Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Blogger Will Peach: Getting to Grips with Spanish-Speak Like A Pro In A Matter of Months!


What a treat it is to have a great guest blogger like the UK's Will Peach provide a post for my blog.  I've been looking at what he's doing over at MySpanishAdventure.com and  I am amazed at the progress he's made with his Spanish in such a short time using free internet resources and a whole lot of gumption!  Enjoy this piece from Will and follow his blog!  Thanks, Will!--Ashleigh

Getting to Grips with Spanish: Speak like a Pro in a Matter of Months

Whether you’re planning a short trip, long holiday or even thinking of moving to Spain (lucky you!), the benefits of learning Spanish are huge. Not only does a little go a long way, but even with the most basic of commands you’ll find yourself getting under the skin of this fantastic country in no time.

Getting to grips with “la lengua”, in fact, is probably a whole lot easier than you think. Take my story here in Caceres, Extremadura, as a case in point. I used to think I was the worlds-worst language learner - with a memory like a sieve, until I arrived here with zero-Spanish and spent each day experimenting feverishly with learning strategies to see what would stick.
The result? I’m now speaking better, faster and clearer than ever before (check out my progress videos for proof) while moving closer to fluency each week. I’m not doing anything particularly special, nor have I spent a single penny on going to a class! That’s why I want to take the time to show you that you can do the same. Why not get started? Let’s make Spain our happy place! And one where we can speak the language too!

Can-Do Attitude

First and foremost, in order to learn the language at speed, we have to pay close attention to mentality and attitude. Going in with little confidence is unlikely to yield great results. The good news is the fact that you’re reading this blog. Taking an active interest in Ashleigh’s amazing experiences means that you’re probably more motivated than the next person about exploring Spain, its culture and its lifestyle.

Leverage this enthusiasm toward your language-learning attitude. Think of every hour of study as a way of enriching Spain, of bringing yourself closer to it. In breaking down the whole study process into small steps, and placing a level of importance on each one, you’ll find your motivation much easier to come by.
Don’t forget that nothing happens over night either. Especially not fluency!

Building the Foundations

That said a positive mind-set isn’t all you’re going to need. You won’t get very far if it’s not fed any juicy nuggets of information. What you put in to your study, just as the old philosophy goes, is exactly what you’ll get out. 

I’ve found the best base to start is by setting yourself the task of learning 20 new pieces of Spanish vocabulary a day. Whereas most people take the easy road with learning just one, some others around five, with 20 you’ll find yourself progressing at a much faster rate and with only having to put in a few more minutes of time too! It might sound like a bit of a tall order yet with free SRS software it’s actually very easy. Not only will these programmes have you up, running and learning 140 new words a week with no trouble, but they’ll also help you nail the pronunciation and spelling too.

The free flashcard app Anki is my weapon of choice. I simply can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s that revolutionary! All you have to do is let it sit on your desktop, download the 1000 most common Spanish words deck (do this within the programme), fire it up for ten minutes every morning and memorise all the new vocabulary that comes your way. Its spaced-repetition system means that you don’t forget things you learned way back when either!

It’s another good idea to top up your vocabulary base with a 10-minute daily scan of a Spanish text also. The news (and sites like El Pais and BBC Mundo) is a good starting point. Don’t worry about not understanding everything; these initial steps are all about recognising patterns and structures in the language!

Expanding the Base

As your vocabulary begins to build undoubtedly you’ll begin to notice small improvements each day. Time to take it to the next level by padding out the rest of your studies.

Don’t know where to start? I’ll tell you. Speaking! The number one most important thing to remain motivated, to get a sense of your own progress and actually enjoy learning Spanish is to start speaking it from the get-go. Yes, your vocabulary may be incredibly limited at first, but by building on it each day (and by reading) you’ll find yourself carrying conversations that little bit further. Practice with anyone and everyone. Spanish speaking children are a good start (or waiters or shop assistants) and remember: they don’t care if you make mistakes or stumble!

Combine speaking with starting to read aloud in Spanish during your studies (and increasing the amount of time you do so by slight increments each week). Not only will this help with pronunciation but you’ll also find yourself being able to incorporate phrases you read into your speech a lot more easily too.

Another great tip (and particularly important for listening) is to submerge yourself in Spanish radio and TV (you can stream Spanish TV for free here). Even while your passively listening to the language you’ll pick things up that will push you that little bit further.
Make it Fun


The last piece of the jigsaw is to simply make learning Spanish fun. This means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and starting-out on that rapid route to fluency. How to do this? Mini-challenges. By setting yourself weekly goals, for example, holding two 5-minute conversations a day with random strangers, you’ll become much more motivated to learn and you’ll likely make many more friends in the process. Try this by heading to a public park or café. 

Don’t live in Spain? There’s no reason why you can’t start using Skype to connect with new people either. The best way to tie-this up is to make yourself accountable. That’s the idea behind myspanishadventure.com. Starting a blog will help push your learning all that little bit further!

Final Words

So even if you’re just starting out with your studies or haven’t yet begun, I hope you’ll find plenty here to help you get started. And remember: the only way to learn is to make mistakes. Each small failure? One step closer to giant success!
Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year community website for backpackers and gap year travellers. You can see his Spanish progress over at his blog myspanishadventure.com.  You'll be amazed at how fluent he's become in such a short time and watching his videos are extremely inspirational for for anyone who's struggling to learn a foreign language.

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