Spanish – Step up your Game

Spanish – Step up your Game

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On the road to any major change, lulls are inevitable … the excitement of just beginning has waned, along with your sense of progress. Language learning is no exception. It may not feel like you’ve made any progress at all. Procrastination makes the problem worse, or you might even give up altogether. Here are some tips to get through the slump.

Change up what you do. Make sure you haven’t gotten into a rut. Since language learning is a whole brain exercise, variety is the key to stimulating as many parts as you can. Unless your daily language practice is engaging, entertaining and ever changing, its usefulness declines. Learning a language is a change in lifestyle. You fall in love with the sounds, the culture and the art of the language. People who speak many languages tend to have this quality.

Read and then read some more. Reading helps us understand grammar in a more natural way. Don’t get bogged down trying to understand everything while reading. Just try to get the main idea and keep on reading more. Let your brain fill in the blanks and begin to understand the language’s bigger picture. As you read, make lots of guesses; look up a few verbs and then concoct a meaning through context. Wherever your interests lie, they exist in another language. Exploring hobbies and current events in Spanish is highly recommended. Already having the context makes it easier to read more complex passages. Your vocabulary and understanding will grow naturally out of this process.

Listen and watch. Refining your ear is a huge part of the language learning equation. Listening to natural speech patterns without them sounding like vocal machine gunfire takes practice. Watching television, movies or YouTube videos, and listening to the radio or audio books, are entertaining and effective methods. You are not listening to the separate words per se, but taking in the whole. Letting the words wash over you provides a basic understanding of what is being said. Take in the parts that make up the whole: contextual clues, inflections and body language. Then allow your brain to create a main idea. The more you listen and engage, the more those main ideas will turn into true understanding.

Sing like no one is listening. Scoff if you will at this suggestion, convinced as most people are that no one wants to hear them sing! However true that may be, singing is good for language learning. As a “sing for myself, not for the audience” karaoke singer, I’m aware that not everyone shares my belief in this tip, especially those who have had the joy of hearing my croaks. So close the door, plug in your earphones and crank up some tunes with lyrics. (Remember that any genre of music you enjoy has a Spanish counterpart, just ask Don Google for help finding it.) Singing works wonders for eliminating accents by retraining our mouth and vocal chords. Accent is all about tongue and mouth movement; singing allows us to learn this physical aspect effortlessly.

The most important part of learning is time. You need to give your brain time to create new connections, and give yourself time to learn little by little. This can be frustrating, especially when you need to speak Spanish now, but frustration is one step in the process. Just keep going … each day learning a bit more and falling in love a little more with the sounds of Costa Rica.