A few days after we arrived in Oaxaca we started our language course. We were so nervous on that first day, and we diligently went home and carefully did our homework. But we quickly realised that we didn’t know what to do next. We were confronted with the question ‘how do we learn?’. It’s been such a long time since we were in school, and neither of us have ever properly learnt a language before so were left floundering about the best way to learn grammar and vocab. We found that different things worked for each of us, and a few things worked for both of us. So, for anyone else feeling lost or confused these are some of the things we’ve found worked for us and have helped us achieve a basic conversational fluency (in addition to our structured lessons). I hope you find them useful!!
Guy spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos to understand grammar rules and to pick up tips on pronunciation. I found some of them good but some of them annoying although it is good to hear how some of the words are pronounced by native speakers. I think if you’re a visual person (like Guy) YouTube is definitely an asset to your learning.
Some of his favourite channels are:
Personally I like Duolingo – it’s a nice respite and a bit of fun. Guy doesn’t like it because he gets frustrated with some of the errors (e.g. limon translates to lemon but not lime). I do find it a bit annoying, but when I know I am right I just ignore it and keep going. It’s definitely necessary to go back and review some of the previous levels you’ve passed – don’t let your supposed fluency percentage get to your head! 🙂
Gosh I love Pinterest – is there anything you can’t find on this site? We found it really useful for vocab lists and graphics showing things like expressions of time, questions and the alphabet. You can find my Spanish board on Pinterest here.
Guy made flashcards the first week we started learning – and diligently reviews them every few days. He has much better vocab recall than me and I think it’s down to the flashcards. Here’s an interesting article about how to effectively utilize flashcards to learn.
This site has so many great articles offering advice and recommendations for different ways to enhance your language learning experience. They cover topics like how you can use music to enhance your listening skills, tips for how to improve your Spanish accent, and the grammatical structure of a simple sentence.
These are a couple of my favourite posts (click on the image to be taken to the page)
I’m positive that in New Zealand you don’t get taught grammatical rules in school (I’ve checked with my friends and no one remembers doing this) – so we don’t really have an understanding of grammar separate to how we use it. I learned a little bit when I was teaching English in Laos but my understanding is pretty limited. So we’ve had to learn English grammar rules in order to understand Spanish grammar rules (for example the difference between present simple and present progressive, and what a reflexive verb is).
Studyspanish is an absolute gold mine of information. They have really simple grammar lessons that you can understand even when your brain is exhausted and your onto your fourth cup of coffee. And they also have a whole bunch of other useful articles on pronunciation, vocab lists, idioms and podcasts.
Watching TV Shows in Spanish
We’ve been watching Narcos on Netflix for a few weeks – the show is amazing, we are seriously addicted – but it’s also been really good listening practice for us. We don’t catch a lot of the words because their spoken so fast, and some of them are slang – but we do manage to understand maybe a third of what’s being said. We’ve also watched a few cartoons like Family Guy in Spanish with English subtitles which has been really fun.
We’ve still got a long way to go but these have helped us get our heads around some of the grammatical rules and pronunciation differences. Now we’ve finished our language course we have to figure out how to keep learning – and not forget what we have learnt. But that’s a post for another day. 🙂
If you have any tips that have worked for you while learning Spanish or any other language please share them below!
P.S you can read the first post in this series ‘Learning a new language sucks’ here