OK, so it comes as no surprise that learning another language takes hard work, dedication and a lot of perseverance. I’m currently trying to learn Spanish in South America and I’m learning everyday, or as close as everyday, on an app called DuoLingo and trying to speak with locals and people in the hostel to put in to practice some of which I have learnt.
You end up having some very random conversations where everyone that doesn’t know English fluently wants to practice that with you instead. So the conversation will be me trying to speak in Spanish to practice and then the reply comes back in English, you spend half of the day chasing your own tail.
Sometimes my Spanish is so bad I might as well talk to a dog as no human will be able to piece it together!
The Spanish (speakers) talk real fast!
This is the biggest obstacle for me at the minute is listening to a sentence and digesting it quick enough, understanding the whole sentence and then coming up with a response in English and then trying to translate it in my head before it pops out of my mouth in a mildly coherent sentence in Spanish.
I need to start thinking in Spanish rather than English, but this is easier said than done!
My technique to learning the language is to try and speak to as many people as I can in Spanish to practice. In 3 months I have learnt so much more than I knew previously but I am still a long way off being fluent.
I have read endless articles from a Google search of “best way to learn a language” and found many methods but I think the most effective way so far has to be drill and repetition.
I have also tried the method of learning the 100 most popular words in Spanish as just like the English language we have hundreds of words we either know and don’t use or just don’t know at all. Why learn the words that aren’t going to be used very often to start with when you can focus on words/phrases you will hear everyday!
DuoLingo makes you repeat the things you don’t know very well all the time.
You complete different sections for example ‘Verbs’, then in a day or so the verbs section will re-open and you have to do the test again based on what you got wrong. The more you get it wrong, the more it opens until you can demonstrate the skills to keep it closed for a longer period of time.
The best thing is you don’t need a smartphone to do this, you can login online and do it all in the browser of your choice.
Learning words is not enough
I have tried this and failed miserably. Learning some words is great, but in a language like Spanish it is not enough as using the word at the start of a sentence or at the end can give a different meaning to what you are saying.
Also just like in English there are words that sound and are written the same, but based on context mean something very different. For example the word tiempo can either mean time or weather (amongst other things) depending on the context.
What do you want to achieve? I personally am aiming for the top, I want to be able to speak fluent conversational Spanish but I wont be too hard on myself should I fall a little short of that.
If you want to be able to say the basics or learn how to order a bus ticket then set goals for that and build your language learning around that.
There is no point learning how to ask for an air conditioning unit until you actually need to. Learn how to find your favourite foods in the supermarket and then put them into practice as soon as you can.
What Interests YOU?
I like football. You may too, but you may like cooking, or eating instead (another 2 of my favourite pastimes!). Why not learn the language around your interests, then when you speak to a native Spanish speaker with the same interests you can learn around that.
Got any great language learning tips? Did you struggle to learn a different language like me? Share thoughts in the comments below.
P.S I, in no way work for or have been paid to promote DuoLingo, this is an honest and true opinion of mine (I wish! If you are reading DuoLingo I’m open to offers!).