How I am learning Spanish : my best tips !

a cup of black coffee on a notebook with notes of foreign language with translation

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If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that another one of my passion is learning languages. It’s not my first post on the topic, so I decided to write about one language in particular that I’ve been focusing on more in the past months, which is *Spanish*.

I’ve been learning Spanish from here to there for a few years already, but I wasn’t that interested in the language until I decided to go to Spain last June. It was actually by preparing for this trip and during the trip that I fell in love with the language. So in this post, I am sharing with you how I am currently learning Spanish and sharing with you my tips. Let’s start!

– Bilingual books

Bilingual books are my latest find, and I wish I had found them sooner! I am currently reading Cuentos hispanoamericanos I, a collection of popular short stories and legends from Central America and South America. It is a big reading challenge, BUT I really enjoy the concept of a bilingual book.

So how does it work? Well, on the left page, you have the text in Spanish, and on the right page, you have the exact text but in French (or English, depending on your choice). Also, various words are identified in the Spanish version with a number so that you can find the definition of these words at the bottom of the page. If you are still a beginner like me, I think the best way to read this kind of book is to read one sentence of the Spanish version at a time and look at the definition of the identified words. Then, confirm your understanding by reading the translation of the sentence.

Bilingual books can be found in most big libraries and on Amazon.

– Easy Spanish

Easy Languages is THE best language-learning YouTube channel, in my opinion. I’ve been following this channel for a few years for my different target languages, and it is simply awesome. First, there are about 37 languages available, ranging from Spanish, Portuguese, and Greek to Indonesian, Afrikaans, Turkish, etc. Second, the Spanish section has so much content and is very much diverse. Indeed, you get to learn the different variations of Spanish as some videos are filmed in various cities in Spain, some in Mexico, and some in Argentina,

The concept of Easy language is Vox Pop about various topics in the street of cities around the world. So, for example, one video could be about: Who do you live with. So one of the reporters of Easy Languages will go into the street of Barcelone and ask people who they live with. Of course, everything is in Spanish, BUT there are subtitles in English (and Spanish), and they are not speaking too fast since it’s for educative purposes. So you get comprehensible input from Spanish speakers at a reasonable speed and in an authentic context.

– Group discussion courses

Before traveling to Spain, I took a few private classes with a Spanish teacher to help me learn useful vocabulary for travel and practice speaking. I learned so much in only a few lessons, and so I was able to communicate during my trip during diverse situations (going to the restaurant, taking a cab, going to the hotel, and asking for directions). What I enjoyed about those classes was that the learning was really based on speaking skills.

I’m starting a group discussion course this week to help me continue learning, so I am excited about this formula and seeing how much I can learn. I will update you on the topic after a few classes;).

So if some group discussion courses are offered in your city, I think it can be an excellent way to practice your speaking skills since it is the one we often have less opportunity or practice, but remains the more important!

– Quizlet

I talked about Quizlet in a previous post about learning a language, but it is such an awesome website (and app!), so here it is again! In the case of learning Spanish, I am using Quizlet to help me memorize new vocabulary. Don’t know where to start with vocabulary? Check out this previous post.

alphabet close up communication conceptual
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So Quizlet allows you to create virtual flashcards with the content of your choice. For Spanish, I like to create different lists of specific vocabulary. For example, I have a vocabulary list for “going to restaurants.” So I type the different words and sentences I want to learn with their traduction in my mother tongue, and then, it transforms this list of words into learning activities. 

You have the flashcards mode, the learning mode, which has two options: a quick study session or a longer one to help you memorize the information in the long term. Also, there is the Test mode, which creates a little quiz, and finally, there is a word association game. All of these features are FREE, which is awesome. If you really like the app and want more features, there is QuizletPlus for the fee of 3.74/month. However, I find the free version to be just fine for learning new vocabulary.

– Watch Netflix in Spanish, BUT… !

There are a lot of shows in Spanish available on Netflix. Wheter it is European Spanish or Latin America Spanish; it is possible to find something for every interest. However, as counterintuitive as it may seem, if you are beginning in Spanish, you should put the audio in your mother tongue and the subtitles in Spanish. Not the opposite. Some people think that by listening in the target language, your “ear will develop itself to the language,” and then, slowly, you will start speaking it. However, it won’t get you very far if you don’t have a base in vocabulary.

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For example, I watched the Netflix series called Borgen, which is from Denmark, to learn Danish. Before starting the show, I knew only a few words in Danish: HejJeg er, and undskyld (literally: hi, I am, and sorry). I watched the entire show in Danish with subtitles in English, and even after, I still only knew the words Hi, I am, and sorry. That is because they were the only words my brain could recognize! Also, by not having a good base in vocabulary, you won’t be able to distinguish the different terms, so it will just sound like gibberish to your ear. 

By putting the audio in your mother tongue and the subtitles in Spanish, you will be able to actually understand what is going on in the show and not spend your time reading; and you will also develop new vocabulary in Spanish by seeing the actual words and how it is put together in a sentence.

When you feel like you have a good base of vocabulary, then it is pertinent to put the audio back in Spanish so that your brain can make connections to what you hear and the words you know.

Here are some of my favorite Spanish TV shows :

  • Las chicas del cable. My all-time favorite. It follows a group of young women in Madrid who work at a telephone company in the years 1920-1930. Romance and lies mixed with history and women’s rights battle.
  • Valeria. A steamy romance about a young woman in a marital crisis and her group of close friends. She is trying to write a novel but lacks inspiration…until a new guy enters the portrait.
  • Elite. The story follows a group of teenagers who attend an exclusive private school in Spain. Conflict emerges between the social classes when new students arrive at the school, which leads to severe consequences and, even worse…murder.

So this is it for this post about how I am learning Spanish. I hope you enjoyed it and it made you want to start learning or keep learning this beautiful language. If you are interested in more tips to learn a language, check out some of my previous posts shown below.

À bientôt!

Juliette

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Yan

This was a great reading! The only Spanish I know is “apagando las luces”.

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