How to learn Spanish when you are stuck in Gringolandia.
Learning a second (or nth) tongue is easy when you live in the country where this new-to-you language is the dominant tongue. This is especially true if you avoid even shun speakers of your currently spoken tongues, especially your native one(s).
But you are reading these words in English, and in Bloomington, IN. Sure, there are lots of people from all over the world here, including Latin America (not to mention that before 1650 only Algonquian was spoken here) but all you speak is English and sometimes say “no bueno” in Spanish.
If you are tired of your mono or semi-monolingual experience then maybe its time you take action. Here’s what you do.
Get these books:
- English Grammar for Students of Spanish 3rd ed.
- Spanish Pronunciation, Theory and Practice 3rd ed. by Dalbor
- A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish 4th ed. by Butt and Benjamin
- Spanish Composition through Literature 5th ed. by Ayllón, Smith and Morillo.
All together these titles cost about $50 since they are all older editions. Get them on Online.
Here’s what you do with them. You read them. Get a tutor to help guide you through the readings in the Composition book, as well as reading you find in newspapers from around the Spanish speaking world. As you read, certain patterns will arise (al + infinitive; pres. of IR + a + infinitive; ect.) he/she will explain these to you and point you to the correct reference. Things you don’t understand well are easily cleared up with the English Grammar for students of Spanish.
The phonetics book will allow you to learn how to hear Spanish, so that as you learn mostly passively by reading and listening (like babies sorta do) you will learn to associate the correct sounds with the symbols and not be utterly surprised and stupefied when someone actually speaks to you.
The least useful text, yet most information dense, is the Butt and Benjamin grammar. But as you gain more knowledge of Spanish and linguistics (an unavoidable by-product of learning a new language) you will find the reference to be useful.
Use Wordreference.com for your dictionary. When you get good, use rae.es for you dictionary.
If you try to read a page of text each day, and write your own text to follow it and work with someone who knows how to teach the language, you will learn quickly. I guess you should eventually devote several hours a week to Spanish, just like you would any other hobby.
One habit of successful language learners is that they constantly wonder “Oh, how do I say that in INSERT LANGUAGE HERE” You need to often or constantly be formulating little sentences in your head, and later checking many of these with Google or a native/near-native speaker. If Google gives you few hits, or the native speaker chokes with laughter, you might need to reformulate your sentence.
You’ll notice that with the possible exception of the English Grammar for Students of Spanish, you have never used these texts in college or high school. There is more information and practice built into these books than in all of your previous texts combined, yet they are never used.
Part of the blame goes to large textbook publishing houses like Houghton Mifflin who corner educational programs into using their books. Since the 40s texts have become heavier, larger, more colorful and with more white space, yet, I have seen no data that suggest that people learn languages better.
A language is a agreed-upon code of interaction and symbols which exists between speakers. You must learn this code by means of interaction. The textbooks give you a fairly passive and uni-directional code exchange with people who are far away and perhaps not even living any longer. But because you are not an infant any longer, you can use what you know from your language(s) to build a new one: in English we say “I like running” in Spanish we say “me gusta correr” or quit literally, me pleases running where “me” is the object “to me.”
Conclusions: 1. English –ing is often Spanish [–ar. –ir, -er] endings (but why??? Ask me later). 2. Spanish has no word “to like” they use “to please” to say the same thing with a different structure.
As soon as you have worked with a tutor long enough that you can speak clumsy Spanish, you must seek out speakers of the language. Pay ‘em if you have to interact with them –but do so. Doing this, and by spending a small but not insubstantial amount of money, you will learn Spanish in about 25-40 weeks. In self-help terms, it means you will be a new you in 10 months.
You found my website.
I started this little teaching venture three years ago after returning from Perú. At the time I was preparing for graduate school. I found that a lot of people wanted to learn Spanish. After teaching Spanish at a Big 10 univeristy, I can see why many people would not want to study Spanish in a formal setting. Now, I am one pesky test away from my Master’s in Hispanic Linguistics. I don’t teach at a university and and I am dedicating myself to setting up the rest of my life- at least the next year of it.
If you are a Bloomington, IN resident and would like to become cenversant in Spanish, read some good literature, test out of college classes, and might even like to sign up for a tour of som
e Latin American country afterward (an idea I am working on) then by all means contact me. Here’s a picture of me from my trip to the Yucatán this past winter vacation.
UPDATE: (Communication from Santiago de Chile, July 2012)
We (the royal We) are ready to take on a student or two for the Fall Semester.
So you have either found my advertising, or I have made this site cooler than I thought. I think my lessons should have an internet presence, and so the WordPress offers me an inexpensive yet (apparently) powerful way to do so. Using this free website hosting and development tool allows me to make my lessons affordable.
Take a look at the many nooks and crannies of this web page to learn more about the lessons, and me the teacher-tutor. Make sure to look at the resources section where you may find helpful materials and lessons on Spanish.
There are a growing number of learning materials on this site. But none of them truly stand alone. That is to say that they are complimentary to A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish, by J. Butt & C. Benjamin. More on this text.
¡Ayúdenme! Help me fix typos. Report any typos for a discounted lesson or a thank you (should you not want or be too far for lessons). Comment on the page or send me a e-mail. See contact page.
Last update on: 8/10/2012