I'm frustrated by my inablity to learn Spanish

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23 Feb 2009 00:00 by Rob in Madrid Star rating in Madrid. 275 posts Send private message

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This is a take off of my previous thread, how do you survive without speaking Spanish. Anyone else in this boat, there seems to be a mental block preventing me from learning Spanish. For example, here I am typing away (with all ten fingers I note with pride) when I should be reviewing some more Spanish. If there's any good news the level of English is slowly improving in Spain. Even two and half years ago it was hard to find anyone who spoke English even in the tourist areas, now I'm finding more and more people who can function at a basic level of Spanish. Ah the more reason to ignore that nagging feeling that I should be reviewing my Spanish verbs



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Decided after all I don't like Spanish TV, that is having compared both.




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23 Feb 2009 15:26 by J&N Star rating in Nottinghamshire. 342 posts Send private message

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Hi Rob

Perseverance is the key. I have now started to see progress but I could not have done it without my weekly lessons, one from an English lady and one from a Spanish lady, which I started last summer. I have worked very hard and stuck at it and I can now ask questions and understand the answer, I can have simple conversations and I can find my way around instructions and directions but there are times when I wonder if I will ever 'get it'. I struggle with the tenses but have found that I can get by using present tense and I'm never without my dictionary BUT I have found that the number of verbs I can now recall without looking them up is more than enough and what if I do get my Ser and Estar's mixed up and my por & para's, when to use conocer or saber and haber and hacer are a law unto themselves in my mind.

I've started meeting a friend in a local Spanish bar on a Monday evening and she is just starting to learn so I am now using it as revision and it has shown me just how much progress I have made as the early chapters which I struggled with now seem relatively straught forward. We use a book called Present Day Spanish and the format suits my learning style very well. I think the key is to stick at it, get help and then buddy up with someone and practice. By meeting in a local Spanish bar if we get stuck, the waiters are more than happy to help us out!

Keep at, apparently it does 'click' eventually!

 

 



_______________________

Jacqui

http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com our adventure from deciding to move to Spain to being here and moving back to the UK.


 




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23 Feb 2009 15:29 by mariadecastro Star rating in Algeciras (Cadiz). 8577 posts Send private message

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Rob:

Do not try for the Spanish to come out  " perfect". By example, use the verbs, no matter the tenses are not correct but do it!

Then keep doing wirting exercises to get to the correct tenses and they will fluently start coming out.

DVD s in Spanish with English subtitles are aslo a great source of learning.

And I would highly encourage to do exchange conversations with a native spaniard. I am sure you will find many people willing to id you look for them.

Keep the try!

Maria



_______________________

Maria L. de Castro, JD, MA

Lawyer

Director www.costaluzlawyers.es

El blog de Maria



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23 Feb 2009 18:55 by abbbb1 Star rating in Essex and Ciudad Que.... 306 posts Send private message

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I started off at conventional evening classes, then when I couldn't find a higher class I hired a private tutor - who comes to the house twice a week (only £10 per hour - and she usually stays for an hour and a half!!). 

Some of my friends and I from the old evening class meet up weekly at someone's house for Spanish conversation.  We make  it a rule that no one speaks English from the time they enter the house until they leave.  In the case of a "slip" there is a forfeit jar.  There are only 5 of us in this group- so everyone gets a chance for conversation - and we speak on just about every topic under the sun!!

Finally, I found a Spanish penfriend through one of the sites (not sure if I'm allowed to say - so PM me if anyone wants to know), and we have "known" each other for 2 years.  She goes to a language college in Palencia, and has found penfriends for the other members of the conversation group.  All of us talk to our penfriends via SKYPE.  so we get plenty of authentic listening and practice - and loads of help and advice from our penfriends - who in turn "use" us to perfect their English

I think that I'd find Spanish easier to learn if I was about 10 - but as I'm retired ...............!!

Keep going - it's certainly worth it!



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Home
is where the heart is!




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23 Feb 2009 20:30 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4018 posts Send private message

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Yes keep going it is worth it.

I never allow myself to get bogged down with grammar.The aim is to communicate. You can get by with the present tense alone if you just get out there practising. In fact, I have had very little formal spanish tuition. I have always just got myself out there talking to people. I am far more sociable in Spanish then I am in English because I am constantly seeking to improve my Spanish. So don't hold back. You can be direct with the spanish. Talk to any spanish neighbours. The spanish do tend to be more gregarious and willing to chat compared to the English who can be more unapproachable.

Also make a point of watching and listening Spanish people interacting and you will get to know if things "sound " right. Do not watch UK television, we have spanish tv only in our house.

Join the local library. Reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary even if it is just children's books.

Also do not question the language and don't compare it to English. Too many people try to find the equivalent in English. Just take the language for what it is, switch off from English and fully engage.

Listen to spanish music.Just go to the bestsellers in Carrefour and get yourself something. I recommend Rosario, she has a great voice.

Treat all aspects of daily life as a learning opportunity. I time my day around the spanish timetable to maximise my exposure to the language. For example I took my children to the park at tea time today (5 in the evening) because I knew that the place would be crawling with spanish and the English mothers would be at  home already thinking about making the dinner. So I had all those spanish mothers all to myself to practise on. But seriously, everywhere is a learning opportunity, the waiting room in the doctors surgery, the queue in the supermarket. In fact, the other day I was in the supermarket and a retired English man who thought I was spanish started to practise his spanish on me at the ham counter. Good for him. If you are a guy you can get away with hanging around the supermarket asking random women for their advice etc.

But like I said before, with fear of  sounding too New Age Hippy, you have to engage all your senses when learning a language,a lot of things actually. Find out what type of learner you are. Just do a search on google for this and then tailor your learning programme to suit you.

 

 

 



_______________________

Schools in Spain Guide | The Expat Files | Learn Spanish | Earn a living in Spain




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25 Feb 2009 07:58 by Rob in Madrid Star rating in Madrid. 275 posts Send private message

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Thanks, it's always harder to learn another language when your older. I have dug back out my Micheal Thomas CDs, I spend alot of time driving so I can listen to them.

One thing I've been wanting to but hasn't worked out schedule wise is volunteering at the local food bank, it's run mostly by expats, so they speak simple Spanish and more importantly they tend to repeat alot of the same questions, where do you live, do you need clothing, do you need help carrying things etc. This really helps because you here the same thing over and over.

Also I have a Spanish family on 'retainer' to translate when ever I need help, which is often, they like it because it gives them some extra cash and I like it because I don't need to worry about wearing out my welcome.



_______________________

Decided after all I don't like Spanish TV, that is having compared both.




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25 Feb 2009 13:29 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4018 posts Send private message

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At least you have Spanish contact with the family that you know, it makes such a difference compared to people who only mix with other expats. Having said that, it isn't that easy to make the contact for people who speak no spanish at all so I do feel like I need to defend the Brits sometimes who learn no spanish at all because for many the intention is there,ironically, they just lack access to Spanish people.

 

Susan

 

 



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Schools in Spain Guide | The Expat Files | Learn Spanish | Earn a living in Spain




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20 May 2009 05:43 by J&N Star rating in Nottinghamshire. 342 posts Send private message

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I am taking my Spanish learning a stage forward today, I am meeting a Spanish lady who speaks practically no english for coffee. She works in the cafe at our golf club and she told me last week that she wants to be able to speak better English as they get a lot of English people visiting the golf club. So, I suggested we meet for coffee and we can help each other. She seemed delighted at the suggestion and we are meeting later today.

Now, back to my Spanish homework - 100 words about the weather!

How many ways can you write 'it's sunny'?



_______________________

Jacqui

http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com our adventure from deciding to move to Spain to being here and moving back to the UK.


 




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20 May 2009 13:55 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4018 posts Send private message

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Good going J&N!  "Hace buen dia" (UK keyboard so no accents)

 

Susan



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Schools in Spain Guide | The Expat Files | Learn Spanish | Earn a living in Spain




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20 May 2009 18:29 by J&N Star rating in Nottinghamshire. 342 posts Send private message

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Hi Susan,

I use a UK keyboard and get the accents as in día by pressing the ALT GR key (to the right of the space bar) and the letter I want an accent over at the same time- try it, it makes typing spanish characters very easy. The ñ in mañana is done by pressing and holding the Alt key (left of space bar) and then 0241 on the number pad (doesn't work if you only have numbers across the top of the keyboard.)

I have 2 other spanish ladies, one from the vets and one from the tobaconist (and I don't even smoke) that are both learning english and want to meet for a drink and practice - we could end up with a nice little group.

The Spanish lady whose class I go to each week has told us today she is not running classes during July & August but she is happy to meet for breakfast once a week so that we can practice our spanish - the condition being that ONLY Spanish is spoken, we have a tendancy to chat in English as the class has 5 english and one dutch lady. I think meeting through summer will be a good idea, 2 months is a long time not to practice - it just means we won't have homework to do - Yippee!

Jacqui



_______________________

Jacqui

http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com our adventure from deciding to move to Spain to being here and moving back to the UK.


 




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20 May 2009 20:11 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3871 posts Send private message

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I read an interesting and well written article last week, I think it was in Sur in English, theorizing why Brits are so poor at learning Spanish. It suggested that perhaps due to being an island nation, we are genetically less well programmed for learning a foreign language, whereas some of our European neighbours, who have one or more land borders with countries speaking  different languages, due to the cross-border linguistic blurring, are more disposed to pick up other foreign languages.

Bit Darwinian, and there may be something in that. But I have my own theories. I can identify two big reasons.

1) Crap teaching. This may combine with a bit of the above, in that we learn French for 5 years but rarely get the opportunity to hear it spoken properly or to practice it. Maybe other Europeans do have a slight advantage there, but if it was down to exposure to foreign languages, Spain has two borders with different languages, French, Portuguese, not to mention Catalan, Gallego and Basque, and on the Costas there's no avoiding hearing a plethora of other tongues, especially English - and yet the Spanish seem particularly bad at learning English or any other language. Crap teaching.

2) Simple lack of necessity. I have a Czech neighbour, who has been in Spain less time than me, but speaks Spanish fluently. Nobody here speaks his language, and he speaks no other language. Simple necessity. The Spaniards will hate me for this, and never admit it, but the simple fact is, English is the main language of communication in the world today. I overheard a Fin and a Dutchman the other day (this is in Spain) chatting about computers - in English. Quote J&N: "a tendancy to chat in English as the class has 5 english and one dutch lady".

There's no getting around the fact that we simply don't need to learn foreign languages as much as some other nationalities. Northern Europeans, in particular, understand the importance of learning (teaching) English well from a young age, and as a result, tend to grow up finding it easier to adapt to new languages.

We're doomed.



_______________________

 

"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure"

Mark Twain

 

 

 




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20 May 2009 21:25 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4018 posts Send private message

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The island nation genetic thing has been my belief for ages. How can it be that so many intelligent British people despite devoting considerable time studying the language just can't get beyond a certain level? I have been in Spain for five years and I know people who are more intelligent than me and have had years of lessons(much, much more than I have) and are still not anywhere near to my level (which incidentally could be better). I think the fact that half my genes are Italian has helped me loads not that I spoke Italian at home as a child. I am becoming more and more convinced that genes play a part in all of this.

 

Susan



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Schools in Spain Guide | The Expat Files | Learn Spanish | Earn a living in Spain




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20 May 2009 22:43 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3871 posts Send private message

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I'm just not convinced by it. Take Iceland. Possibly the purist genetic pool in the world, and more isolated than Britain, so surely no genetic tendency to speak other languages either? Not yet met an Icelandic who doesn't speak English. Why? Because they know that if they want to communicate with the outside world, they need to speak English. (Not Chinese, not Spanish - English). It's probably as important in their schools as learning to add and subtract. Teaching standards - not genetics. Learning another language to a similar level of proficiency will never be a priority in British schools - simply because it's not neccesary. Your English friends, no matter how intelligent, never learnt how to master a foreign language when their brains were sponge-like. And no matter how much they practice here, they can still return to their English speaking enclaves (and Englsh forums!) when their head aches with the effort. Furthermore, because there's never been a great need for most us to speak another language, we're hindered by an overwhelming feeling of self consciousness when we try. I was chatting yesterday to an English lady and a Belgian lady, in Spanish, since it's the only language all three of us had in common. But sure enough, the English lady and I slipped back into English when talking to each other because, well, it feels funny talking Spanish to someone English! But if it had been two Belgians and me, I know they would have continued speaking Spanish to each other as long as I was there, or English if they could, with no feeling of self consciousness. Why? Because they were taught from an early age to feel quite natural speaking another language.

 



_______________________

 

"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure"

Mark Twain

 

 

 




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21 May 2009 08:20 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4018 posts Send private message

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Hmm, I see your point about Iceland.

 

Susan



_______________________

Schools in Spain Guide | The Expat Files | Learn Spanish | Earn a living in Spain




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21 May 2009 09:45 by cuz Star rating in Warwickshire and Lo.... 684 posts Send private message

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Sorry to butt in on your very interesting posts about the language, but I just wanted to ask a quick question while this thread is fresh.

What is the rule regarding the pronunciation of the letter V?  I know that sometimes it is said as B?  Or is it??

I too am frustrated in trying to learn the language,  I think I am doing really well until I ask a Spanish person something, and when they reply,  I'm back to thicko mode.  I also, feel embarrassed sometimes by the sound that is coming out of my mouth.  It sounds awful to me, and so that also holds me back a bit.  But....I will persevere

Many Thanks to everyone for their time

June



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You've Got To Go Through The Storm To Get To The Rainbow

 Martyn and June xx



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21 May 2009 11:23 by J&N Star rating in Nottinghamshire. 342 posts Send private message

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Hi, the Spanish lady that I have lessons with has always corrected us to pronounce 'v' as 'b'.

I have found that if I start any conversation with, 'soy Inglesa y hablo un poco español', they always speak more slowly and clearly to me so that I have a better understanding of the answers. Some times it may take 2 or 3 attempts but I generally get there in the end.

Jacqui



_______________________

Jacqui

http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com our adventure from deciding to move to Spain to being here and moving back to the UK.


 




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21 May 2009 12:32 by EOS Team Star rating in In Spain of course!. 4018 posts Send private message

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The correct is "v" pronounced as "b" but since I am a bit cateta(common), I pronounce it as v.

Don't be embarrassed June, be proud of your efforts. It isactually so much fun speaking in a foregin language as you can get away with so much

Susan



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Schools in Spain Guide | The Expat Files | Learn Spanish | Earn a living in Spain




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21 May 2009 18:47 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3871 posts Send private message

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True about getting away with so much - I'm constantly amazed at how you can usually make yourself understood even with quite shocking grammar. The Spanish do generally seem quite forgiving in that respect (compared to French, for example). Could be because their own grammar is bad? Especially in Andalucia! Possibly also because they're used to hearing different accents and dialects; there are so many Argentinians here, and I can easily pick out their accent, for example.

Having said that, the English do seem to have real difficulty getting a decent pronunciation. Again, I think it's probably more to do with being unaccustomed to the idea of speaking a foreign language, and yes, embarassment. Try not to be - just go for it and enjoy it, as Susan says!

On the other hand, sometimes they can be so dumb. This morning in our local fruit & veg shop, I asked Antonia if she had any setas. Now, there's not too many ways to pronounce that, but she looked at me like I'd just landed from Mars. I think sometimes Spaniards just expect not to understand what a foreigner is saying, and therefore don't. She knows I speak Spanish, but there was just a total blank. Silly thing is, I couldn't have asked for them in English if I'd wanted to, because I can't for the life of me think what they're called! (she didn't have any, by the way - had to go to Mercadona). This kind of situation can be so frustrating, and it constantly amazes me here on the Costas, where foreigners have been coming in their droves for 50 years or more, that anybody can still be fazed by foreigners (contrary to my opening line).

Also amazing (I get amazed a lot!), perhaps not in the wilds of Extremadura, but certainly on the Costas, that young Spanish people today cannot speak any English. The island genetics / isolation thing can't explain it - it has to be poor teaching. In this respect I think Spain is right up there with the UK, but for a slightly different reason. Spain also feels that there is no need to learn a foreign language because Spanish is a dominant world language - which it isn't, but you can't tell a proud Spaniard that!



_______________________

 

"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure"

Mark Twain

 

 

 




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21 May 2009 20:26 by bobaol Star rating. 2172 posts Send private message

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Ref the v against b.  Us Northern Europeans speak with our tongue position in the middle of the teeth.  The Southern Europeans (Italians as well as Spaniards) tend to hold the tongue behind the top teeth.  No, try saying v with your tongue starting position behind the top teeth and not putting your top teeth on your bottom lip.  It will sound more like a b than a v.   The Spanish way is not exactly our v or b sound.  (Saw a lovely sign on the market the other week selling Viquinis - lovely two piece bathing suits).

Same with the words like Spain and star and special.  Start off with you tongue behind your top teeth and see how difficult it is.  Hence E- spana,  e - strella, e- special.  Much easier to stick the e in front when you talk like that.  Also explains the th sound for c when followed by e or i.

 





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13 Jun 2009 02:06 by Roberto Star rating in Torremolinos. 3871 posts Send private message

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Letter in today's Sur in English:


We native English speakers, as either long or short term visitors in a foreign land, must make a wholehearted and serious attempt at learning the host language, in this case Spanish. We as courteous guests should never expect, or worst yet, demand bilingualism of professionals such as policemen or women. When and where do you hear of the Germans, Dutch, French, Belgians, Scandinavians etc. demanding to be spoken to in their native tongue, while living in or visiting Spain? Please, let us not make such demands. All English visitors must, as others, learn Spanish or simply just refrain from complaining!

What rubbish! Firstly, short term visitors from anywhere to anywhere else rarely get beyond basic phrase book stuff, and why would they? They're on holiday, not an academic mission. Secondly, there's no obligation ("must") for anyone to learn a foreign language, unless their employment requires it.

I agree wholeheartedly that "courteous guests should never expect, or worst yet, demand" that their hosts speak English, but as for "When and where do you hear of the Germans, Dutch, French, Belgians, Scandinavians etc. demanding to be spoken to in their native tongue, while living in or visiting Spain?" - or anywhere else for that matter. You don't, of course. Why? BECAUSE THEY ALL SPEAK PERFECT ENGLISH!

I'm not trying to make excuses for the English here, because I know we are often guilty of not making enough effort, but I get tired of these goody two-shoe apologists for the Spaniards, who let's face it, are WAY behind ALL their European cousins when it comes to understanding and speaking English.

I believe that learning Spanish will make anyone's life in Spain far more rewarding, not to mention convenient, but if someone has difficulty learning the language, or chooses to live in the dark and not even bother trying, that's up to them. I wonder how good the writer's Spanish is?!

 

 



_______________________

 

"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure"

Mark Twain

 

 

 




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