Saturday, January 26, 2013

How I'm learning Spanish

Ben and I have been studying Spanish for about a month now. Our language skills are coming along nicely, and I am increadibly impressed by Ben's language learning abilities.
I have an advantage, I took Spanish in High School, and in Colorado, there is so much Spanish in restaurants, on shampoo bottles, on public notices, it's hard not to learn some of the language. Ben took german in High School, so he is starting at square one.

Here is how we're learning Spanish:

There are hundreds of free online courses to learn foreign languages online. Unfortunately most of them stink.  Duolingo is a crowd sourced online language course, that is incredible. It works as well if not better than any of the paid courses in any language I have ever taken, and it's completely free.
Duolingo lets you learn at your own pace. You can get skill points from completing a lesson, or practicing your weakest words.
The lessons are set up in a skill tree, which allows you to choose what you want to learn, and when to master a skill. I find that being able to hop between a few diffent topics, and review as I please greatly increases the amount of time I can study a language, before I burn out.
 If you like video games, this program will motivate you. During each lesson you get 3 hearts, if you loose all your hearts (by making errors), it's game over and you will have to try the lesson again.
I use this program to learn grammar, in a structured and effective way.

Television in the language you are learning is an incredible tool. I found a Sitcom called Extra en Espanol that is specifically aimed at those learning Spanish. They speak much slower, and more punctuated. The show fairly amusing, and it's a great stepping stone for Ben and I to start listening to spoken Spanish. We watch an episode everyday, it really helps our Spanish.
We also watch Disney movies, and plan on watching many more Television programs in Spanish.

I do this in all the languages I try to learn, but I pull up an easy topic in the language I'm trying to learn (Example- Manzana - Spanish for apple). I read through it and try to get the gist of it. When I come across a blue word that I don't know I click on it and try to figure out what that new world means. It's surprisingly effective and has really worked for my Russian, and I'm sure will help with my Spanish.

Being crazy....
The key to learning a new language is speaking as much as possible. Unfortunately, while I am still in Japan I have no Spanish speakers to talk to, so I talk to myself.
My favorite thing to do is think of a word (either from memory, or by looking a new word up) and then making a sentence with it. I then take one of the words from the sentence I made and use it in a new sentence, and keep repeating until my brain wanders off.

Singing to myself
Grammar is really difficult, but really important. When I learn a grammar point, and am having trouble remembering how to use it I make a song. Here is one of my songs where I focus on si (if) and using the conjugated and non conjugated form of verbs appropriately. It also really helps to record yourself in a new language because then you can hear all the mistakes you made.

Future plans for learning
Ben and I are getting an old copy of Rosetta Stone soon so we will be using that. We plan on doing language exchanges with Spanish speakers who are interested in improving their English (or Russian, or Japanese). We may also hire a tutor just to really jet fuel the process.

¡DesĂ©enme suerte!

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