Seven Tips To Help You Learn Spanish

Published on 18/08/2008 in Spanish Lifestyle

Woman learningFace it: odds are you're never going to learn to speak much Spanish just by hanging around in bars and asking for cafés con leche or cervezas. For anyone except small children, learning a foreign language requires determined effort and hard work.

And as everyone knows, practice is one of the keys to getting a working grasp of any language. But if you live here already you have a huge advantage, especially if you have time on your hands, so here are a few proven ideas to help you kick-start your Spanish:

1.- Shopping: ¿el último, por favor?

Forget the supermarket: if you want to learn, personal interaction is the name of the game. If you have time, buy your fresh fruit and veg, meat, fish, bread, etc in small shops where you have to ask for what you want. While you may pay a bit more, the produce is often fresher than in your local supermercado. Gradually you'll improve your vocabulary, especially if you go every day.

Tip: To ask in Spanish, who is the last in the queue, say 'el último, por favor?' in a questioning tone.

2.- Exchange classes

Sometimes it's not that easy to find Spanish classes for foreigners outside of major towns. An alternative is to find someone local that wants to improve his or her English conversation skills in return for helping you get started with Spanish. Local school teachers are ideal.

Tip: Little and often is best. Classes of over an hour and a half are best avoided as they can be very tiring.

3.- Reading and writing exercises

Even if your aim is mainly to be able to speak and understand basic Spanish, it's vital to back up speaking and listening with some written work and reading comprehension. You'll find a little time spent studying every day will reinforce your knowledge and help you achieve your goal.

Important: When buying a Spanish textbook online, make sure it's for European Spanish, not Latin American Spanish.

4.- The Sky is the limit.

OK, Spanish TV can admittedly be pretty dire. But that said, they can definitely help you learn the language, so ignore the howls of protest from your teenage kids and stop watching English satellite TV today.

Tip: Start by watching the daily news and weather.

5.- Read a little every day

Join your local public library (biblioteca pública) and start reading, even though you won't understand every word. I'd recommend short stories and best-sellers and detective stories, the kind of thing with that you can't put down. Books translated from English are good too, and some people find children's books helpful.

Tip: Get into the habit of reading the local paper every day.

6.- Go the cinema

Once you can follow a conversation to some degree, watching Spanish films at the cinema is a great way to hone your listening skills. Films here are almost always dubbed. Dialogue is usually clear, simple and well-pronounced, and being in a cinema seems to somehow focus your attention far better than watching a film at home.

Tip: Most cinemas have one day a week -often a Wednesday- when it's cheaper to get in, known as the 'día del espectador'.

7.- Pronunciation and confidence

It's worth making a special effort with regard to pronunciation.  While it may be possible to speak English without moving your lips very much at all, to communicate effectively in Spanish you'll need to recreate their vowel and consonant sounds as closely as you can. See (http://www.lingolex.com/pronounce) for a very simple guide to Spanish pronunciation.

Lastly, anyone learning a language naturally makes mistakes, and one of the biggest barriers is to overcome our natural fear of making fools of ourselves. Some years back I startled the ladies in the local butchers' shop with a request for a little tenderness -ternura- when what I wanted was some beef -ternera!

Luckily the Spaniards are pretty patient with foreigners and will usually help if you make an effort to speak their language. So stick with it and try to immerse yourself in the language as much as you can: you'll be glad you did.




Written by: Jeff Greensmith

About the author: Jeff Greensmith runs Fincas Direct (www.fincasdirect.com) and is a registered estate agent and experienced Spanish/Catalan translator and interpreter. He has lived in Tarragona, Catalonia since 1986. Fincas Direct specialise in country properties and village houses in Tarragona province and the Costa Dorada (south of Barcelona), and can help you with planning permission and related issues.




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Comments:

EbroVoice said:
21 August 2008 @ 07:01

Hey Jeff great to see you teaming up with Justin at Eye on Spain.

Also like your monthly articles in the Catalonia magazine Olive Press. This I have noticed has been running out at "drop off points" due to popularity.But is available online at www.olivepress.eu

While I was sat in the English cafe "Murrays" in Sabeco, Tortosa I overheard 2 "soon to be expats" discussing one of your previous articles. They were saying this "Jeff Greensmith" talks sense!

As everyone joins in every other persons conversation here,and great for meeting folk too, I did add that Jeff knew what he was talking about. That you had lived here over 20 years and was married to a lovely Catalonian lady and had reared your family here with dual languages if not 3.

A very reliable, well informed and trustworthy person who runs www.fincasdirect.com



sirius said:
19 August 2008 @ 12:37

Not to forget - one of the best places to learn spanish is on www.livemocha.com, exercises, audio, speaking, talking - and free for all.

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