuse me being a little late with my reply but I just returned from a 10 day stay in Cuba, gloriously without internet – it was great!
I agree with you that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn – the fact that it is generally “pronounced exactly as it is written” and that the pronunciation of vowels basically doesn’t change is a great help.
Your point about having easier access to such a large portion of the world’s population was a major motivation for me to learn the language and that has proven to be one of the best things I have done in my life. I hope you get similarly rewarded.