User talk:Wanderer57/Spanish

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Learning to speak Spanish.[edit]

Anyone care to recommend an effective Spanish Language Course for me? I go to southern Spain quite regularly for annual holidays of a week or two, and I have learned enough Spanish to get by in restaurants, bars, public transport and in emergencies. But I want to be able to speak Spanish, if not fluently, then competently and conversationally. I am going for 2 months during December 08 and January 09 next and I am determined to make the transition no matter how much practice it takes. But I would really be grateful for some advice on a good language course. I am over 60 and confident enough to make mistakes and laugh about it, and I don't want to discuss politics religion or philosophy at Malaga university with the academic staff, but it would be nice to ask Pedro our waiter how his health and wife are instead of just asking for 'Dos copas de vino tinto por favor Senor', and not get stuck when he responds with a rundown of that year's vintage wines. Thanks. (talk) 15:58, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

I have taught myself Spanish to the level of fluency that you want to achieve, and have done so primarily by focusing on understanding Spanish. I would recommend listening to Spanish podcasts about a subject that you're familiar with, even if you understand only a fraction of what's being said. That way, you will gradually pick up vocabulary, grammar, and idiomatic expressions, and learn how to break the stream of sound into words and sentences. Radio Nacional de España has many podcasts to choose from, if you follow this link, you can take your pick, and download the audio as mp3 files which you can play from your computer or an mp3 player. If you're at all interested in science, check out our articles about Vanguardia de la Ciencia and El Sueño de Arquímedes. The host, Ángel Rodríguez Lozano, does not speak too quickly, and the contents are top quality. I don't know whether Pedro your waiter is interested in science, but that's beside the point. If you are familiar with the subject matter, it will be a lot easier to understand what is being said. I have also listened to No es un día cualquiera (link) hosted by Pepa Fernández, a talk show that's running for the ninth year, and which offers six hours of listening every weekend. It is quite entertaining, with interviews, "tertulias" (discussions), etc.
In addition, you will of course need to read up on the grammar, especially the verbs. The book 501 Spanish verbs, fully conjugated is a must. When you have a solid knowledge of the grammar, you will begin to ask yourself questions such as "why did he use the subjunctive mood in that context?" when listening to the podcasts.
Finally, I would recommend reading Spanish books. Avoid the so-called "easy readers", they were of no help whatsoever to me when I started teaching myself Spanish. Instead, I would suggest non-fiction books or newspapers to begin with. If you would like to read fiction, buy books in Spanish that you previously have read in English (or any other language that you speak). In my experience, it is a lot easier to understand translations from English to Spanish, than books which were originally written in Spanish. Check out the book shops the next time you are there. For me, Agatha Christie was a good choice, in addition to popular science books. Good luck! --NorwegianBlue talk 19:35, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I found a New Penguin book of short stories in Spanish in parallel text - Spanish on the left page, the English translation on the right. ISBN 0-140-26541-4. Try reading out loud so that your ears can hear what your saying, sounds odd but I'm convinced it helps. Buena suerte y exito. Richard Avery (talk) 20:00, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I've tried reading parallel texts too, but at quite an early stage in the learning process, and it wasn't useful to me then. The reason, I think, was that the presence of the English text made me try to understand everything at once, which, at least then, was far too ambitious. I think you need to learn to think in Spanish when speaking Spanish, and reading in parallel, page by page, is not the way to go in my opinion. A better option is to buy a novel in both English and Spanish, read it in Spanish, and check out the English version only when you are really stuck. You do not need to understand every single word to enjoy a novel. I do agree with Richard's suggestion about reading out loud. If you are able to get hold of a Spanish audio book along with the text version, you might try listening to a paragraph, and reading it out loud while trying to imitate the original. Unfortunately, you will find few if any audio books in Spanish book shops. Maybe they are sold in specialized shops, I don't know. The next time I'm in Spain, I think I'll ask one of the ONCE lottery sellers about where blind people buy audio books. --NorwegianBlue talk 20:29, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
Some more suggestions:
  • Buy DVDs of Spanish films with a lot of dialog. You can find a list of films with English Wikipedia articles here. Two suggestions: Volver and El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's labyrinth). With the DVD, showing the Spanish subtitles while listening and watching might be a good idea. If Pedro likes going to the cinema, you'll have something to talk about.
  • Read Spanish Wikipedia articles. When you browse Wikipedia, you will find a group of boxes in the left margin, which in English are labelled "navigation", "interaction", "search", "toolbox", and "languages". If you find a link to "Español", this will bring you to the Spanish article. You can of course also go straight to the Spanish Wikipedia main page, the link is
  • There is a project in the English wikipedia called "Spanish translation of the week", which translates good articles from the Spanish Wikipedia to English. I only recently became aware of it, but you might want to check out what's going on there. The link is
  • Read Spanish newspapers on the web. might be a good place to start, follow the link "España" at the bottom of the page. Or you might want to go directly to or one of the other major newspapers. --NorwegianBlue talk 21:34, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
You say that you want to learn to speak Spanish. If so, then I think that there is no substitute for conversation practice with a live partner. Speaking skills are different from reading or comprehension skills. I personally have strong reading and comprehension skills in Spanish but rather weaker speaking skills. You might try advertising for conversation exchange with a native speaker of Spanish wanting to learn English, you might look for a tutor for maybe ten conversation sessions, or you might sign up for a Spanish conversation class. If you are in London, you could try the Cervantes Institute. Marco polo (talk) 22:37, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
My point with putting such emphasis on comprehension, is that it is impossible to converse if you don't understand what the other part is saying. It is, however, quite possible to converse even though your speaking skills are weak. You just need to be, as the original questioner said, "confident enough to make mistakes and laugh about it". I agree that finding a conversation partner (or small group with a Spanish teacher) would be a very good investment. --NorwegianBlue talk 10:18, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
All you need is:
  • Vocabulary: Get some dictionaries, in paper (for mobility) and on-line (normally superior searching speed) and google for word lists.
  • Grammar (so that you can speak and understand the language better): Get good grammar books, but only look for those that compare Spanish with your native language, otherwise you'll be wasting your time with many things you already know. For example, if I wanted to learn French and I picked up a French grammar and not a compared one, I'd waste time with facts about the purpose of the articles, the genders and many other things that work the same way in French and in Spanish, whereas a comparative grammar focuses in the difficulties and differences of both languages.
  • The language in use: read the Spanish Wikipedia or get books in Spanish that aren't too hard.

And when you have more or less mastered all the above listen to the Spanish television or the Spanish radio. Of course every person learns differently, modify the above method to fit your needs. --Taraborn (talk) 09:27, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

All good answers. In my experience, the most important factors are determination and motivation (which often depends on the reasons for learning), access to materials and people who speak the language (much easier in the age of the internet), and time and energy available to concentrate on this goal. Personal aptitude (memory, intelligence, and innate ability) also comes into it, but this is not the be-all and end-all. Have a look at Wikihow's Teach Yourself a New Language. A relevant blog post summarises several methods, with a nod towards dual language texts. Podcasts to encourage solo learners are here. I recommend simplified readers (like basal readers, but for adults) -- but note above that they are not to everyone's taste. Advertise for a conversation exchange partner; this is one example, your local community college may have a paper or virtual notice board for free. Borrow a reasonably bright child of 6 or 8 years old; they are often happy to repeat words and phrases (numbers, colours, common nouns, etc.) for a long time before they lose interest, and may be keenly amused by adults willing to make a fool of themselves (mispronouncing and misremembering numbers, colours, common nouns, etc.). Keep target language radio or other audio on in the background as you go about your daily life so that your ear becomes attuned to the rhythm and sounds you need to recognise. Try several different strategies until you find what suits you. Don't give up! Have fun! Good luck! BrainyBabe (talk) 17:27, 10 January 2008 (UTC)