Learn Spanish On Your Own
Why study another language? In addition to the obvious cross cultural
benefits, knowing another language makes us smarter, makes our brains more
plastic (more able to make new neural connections) and staves off dementia (if
you live long enough this last one will be important to you!)
Here I present some ideas for improving your Spanish on your own,
without the benefit (or the burden) of attending a Spanish class. The primary focus of your endeavor will be to
develop your ability to understand native spoken and written Spanish and to
enable you to express yourself in basic situations.
comprehension and reading are the bases for the acquisition of a new
language. Remember that as child
learning your first language, you had lots of time to listen before you
attempted to speak. And before anyone
ever attempted to teach you to read at age 5 or 6 you already had a recognition
vocabulary of between 5,0000 and 10,0000 words!
(That is the vocabulary range of a 6 year old in their native language.)
Don't be impatient with yourself when you find that you can understand far more
than you can produce, that is natural; your speaking and writing abilities will
always lag slightly behind your ability to understand.
cannot expect to acquire native-like competence in a foreign language in one to
two years, even if you live in the country where it is spoken. You can expect to be able to communicate
with native speakers of Spanish even though you make mistakes. Your goal should be communicative competence
not grammatical perfection. Be patient
with yourself and use the activities described below to develop a working
vocabulary of at least 5000 words.
has helpful lists of vocabulary and some grammar pages. It also has many links to other sites and
links to chatrooms. Scroll down to the
bottom of the homepage where it says “Friendly interactions with native
Speakers”. Several of my motivated
students like this site a lot.
This website http://www.digitaldialects.com/Spanish.htm
has vocabulary games and verb conjugation practice. It is fairly simple but good for beginners.
Don Quijote is a commercial site that offers Spanish
language study at over 20 Don Quijote schools in both Spain and Latin
America. The site also includes graded
lessons in Spanish, Spanish word of the day, verb conjugators, games in Spanish
and more. http://www.donquijote.org/spanishlanguage/
Spanish verbs and More
has an easy to customize game for practicing verbs in Spanish, in any
tense. There are also numerous other
resources on this site.
Watch TV news in Spanish...news is the
easiest because it is usually somewhat familiar to informed adults. If you are a baseball or soccer fan, watch
those sports in Spanish. Don't leave
when the ads come on...that is Spanish too.
This free website from the University
of Texas, Austin is similar to Yabla on page 3 below, but is free. Go to http://www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/
and click on site index. There
you will find varying levels of interviews with native speakers. There is a script available, which you can
use to aid in comprehension.
· Use this
to watch Destinos,
a Public Television series of 52 episodes that follows the lives
and fortunes of a wealthy Mexican family with a secret. This series
starts in Mexico and the US and the plot takes viewers to Spain, Argentina and
Sign up for a local Meet-up where you
can practice Spanish with both native speakers and other learners. There are several meet-ups for Spanish
conversation in Southern California .
Click here to see a partial list https://www.meetup.com/find/?allMeetups=false&keywords=Spanish+Language&radius=25&userFreeform=iRVINE&mcId=c92602&mcName=Irvine%2C+CA&sort=default
to listen to podcasts in slow Spanish and to access conversation sessions with
native speakers from Nicaragua. This
site has very reasonable prices, as low as $2.50 for a 25-minute session.
iTalki https://www.italki.com/home. This site connects language learners with
both native speaker teachers and conversation partners across the globe. There
are three "tiers" of iTalki: 1) professional teachers, who are
required to show teaching certifications. These teachers take a more curriculum-based
approach, but are more expensive. 2) casual language partners are normal people
looking to meet new people and earn some money. 3) Language exchanges. In
these, you pair up with someone trying to learn your language, then
spend half of each session in each language. These are free, but in exchange
you must help someone learn English.
Buy CDs in Spanish or download
music. CDs often have the lyrics on the
liner notes or you can find lyrics online.
Listen to the songs over and over and over and over. Read the lyrics, teach yourself to sing
along. I recommend José Luis Orozco’s http://www.joseluisorozco.com many CDs
of children’s music because the lyrics are easy, but any kind of music that you
enjoy and are willing to learn the lyrics to will be beneficial. The website for Del Sol Books, www.delsolbooks.com has both children’s
literature and children’s music from three well known children’s authors: Alma
Flor Ada, Isabel Campoy and Suni Paz.
If children’s music does not interest you then find music that does, and
teach yourself the lyrics. Hint: music
for adults is poetry put to melody and is often quite hard. The advantage of music for children is that
it is repetitive and includes vocabulary that all native speakers know but that
is rarely taught in a Spanish class for adult learners, the sort of vocabulary
we all learn as children and that is part of the collective knowledge of native
Reading is one of the best ways to
broaden your vocabulary range and effortlessly absorb grammar.
You can read non-copyrighted fables,
fairy tales and traditional stories online at
Large selection of poems and short
stories at e-Stoies.org http://www.e-stories.org/short-stories.php.
You can also find animated children’s stories
on YouTube. Type in Cuentos infantiles
If you want to read short stories
written by well-known critically acclaimed writers go to Biblioteca Digital
Cuidad Seva http://ciudadseva.com/biblioteca/ This site has thousands of short stories and
poems uploaded by one of Puerto Rico’s most prolific writers, Luis López Nieves
is a site that provides current news articles written in English and Spanish. Click on Library and
then select Spanish . Each article can be read at six different levels and
includes a post-reading quiz. Articles
are updated weekly.
Opinión, http://www.laopinion.com the
oldest Spanish language newspaper in the US.
It is available at various restaurants and fast food establishments in
Orange County. It is better that the
translated version the Register puts
out, called Excelsior. Do not feel obligated to finish an
article...just browse. Classified ads are
good because they are short...although these will have more "Spanglish." The opinion section is high quality...with
correspondents from all over the Spanish-speaking world.
Read Spanish language newspapers
online. Go to this site, Prensa
Escrita www.prensaescrita.com for an extensive list of online newspapers
from all over the Spanish speaking world.
Read short adapted novels in
Spanish. Leer en español is a series of these easy-to-read novels published
in Spanish by Santillana. These novels are both original works and
adapted pieces of literature and many are mysteries or historical fiction. You can access their catalog at www.santillanaele.com. Click on “Catálogo”, then click on “Lecturas
graduadas”. Here you will see two
categories: “Leer en español, adultos” and “Leer en español, primeros
lectores”. Click on a level and various titles with an accompanying
synopsis will come up. You can then
search these titles on Amazon or another (used) online book source.
out the easy graded novels written by Paco Ardit. Mr. Ardit is a Spanish professor from Spain
who lives and teaches in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written a series of graded novels
using the A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 C2 system of levels common in Europe. On Amazon you will be able to browse several
pages to see if a novel is at a level that is right for you. These short novels use mystery, romance and
adventure for their themes. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_10?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=paco+ardit&sprefix=pACO+aRDIT%2Cstripbooks%2C228&crid=T7SOQXYN3CGC&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Apaco+ardit
Audio Magazine Subscriptions
News in Slow Spanish is a weekly online news program done in audio format. $25 a month gives you unlimited access to all
their podcasts. This is a very well done
program, with high interest level.
http://www.thinklanguage.com/spanish/ produces and audio
magazine titled Think Spanish for
students at the high beginning to intermediate level. Read it online or
download the print the pdf pages and then listen to the mp3 recording in your
car. A one-year subscription is $149 per
year but they frequently have sales and you can get a year subscription for $99.
Punto y coma is
a bimonthly audio magazine for high intermediate to advanced learners. https://www.languages-direct.com/audio-magazines
Read the printed version and then listen
to the mp3 or CD. Cost £99 per year. This
same site has many audio books in Spanish for advanced learners.
Get a subscription to Yabla, https://spanish.yabla.com/, where for $10.00 a month you have access to
hundreds of shorts and video promos in a unique software system that allows you
to see the script as you listen and watch, see the English if you need it, and
then play a comprehension game afterwards.
Each video is rated for difficulty.
If your child seems motivated to learn
another language, check out LangoKids. They offer many levels of Spanish
instruction for ages 2 to 12. http://www.langokids.com/parent/kids-language-immersion.
Here is the website for the Irvine
affiliate of LangoKids. http://www.langokidsirvine.com/ There are many Spanish language internet
sites that have games to play in Spanish.
Just type in Spanish language games and you will find lots.
Hire a native speaker (not a
teacher...they want to correct you all the time!) and meet once a week for
coffee and conversation. Tell them that
their job is to talk to you in Spanish at your level; perhaps that will be the
level of a 2 or 3 year old. You will
typically have to tell native speakers to slow down, slow way down. Collect photos from magazines or from the
Internet and use those photos to get the native speaker to talk to you in
Spanish. Take “field trips” with them to
the grocery store, to the park and have them teach you the names of as many
items as they can. Do not allow them to
translate or use Spanglish with you. If
you cannot afford a tutor then arrange a trade with someone who wants to
improve their English. Spend one hour
only in Spanish and then one hour only in English.
Above all, flood yourself with spoken
and print Spanish, make it a part of your daily routine; spend 30 minutes to an
hour a day on Spanish.
Volunteer somewhere where services are
provides to immigrants, like Share Our Selves (SOS) in Costa Mesa or Catholic
Relief Services or a free clinic in Santa Ana, anywhere where the clientele is
mostly Spanish speaking.
Remember that learning a language is
not a destination, but a journey. We
continue to learn words in our native languages all of our lives, so accept the
fact that learning this new language is a lifelong endeavor. Keep your ego out of the process; be willing
to be a child again. Make mistakes,
laugh at yourself, but keep trying. To
be successful at acquiring other languages you have to have what Buddhists call
“beginner mind”: the openness of a child to new information.
Remember learning a language, even our
native one, is a life-long pursuit. Enjoy the journey!
Contact Jeanne Egasse
Professor of Spanish and Languages
Life-Long Language Student
Irvine Valley College