There are many ways to learn a new language, and I have explained elsewhere which program I used. I also found several other tools and ideas that worked for me, through trial and error, that really complemented my efforts while learning Latin American Spanish lessons:
Table of Contents
Tip # 1 – The Dictionary
• Buy a good English–Spanish, Spanish–English dictionary. I emphasize “good” because:-
a.) many “lower-end” dictionaries don’t have a sufficiently detailed list of the various meanings of certain words in different regions of Latin America/Spain, and,
b.) the “lower-end” dictionaries will generally only have the most popular words, which is OK if you want the basics but not good enough if you are trying to actually learn a language. Trust me on this! You can get one from a quality bookstore such as your local university bookstore or you can probably find it online.
Tip #2 – Use Your Dictionary To Help Read The News
• Get a hold of your trusted dictionary and do the following:
- • Go to a news website that carries news in both English and Spanish. The two highest profile are either CNN or The BBC. Sadly neither of these sites give you unbiased news anymore, but this exercise is just to help you learn the language.
- • Find a major news story, preferably one that you are familiar with, and read it.
- • Go to their Spanish language websites – links here: CNN en español or BBC el mundo.
- • Look for the same story on their Spanish language site.
- • Print it out, if possible. If it’s a long story, you only need three or four paragraphs.
- • Now translate it and actually write it out. Most importantly here – you need to look up EVERY word you don’t understand, no cheating!
Your translation may not be perfect but it will be close. This exercise will be of great assistance with learning to visualize the words you are speaking.
I did this 4 or 5 times a week if I had time and it was a great help to me.
You can get really lazy and type it into Google Translate, etc., but that will not help you at all in learning to speak a new language. That is not the idea here!
Tip # 3 – Think in Spanish – part of the time!
This tip is surprisingly one of the easiest and most important to implement that I used.
Take one of your routine tasks – I am going to use “grocery shopping”, because that’s what I started with.
- Write down and memorize, if possible, the Spanish words for the items on your grocery list, e.g. rice (arroz), milk (leche).
- When in the supermarket, say to yourself (as quietly as you like) the names of the products you need in Spanish. I would always use a complete phrase for each item, e.g. I need milk (Yo necesito leche). This repetition will be of great help to you, as it was for me.
You can use this same principle for just about any routine in your daily life – driving to work, making a meal, brushing your teeth, showering, etc.
The results will be very encouraging.
Tip #4 – Destinos – A Spanish “Soap Opera” – Yes, I’m serious.
Destinos is a classic with many Spanish learning students. It teaches speaking, listening and comprehension skills in Spanish. This Spanish soap opera is actually an excellent mystery that takes you to several Latin American countries and Spain. You will learn not only some Spanish, but also about the different cultures and dialects found in different parts of the Latin American Spanish speaking world. There is a recap at the end of each episode that covers the new words used, etc.
Even though it is a “mystery”, it does mainly cover everyday events that you will encounter. It is an excellent supplement to your studies. I watched this 52 episode series a couple of months after I had started my Pimsleur course and I found that it really helped reinforce much of everything I had learnt. What I also found helpful is that the actors speak clearly and at a pace that does not intimidate you.
This tip is not essential to you learning but it is an entertaining and useful addition – it is also FREE. Click here
Tip #5 – Daily Journal in Spanish
Keep a daily journal in Spanish of what you actually did that day. This is a wonderful tool because it not only gives you more practice, but you are writing about everyday things. As per Tip #1, writing everything out reinforces the learning and as mentioned in Tip #2, you will continue to “think in Spanish”.
Tip #6 – Flash Cards
An old-fashioned but always has been and always will be a very effective way to memorize words and phrases. You can do this exercise anywhere and at anytime.
Review a bunch of them everyday, just make sure you go back and retry the ones you messed up on!
Tip #7 – Read A Spanish Book
This is not the easiest of the lot but again, time permitting it is a very effective tool to help you. Again, you need the dictionary and again, no cheating – look up words you don’t understand. It is best if it is a mainstream novel, not too many technical words and expressions. See here for some great starter books specially designed for Spanish language learners, Just click here
As in Tips 2 and 5, you are likely to retain much of what you write, but you will also probably learn a totally different set of words than you would by writing out the news and your journal.
I hope all this shows you that learning Latin American Spanish can be fun, which in turn, will make it easier.
More tips to follow…….