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Fernando: Five Tools to Put your Spanish Learning into High Gear. Welcome everyone, I’m here with JP…
JP: Hey Fernando, ¿cómo estás?
Fernando: Bien, ¿y tú?
JP: Bien, gracias.
Fernando: Qué bueno. Who better than JP here to tell us about that…
JP: I’m here to tell you all about what you’re going to need to go out and buy… or get for free… if you’re going to be a serious Spanish student. Let’s start with dictionaries. You’re gonna need a dictionary whether you’re studying Spanish in school, or if you’re traveling by yourself. You’re gonna want a dictionary. As a former Spanish teacher, I have some very strong opinions about which dictionaries you can buy. You know those little tiny dictionaries, the ones that totally fit in your pocket? Don’t buy those. Those are not for students. Those are for people like me, who need a quick reference, or somebody like you, Fernando, you might need a quick reference. They’re not going to help you write a paper. They’re not going to get you through your Spanish class. If you’re going to buy a paper dictionary, go for a fat one. Go for one that’s big and heavy. Here’s my trick, look up the word “to get.” In a good English-Spanish dictionary, you’re gonna get a lot of “get’s;” a page or two, because there’s so many different kinds of “get’s.” For example, you can get a job, which is different from getting a pen, which is different from getting sleepy… all those “gets” are totally different.
Fernando: Great observation. I didn’t even know that.
JP: So in Spanish, ‘getting a job’ would be “conseguir trabajo.” to obtain a job. Whereas to get sleepy… “dar sueño;” it’s a totally different verb. So when you go to buy a dictionary, look for one that’s going to give you those differences. I do have to say that nobody has to buy a dictionary nowadays. If you have access to the internet, most of us professionals use wordreference.com. That’s a really good bilingual dictionary that they’re always updating, and you never have to buy new editions. Now if you’re super advanced and you just want a Spanish-Spanish dictionary, you also want to get a big thorough dictionary . If you’re looking for something online, you can try the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary. that’s La real academia española, and the website is http://rae.es. The Academy’s dictionary is the authoritative dictionary; if people are fighting over which word is which… if people are betting, they’ll go to the RAE.
Fernando: Now you want to be sure that you’re using a web based dictionary…
JP: … and not a translator. There are web-based translators, and they’re terrible. Web based translators can be good for you If you get a Spanish page and there’s no English version, you can run it through a web-based translator and you can kind of figure out what’s going on, because it will change all the words from Spanish to English. But if you’re writing a paper for your Spanish class, do not write your paper in English and then run it through a web-based translation, because you’ll get garbage.
Fernando: You’ll get garbage, and you won’t learn a thing.
JP: So a dictionary is a great thing to have while learning Spanish.
Fernando: What else do you have?
JP: Ok, everybody needs a verb conjugator. This is a book that will tell you how verbs are conjugated. Obviously, latinos like you, Fernando, might never have seen a verb conjugator before.
Fernando: I’ve seen a verb conjugator for Italian and French.
JP: so you know what I’m talking about; in other languages they exist as well. In Spanish it can be so helpful to use a conjugator, because the verb conjugator has all the right answers.
Fernando: It does, and honestly, I have one in Spanish as well, because there are so many different tenses, you want to make sure you’re using the right tense.
JP: Exactly. Now the one that we used back in my day, when I was a student, was Christopher Kendris’ 501 Spanish Verbs. It was that white soft cover book with a flag on the ‘one,’ of the 501. That got me through all four years of college. You don’t necessarily need to buy the 501s anymore; the one that most people use is verbix.com. it’s a very simple conjugator to use, you just go to the site and you plug in your verb, and it will show you all the conjugations in all the tenses.
Fernando: What about for grammar?
JP: This is a little bit trickier, because grammar is hard to read, it’s definitely not an easy thing to reference. So what I recommend is that if you have a question about grammar, you should go back to the textbook you used when you were studying, because you’ve already seen it, you already kind of know where things are. If you’re studying Spanish on your own, and you’re not using a textbook, you could use Spanish.about.com, it has a lot of information. There’s a lot of information about grammar on that site, and because it’s a website, you can search it, you can browse it, and it’s constantly getting updated. So dictionary, verb conjugator, grammar reference. Those are three things that will really help you kick things into high gear.
Fernando: What will keep you in that high gear?
JP: Well, at some point you’re going to have to start looking at Spanish the way Spanish speakers look at Spanish; as a medium for communication. When you’re looking at the dictionary, verb conjugator, or grammar reference, it’s about Spanish. But when people speak Spanish, they’re usually not talking about Spanish; they’re talking about their life. And you want to get to that stage in Spansih where you’re using Spanish in the real world. Luckily there are things in the real world that are made just for you. Those things are entertainment. So my forth tip is to take advantage of Spanish language entertainment. As a Spanish teacher, there are three aspects that I really want you to examine. First of all is reading pleasure; it really helps you to read. When I was learning how to read, those novels that they’d give me, those were way too long. I would always go for shorter things… news articles. Spanish short stories; Latin American microcuentos, those were my favorite things to read. When you’re reading you’re going to come across words that you haven’t seen before, which is good because you’re going to see them in context. And if you still don’t get them, you can look them up, and you’re going to keep reading. Now the other thing is listening pleasure. You should be listening to Spanish language entertainment. Like this podcast, but also popular music and radio. A lot of us here in the US have access to Spanish language radio. So I really recommend that you listen; you expose yourself to as much audio as you can, whether or not you can understand it. At first it’s going to be hard to understand, but the more you read, and the more you talk to people, the more you’re listening comprehension will come up. And a service like ours, learning by podcast, is also going to raise your listening comprehension.
Fernando: I would hope so.
JP: So we’ve got reading pleasure, listening pleasure… the third aspect is viewing pleasure. There are all kinds of ways you can have a video experience in Spanish. You can go on the internet, look at things on YouTube. You can watch your DVDs with the Spanish subtitles on, or with the Spanish audio on. I personally swear by watching the Spanish channel for entertainment reasons. In the beginning levels, it will be easier to watch cooking shows, sports, or soap operas, because you can tell what’s going on from the action. Later on after that you can start moving on to dramas, and talk shows…
Fernando: And maybe you can combine listening and viewing by going to a concert.
JP: Now this is getting into my fifth tool to get your Spanish learning into high gear, which is actual people that speak Spanish. You should be seeking out and finding Spanish language environments where you can interact with people because that’s the way that children learn. They’re in an environment and they interact; actually, this is going to activate your language learning instinct.
Fernando: Immersing yourself.
JP: Exactly. It’s not enough to just go there, you have to actually make friends that speak Spanish, or date people that speak Spanish, or have a family that speaks Spanish… the more you can get Spanish into your daily life, the higher the chances you have that you’re actually going to learn this language.
Fernando: When I was five years old, I was taken to Mexico for summer vacation. and I came back speaking only Spanish. And that’s how I picked it up. So your brain, regardless of the age, is always a sponge.
JP: I know some of you who are listening that are students in a classroom are thinking, “I can’t immerse myself in a Spanish speaking culture!” The more you can immerse yourself, the better your Spanish will become, and the easier those Spanish classes are gonna be. It’s actually easier to learn Spanish than it is to study Spanish. Millions of people learn it every day. And now with the internet, you can do things like go to Spanish speaking meetups, you can find Spanish websites, you can send instant messages to your Spanish speaking friends, Spanish speakers love to chatear…
Fernando: Or even learn to cook in Spanish…
JP: That’s a good one, because then you can eat afterwards. Alright, so those are my five tools to kick your Spanish learning into high gear; a dictionary, a verb conjugator, a grammar reference, Spanish language entertainment , and then finally Spanish speaking friends and loved ones.
Fernando: That is great. thank you so much JP. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to leave it here. Thank you for tuning in. JP, always a pleasure.
JP: The pleasure is mine!
Fernando: Thank you, we’ll see you on All About Spanish 12. Bye!
JP: Hasta luego.
Fernando: Bye-bye.