martes, mayo 03, 2005


how i learned the es-pan-yole

my learning process is pretty complicated and my cultural background prepared me well for any sort of foreign language learning, but in general terms, here's how i suggest that one go about learning a new language (forgive any obvious points, i'm just trying to be thorough):

1) take a class. duh. you gotta learn grammatical structures and all that jazz somehow. besides, i'm a visual learner and like to see how words are spelled as i learn how to use them in context.
2) listen to music. i have an extensive love & romance vocabulary thanks to mexican pop and rancheras from the mid-90s. helps you with listening comprehension, vocab development, and exposes you to lots of colloquialisms and popular phrasings.
3) make friends that speak the language and insist on them speaking as little english as possible around you. even if you can only respond in english, it's still great practice.
4) study abroad. study abroad. study abroad. live among native speakers and sleep and breathe the language once you have a decent grasp of it. once you're dreaming in it, you've got it.
5) read books. start with bilingual stuff, then children's literature, cheesy magazines (Teen & Vogue en español are GREAT), the instructions on boxes, etc. until you are able to read short stories and finally novels without driving yourself crazy. i successfully made it through lots of great spanish literature last summer in méxico, but trying to read Memoria de mis putas tristes on my own upon my return was enough to bring me to tears. so start small and be realistic.
6) keep doing all of the above consistently. watch foreign movies or use subtitles and find other ways to regularly expose yourself to the language, different accents, and new vocabulary. i am also a big fan of eavesdropping and volunteering aid to people who appear to be in language crises.

my spanish is still far from perfect. i overcorrect ALL THE TIME and am constantly calling friends in the middle of the school day to ask them vocabulary questions. all important letters sent home are revised by native speakers. i learn new words every day. but i know that i can communicate my thoughts in more situations than i ever thought possible and even if i misconjugate a verb or use a false cognate, i effectively get my point across. today my kids insisted that my father is from méxico, so clearly my accent isn't too horrendous. ooh, speaking of which, DEFINITELY take a phonetics class. a good accent can make all the difference in the world!

any questions?

I appreciate the lesson. Thanks!
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