Teaching an Old Dog

December 20, 2006


Ok, I’m not THAT old! But sometimes when my Spanish studying isn’t going very well, I feel like an old dog.

Seriously, I am studying Spanish every day. I am trying to do my own Immersion Course since I know that is the fastest way to learn.

  • Even though I have never had the TV on unless I am actually sitting down to watch – I have the TV on one of the two Spanish language channels a lot of the day.
  • I listen to Spanish CD’s – some that I’ve had for years…and I realize I am picking up more of the lyrics than I used to!
  • Language learning CD’s and podcasts – walking the dog, gardening or cleaning house I listen to the MP3 player, and I listen to CD’s in the car. Since the closest town to us is a half hour away I get a fair bit of exposure this way. I always repeat the lessons out loud.
  • I do pretend conversations in my head. This is usually triggered by an interaction like going to the post office or a store. I then replay the conversation but working it out in Spanish.
  • I get movies from the library – Mexico travel ones are great, but also Spanish language ones (Santos Peregrinos) or Mexican topics (Nacho Libre.)
  • We TIVO and watch Fuera de Serie – a half hour travel show every day. The hosts travel the world interacting with Spanish speakers wherever they are. I am going to start TIVO-ing a half hour of daily news, too.

If my Spanish language competency was rated on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate myself at a 2. I’d be curious to hear from people how they’d rate themselves – and if they are in a Spanish-speaking country now, what change in competency did they have once they made the move.


More about Paul

    1. I know exactly how you feel. Am on a countdown of my own. I always know when it is time to head for the border. I walk into the produce department of my local, stateside, stateside grocery store and tears begin to well up in my eyes. Someone sent me a picture of my “fruit ladies” at the market back “home” and I burst into tears. Countdown is underway!

    1. I think I’m about a 5 or 6, I guess, using your scale. I have found the best way to learn and remember is to speak Spanish all the time. Talk back and forth to one another – in Spanish – about all the things you are doing in the house. When you are stumped for a word, look it up. Then start the conversation over again.

      From “donde esta mis zapatos?” to whatever else, pretty soon, you will be remembering more.

      And, yes, your ideas about listening to Spanish music and TV are great ones too. You are getting there! (When you are in Mexico full time, your skills will improve rapidly the more time you spend with Mexican friends!)

    1. i’ve been in mexico for one year and a half and I would say i am at a 3. I spent my first 6 months here going to classes full time (3hours day) which provided a great under-learning structure (i know a lot more grammar than i can use), but it is really talking that does the most. i probably didn’t talk as much as i should have until recently. I’d like to be at a 5 or 6 in another year or two… and I’ll tell you my biggest problem is still comprehension. Mexican’s are wonderfully generous and kind and they know how much more difficult is their language than, say, English. So whatever you learn, they will appreciate it. I probably don’t need to tell you, it’s a tough road, but don’t get discouraged. Making Mexican friends is so totally worth the trouble.

    1. I have been in Mexico more than the US for the last three years – I use the Pimsleur CD’s (and like their method).

      I would give myself a “TRES”. If my esposa didn’t speak good conversational Spanish I would be further a long, or maybe not – thank goodness for her 😉

      Juan Calypso

    1. You’re doing all the right things! In the beginning I learned Spanish through music and telenovelas (soap operas), and yes, talking to myself. I came with a level 2, and after a year and a half I would say it’s at a 7.5
      You will learn if you WANT to learn, if you make Mexican friends and keep doing what you’re doing… don’t get cable here, haha. Good luck, I can tell you will be great!

    1. Thank you so much for all your suggestions.

      It seems everything I do has a language component – like when I go to the grocery store I listen to CD’s in the car, etc.

      We’re heading to Mexico the first week of February and I am curious to see if I have really improved!


    1. You are so organized. It’s definitely wise to do as much as possible to learn the language first — I didn’t and I think I will be checking out some of those links you listed. Thanks.

      Thanks also for linking to my blog. I always consider it an honor when someone considers my blog ‘link-worthy.’

    1. When I was learning Spanish, I would watch the international news first in English, then in Spanish, since knowing what the main reports were about helped me understand new words in Spanish. I also kept a Spanish-English dictionary near the TV to make sure I understood right, and to get the spelling right!

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