Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

How to Build a Strong Spanish Vocabulary

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Building up a strong Spanish vocabulary is important to improve your ability to understand conversations that happen around you and to make you sound like a smart cookie when you speak or write in Spanish. There are many different ways that you can strengthen your vocabulary, try using a few of the following techniques and you will be impressing people with your vast lexicon in no time.

A Spanish vocabulary notebook should be one of the first things you do when you set out to improve your vocabulary. Each time you encounter a new word include it in your notebook, along with a definition, the type of word it is (adjective, noun, verb, adverb, idiomatic phrase etcetera) and an example of it in use. Studies in brain cognition have shown that you are far more likely to remember things when you read it, write it and say it.

Making word family trees is also a good way to expand your vocabulary when you are beginning to learn Spanish. These can help you to make connections between Spanish words. For example you can make a tree with all the living room vocabulary you know, or all the greetings that you have learned. To make vocabulary trees you start with the theme or subject written in the center. On branches that radiate outwards write all the words you currently know relating to that theme. On the flipside of the paper re-create the tree in your native language. By comparing the two you can uncover gaps in your vocabulary knowledge.

Prioritizing your learning is an important part of remembering vocabulary. There is no point learning a whole lot of slang or idiomatic expressions before you learn to use more basic vocabulary as you will not use it and you will quickly forget it. Learn vocabulary for everyday situations first and then build up to more complex ideas and themes.

Reading much and often is an essential part of building a strong Spanish vocabulary. Make the Internet your best friend and check out Spanish language newspapers and other Spanish language websites. There are also online newsletters that will email a new phrase or word everyday to your inbox. Why not use Spanish language search engines when you are surfing the net and try clicking on websites in Spanish?

There are thousands of Spanish language websites that have free vocabulary exercises and word games on line. Try to visit one of these sites each day. By setting aside just a few minutes to do this you will build and refresh your Spanish vocabulary.

If your current Spanish level is intermediate, then try visiting your local library and borrowing Spanish language books. There are some amazing Spanish and Latino writers and it is always best to read in the original language. Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia and Isabel Allende are just a few shining literary lights in Spanish. Pablo Neruda’s poetry is simply sublime when it is read in lilting and romantic Spanish.

Listening to Spanish music on line is another great way that you can improve your listening and expand your vocabulary. Once you have listened to the song search for the lyrics in Google and you are sure to learn lots of new words and phrases.

When watching DVDs switch on the Spanish subtitles that are included on many movies and you will get to learn new words, many of them slang.

There are many different techniques you can use to build a strong Spanish vocabulary. By utilizing just a few of the ideas in this article you will be able to understand others better and wow people with your vast grasp of the Spanish language.

The Benefits of a One on One Spanish Teacher

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

There are several benefits to getting yourself a one on one Spanish teacher. Since I have run the gauntlet of just about every study Spanish option there is, I am going to share with you my experiences and you can decide for yourself which road to go down.

It cannot be denied that a personal language teacher is going to set you back more cash than enrolling in classes or self-study. However, the benefits to you most certainly offset the extra investment. With your own Spanish teacher there is nowhere to hide. They will notice if you have not completed your homework, you cannot avoid speaking in class and you cannot get away with pretending you understand something when you do not. You are the entire focus of the class and that means that you are going to be working hard.

It also means that you are going to be reaping the benefits. The individual attention that a private Spanish teacher gives you is a chance to accelerate your learning. You can dictate the content of the class and you can be taught in a diagnostic manner. That fancy word means that the teacher can identify your language weaknesses and teach specifically to iron them out for you.

When you join a language class it is most often the case that they follow a curriculum. Week one of a basic program might be introductions and greetings, week two you could be learning how to share personal information so on and so forth. Now what quite often happens in a class setting is that there are some classes where you actually gain almost nothing from the class. When you already know and understand the content of a class it can be frustrating and kill your motivation.

My personal problem with Spanish is that I am very fluent and have excellent listening and vocabulary skills, but I need my grammar reinforced. I will openly admit, that my grammar is below par. Because my abilities in regard to different parts of Spanish are unbalanced, I can’t count the amount of group classes I have been in where I have spent most of the time doodling in my notebook completely withdrawn from the class. On the other hand, there have also been times when I have dominated the class too much and not given others the chance to learn effectively – I try very hard not to be like that because I know it is annoying.

So for me the only really satisfying answer is to have a private Spanish tutor. If you and your private Spanish teacher communicate effectively about what your expectations are then you will never have classes where you feel like you are not learning much. Each class will be demanding and help you to develop your Spanish ability in the most efficient manner.

There is also the self study option, which I have attempted to employ with limited success. If you are disciplined then self study can work well for you. Since procrastinating is one of my chief skills in life, self study is not really a valid option for me. On the Internet there are millions of wonderful Spanish language learning resources and many of them are free. If you take advantage of them they will really help to boost your grammar and vocabulary. There are also Spanish language programs you can download and listening exercises too. The Internet is a vast and invaluable resource in learning a language. Here comes the but…BUT…in my experience you will not be able to significantly develop your listening skills and speaking ability unless you have a Spanish speaker helping you out. A private Spanish teacher will correct your pronunciation and intonation and help you to become fluent in a way that no amount of self study can.

There are many benefits to having a one on one Spanish teacher. While they are more expensive in the short term, you will see your Spanish skills develop at a much faster rate than just about any other method.

Part 4 – Learning “Parrot Fashion” or Learning Spanish grammar?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

In my last article I started to write about some of the first steps I took when I decided to learn the Spanish language. In this article I want to talk about two different approaches to learning a new language that you may want to think about before you dive head long into a text book or start trying to memorise hundreds of Spanish words.

The way that people best absorb and retain information differs from person to person but generally speaking our brains work better if the information we are trying to absorb is presented to us in a way that is informative and interesting. If the human brain attempts to learn by being continuously presented with factual information it will very quickly suffer from Neural System Fatigue; that is, our ability to remain interested in what we are trying to learn will quickly be lost.

New information is best absorbed by the human brain if it triggers our human emotions. Learning facts anecdotally is one method of achieving this. The key is to provide the brain with stimuli. It is far more likely that the brain will absorb new Spanish words for example if those words can be related to something else or if they forms part of a small list of other similar words. Trying to learn hundreds of unconnected words at once is likely to be less effective. I will talk more about learning vocabulary in later articles.

So what stimulus works best? How does the human brain react to different types of stimuli? Well, this of course is what differs from person to person. We are all different. Something that interests me might be the most boring thing in the world to somebody else!

Often you will see teachers and text books trying to teach Spanish by following two different general approaches. The first approach is what I like to call, teaching “parrot fashion”. This involves the student processing and remembering new Spanish words and phrases and then simply repeating them our loud. Certain words and phrases can be associated with different topics. The student can simply learn a particular word and remember that that word is only used in particular situations without necessarily understanding why.

The second approach to learning is more methodical. It requires the student to learn a new word or phrase and then to understand why that word or phrase is being used in the way that it is. What we are really saying here is that the grammar of a language is important. We can learn Spanish by trying to understand some fundamental points about the structure of the language.

So which method works best? The truth is that you are unlikely to be able to learn Spanish effectively without having some understanding of Spanish grammar. In reality it will probably take you far longer to learn Spanish if you simply rely on trying to remember when certain words and phrases are used in speech.

A good example of how useful learning Spanish grammar can be is when trying to learn different verb tenses. The way verbs are formed in Spanish is very different to the way they are formed in English. I will talk more about this in later articles. The great thing is that if we learn certain rules about how one particular verb should be formed in one particular tense in Spanish then quite often we can apply this rule to hundreds of other verbs too.

By learning Spanish grammar we can form words and sentences without necessarily having to learn hundreds of words individually. Following grammatical guidelines and applying rules will ultimately allow us to learn new words more quickly.

The problem is that learning Spanish grammar for many is quite boring! It essentially requires that the human brain absorbs technical and factual information. Without varied stimuli learning Spanish grammar might take a very long time.

To avoid losing concentration and becoming board it is probably best to mix both approaches to learning Spanish. This is especially true at the early stages of the learning process. By learning Spanish words and phrases “parrot fashion” at least the student feels immediate satisfaction by being able to communicate. Learning the basics using this method is probably best. It doesn’t take much for anyone to learn how to say hello and introduce themselves!

I mentioned in my last article that when first learning Spanish you shouldn’t get too bogged down with how different words and phrases are formed. The point is that you want to feel enthused about learning. However, if you are serious about learning Spanish then at some point you will need to learn Spanish grammar. Don’t rush it and make sure you provide your brain with the stimuli that it needs. In the next article I intend to talk more about different types of stimuli and how I managed to keep myself enthused when I first started to learn Spanish.