Learning a second language isn’t easy especially if you are an adult. You may certainly feel mental blocks, frustration, lack of aptitude, lack of memory for learning new words and structures… but, don’t worry it is normal to feel that way. Most people can learn a second language, if they are willing to put in the necessary time and effort. Here you will find some practical suggestions.
STUDY EVERY DAY. Studying a foreign language is different from any other subject you study. Language learning is cumulative, and frequent practice is the only solution to remember and incorporate new structures and vocabulary. Try to have contact with the language every day, at least 20 minutes per day (listen to a podcast, watch a You Tube video in spanish, read something, etc).
ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE IN CLASS WITHOUT FAIL — even if you are not well prepared. Class time is your primary opportunity for practice. Learn the grammar and vocabulary outside of class in order to make the most of class time.
LEARN HOW TO USE WHAT YOU KNOW. Speaking a language is the combination of learning grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and the proper social use of the language.
DEVELOP A GOOD ATTITUDE. Have a clear personal reason for learning the language. Set personal goals for what you want to learn.
DON`T PRETEND TO SPEAK CORRECTLY ALL THE TIME.Leave perfectionism at the door; give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. Give yourself permission to be spontaneous and to take risks. Sometimes it is more important to be fluent when speaking than having everything grammatically correct. Argentines like to talk a lot and are impatient, they won’t wait for you to say everything correctly, they expect you to just talk, so do it, they won´t mind at all if you make mistakes.
SPEAK AND PRACTICE!!! Although many Argentines know English and will try to use you to practice their English, use them you instead for practicing your Spanish. Ask them to have the conversations in Spanish, and to correct you when you make mistakes.
READING AND WRITING are good habits to help you memorize vocabulary, grammar structures, word gender, etc.
AVOID WORD TO WORD TRANSLATION: try to understand the general meaning of what you read or hear.
MAKE THE MOST OF BEING IN A SPANISH SPEAKING COUNTRY: talk to people, watch TV and DVDs in Spanish, read the newspapers, ads, books, and anything else that comes your way; listen to the radio, and to Spanish speakers’ conversations.
USE A NOTEBOOK: use a little pad to write down any new word you learn, read or listen to during your day, to look at it in the dictionary or ask a friend the meaning. Write down any phrase native speakers use frequently and that may be useful to you.
EXCELLENT INVENTION TO PRACTICE A LANGUAGE: MOVIES ON DVD!!! Watch DVDs of Argentine movies, or any movie spoken in Spanish. If it is hard for you to understand the whole movie in Spanish put subtitles in Spanish too. After watching the movie, you can select scenes to watch without subtitles to see what you can understand, then put on Spanish or English subtitles. Pay attention to any new vocabulary, grammar structure, and pronunciation.
PRACTICE PRONUNCIATION, by studying out loud. Mimic the sounds of the language. Don’t mumble. Although most people feel embarrassed making strange sounds, the language will soon feel more familiar to you.
READING SKILLS TIPS:
Isolate new grammatical forms and study them separately. Write the pattern on a flash card and memorize it. Write out and label a model sentence. When you encounter the form while reading, pause and recite the pattern to recognize the form.
WRITING SKILLS TIPS:
Pay attention to detail: notice accents, order of letters, etc. Compare letter-by-letter different forms (singular, plural, gender, etc.). Write out conjugations of verbs, pronouns, etc., and check your endings. Memorize irregular verbs.
Write (in your own simple foreign vocabulary words) a story you have just read.
What helped you learn Spanish?
In a forum for Buenos Aires expats, someone asked this question, “What helped you learn Spanish?”, and it received prompt replies. Some of the answers are listed below, I hope they will help you too:
- Took classes in all the things I love. Horseback riding, cooking, painting, went to lectures on art, did pilates, took dance classes… all sorts of fun stuff. I learn both through interacting with the teacher as well as taking instruction in things that added value to my life. I meet other students (all most all of them were Argentine) so very few spoke English forcing me to work harder at understanding. Every class became like “show and tell”….I learned the language as well as invested in learning new skills and making friends.
- listening to spanish music and then looking up the lyrics
- watching tv
- SPEAKING Spanish…Moving out of the barrios where when I started to speak in castellano my accent was recognized and was responded to in English. Living outside of those areas I must use my Spanish to get things done.
- Joining one of the free language exchange sites and chatting in Spanish.
- Sharing lots of time with native speakers who don’t correct me or inhibit me when I talk.
- I got hooked on an Argentine novela (soap opera)- my Spanish was pretty decent before the soap but it improved significantly afterward and during the show.