On our Facebook page this week we received some excellent Spanish-learning advice from really proactive Notes in Spanish listeners. This comment from Gary particularly caught our eye, it’s full of Spanish-learning Gold – it’s worth taking 5 minutes to read!
“Some years ago I made a similar commitment [to make an extra special effort with Spanish]. The way I tackled it was to book a two week Spanish course with a language school and include accommodation. I did this for five consecutive years. The whole thing was as inexpensive as staying in a hotel. You can choose to be billeted with a Spanish family which is also helpful. Whilst in Spain for the course I used a couple of websites to set up intercambios with a variety of people, some of whom I am still in touch with and visit whenever I am in Barcelona. The lessons take place completely in Spanish and there is no escape to English so you have to bite the bullet and make mistakes and have them corrected – the natural way to learn a language.
Insofar as maintaining your skills in the gap between visits is concerned there are Ben and Marina’s free podcasts. The original series is 10-15 minutes per episode. I used to put them on headphones whilst walking the dog. I would listen to the same podcast repeatedly throughout the walk. The first time through I might get 50 percent of what was said, but on repeat, having already processed the first 50 percent your brain can work on the rest. Some of the conversation whips past so quickly that you just can’t get it. This was where the transcripts were very useful. Eventually your ear tunes to the inflexions in the speech and you can catch more of what’s going on the first time.
I can not stress enough how important reading in Spanish is. BBC has a Spanish Language news website so you can dip in on your phone on the bus, anywhere. And as they are news stories they have some context.
The other great resource is Amazon and the kindle. I advise you not to read Spanish novels by Spanish authors initially – I tried, it’s a dog. Chose stuff that has been translated from English into Spanish. My particular favourite is Crime Fiction – as a genre its pretty formulaic and easy to follow. It’s designed for mass consumption and so is written in pretty simple English – which makes for simple Spanish in translation.
The first book I tried was Shadow of The wind by Zafón, a Spanish author writing in Spanish. There was much poetical stuff about the ashen skies and the misty streets of old town Barcelona. 600 pages, it was a slog. And took me months.
By contrast the books of John Grisham, Peter Robinson, Lee Child and PD James I can now read at more or less the same speed as I could in English. Next week I am in Mojacar, you will find me on the beach with my Kindle and WordReference on my phone for emergencies. I will get through a Jack Reacher book in 3 or 4 days. Reading it to yourself gets a Spanish voice in your head so that when someone in the real world speaks to you, your brain doesn’t freeze and panic into translating to English, formulating an answer in English, translating it back to Spanish and stuttering to spit out a response…
If you do decide to travel to Spain then Madrid is probably your best bet. The accent is crystal clear and beautifully annunciated (listen to Marina’s voice on the free podcasts) also the signage around you will be in Spanish (as opposed to Catalan or Valenciana if you are anywhere in Barcelona or Valencia.. P.S. – they all speak Spanish.)
Perhaps avoid southern Spain initially as the accent in Almería is a bit daunting – maybe the best comparison might be the Geordie or Glaswegian accent in England.
So, here’s the link for BBC news in Spanish: https://www.bbc.com/mundo
…and the podcasts are available free on Notes in Spanish – I recommend you try one of the packs of transcripts – reading along is a great way to tune your ear in… little and often!
All of the above worked pretty well for me as I can more or less hold my own in places like Cullera and Benicássim where English “no se habla” – good luck, hope any of this helps…”
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