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How I’m Learning Spanish – A1

This will be the first post of a series on my language learning experience (other than English). Here I’m tapping into my experience of both a language teacher and a learner, which I really like to analyse and reflect on. Later on you might also see some suggestions as to how this learning experience can be broadened if you have more motivation or time than me.

My motivation

I’ve heard Spanish being spoken in a variety of accents and I liked it, which is the main reason. I mostly associate Spanish with the openness of emotions and their irrational expressiveness. I hear there a lot of informality, readiness to socialise and simply enjoy life with people around. This is all something rather alien to my quite introverted, rational, and reserved personality. At the same time it does stir up interest and curiosity.

There’s a theory that together with a new language, one can develop another dimension of their personality that will corresponds better to the communication in this language than the core self. It does reflect my experience. So why not experiment? If I learn to speak Spanish, will it have any positive effect on my social skills and self-expression? Will it change the way I express emotions?

Second reason will be flamenco dance and the culture around it. Not that I’m a very eager dancer, but I’ve been there for years taking classes from Spanish teachers (it is good exercise, though). As I don’t know Spanish, I can’t understand the true character of cante (singing), which is the basis for the dance, nor can I join in socially because I don’t quite get the mentality. Neither can I explore online materials by myself as they are in Spanish (yes, I could use Google translate if my motivation was stronger, but it’s not). And if one day I go to a flamenco school in Madrid or Seville, I’ll be completely lost. Maybe it’s time to move on and overcome these restrictions.

Finally, Spanish is the fourth-most spoken language in the world, which tops it up for me. It is present on almost all continents and in more than 70 countries, just imagine what horizons are opening up!

My previous experience with Spanish

  • I know French at a good Intermediate level which is a Romance language meaning it shares Latin roots and some grammatical structures with Spanish, e. g. the noun and adjective system and verb conjugations. So it makes it easier to deduce word meanings from the context and know what to expect in terms of grammar.
  • Years in flamenco haven’t been for nothing. I can understand some basics related to dance movements and get the very-very gist of teachers’ explanations. Once it’s outside the scope of dance, it quickly gets more incomprehensible. However, as I’m really bad at imitating a language or learning it by ear, I’ve never tried to say something in Spanish apart from simple “Gracias!” (thanks). Had I had some skills of picking up a language, I guess I’d be at least at the A2 level being exposed to such an environment, but I don’t and I’m used to the classic classroom/ text-based approach. Shame, such an opportunity wasted.
  • Two years ago I did about 4 out of 6 online courses on the website of the Spanish for Beginners (A1) programme, which I liked a lot. It gave me the idea of verb conjugation and some basic vocab, after which I began to understand my profesoras better.
  • Approximately at the same time I played with the apps called 6 000 Spanish words and 5 000 Spanish phrases. Maybe I did 1/10 of them and soon got bored learning words and phrases by lists without much context. At least I finally got to pronouncing words and working with my articulation.

To sum up, whatever I learnt two years ago I forgot, so my level must be somewhere around the beginning of A1. But at the same time learning is relatively easy as I’m familiar with some grammatical structures, word families and I can recognise those words that I’ve heard at my flamenco classes or those similar to French.

My study plan

I have a hypothesis that if the language I’m learning is similar to the ones I know, I can more or less successfully cover the first two levels by myself (A1 and A2) practising my speaking and writing skills in apps and by language exchange. This means that potentially I can save a lot of money learning without teachers or in a typical classroom. I’m not saying it’s a better approach, but I can’t allocate much time or other resources to Spanish anyway, so I’m going to go with my idea and check it.

I’m not pressed for time and I want it to be an enjoyable experience even if learning is going very slow. Having a routine is useful, though. So far I’ve tried working with language apps in the morning while commuting and during the day instead of checking social networks or news. This way I can find 20-30 minutes several times a week, which is a good beginning. It would be good to stick to this routine as long as I’m not overloaded with work and other activities.

I also have a friend in Mexico who is happy to help me practise Spanish. I might take advantage of it and send him some short messages. Or communicate with other language learners in the apps. It should be the easiest way to apply the learnt material as I’m more visual than auditory learner type and I prefer chatting online to speaking face to face.

Materials I’m using

I’ll start by using the famous Busuu app as the main tool. It covers levels A1 to B2 and is praised a lot. It also offers other languages, which makes it easy to learn several languages in one place (also saves memory on your phone). To get access to them, I’ll need to use the premium version, though. But it’s worth it, I guess.

[As soon as I explore the app well enough, I’ll write a review on it in case with the view of a teacher and a learner who can has different levels in different languages (I’m going to try it for Spanish A1, German A2, French B2 as well as for non-latin based Arab or Turkish A1). ]

The second app I’m enjoying is Learn Spanish Podcast which offers 2-3 minute dialogues on various topics for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels. I’m using the free version. It has some ads in it and restricts in-app access to Goggle translate, but in general it’s more than enough for listening practice at this level (A1).

All the dialogues have comments on the vocabulary and grammar used in them. There are no exercises but the app is great for developing listening skills. The dialogues sound naturally and are recorded in a lively manner. I listen to the same dialogues several times until I can hear and understand each word.

That’s it for now. I guess there will be other parts to follow where I’ll share my achievements and pains. Hopefully.

What about you?

Do you speak Spanish? Or are you learning it? How would you describe your experience? Don’t be shy to share!

Cover photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash

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