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10 Tips to Push Forward to Learn Spanish – Getting Through the Spanish Blues: You have tried it all but each time someone talks to you in Spanish, you … you blank. You can have a simple conversation but can’t seem to get to the next level. You want your words to flow and communicate but you just can’t seem to get there. Here are 10 tips to get past this slump.

Learning Spanish is stepping
through the looking glass from
being a tourist to being a local.

  1. Be nice to yourself. Stop telling yourself you can’t learn a new language, you’re too old or too dumb … or agreeing with that one person who told you that you can’t.
  2. Don’t conjugate until it comes naturally. Don’t worry about speaking with conjugations until the word naturally pops into your head. Until then, learn subject pronouns, such as yo (I), (you), él (he) and ella (she), as well as time markers such as hoy (today) and ayer (yesterday) and use the infinitive form of the verb.
  3. Say what you CAN say! Instead of trying to say something specific in Spanish, ask yourself, what CAN I say? When listening to someone, try to get the gist of what they are saying and then respond however you can.
  4. Don’t just listen for words. Language is about way more than just words. Take in the whole picture; look at the face and the tone, and make lots of guesses. Become a detective in guessing what people are saying.
  5. Train yourself to listen. Watching television can be great in this respect. You can watch quite a few Spanish language TV shows on Netflix and put in Spanish subtitles. Your goal is to get as much information as you can from the context and tone.
  6. Read, read, read. Try to read something in Spanish each day. You can read the national or any number of local newspapers. There are tons of sites online that offer interesting subject matter; one of my favorites is www.planetacurioso.com.
  7. Sing your way to no accent. Singing is an incredible way to train your ear to intonate the language. Pick your favorite genres of music and learn the Spanish versions. Look them up, find their lyrics (letra) and sing along.
  8. Talk to everyone. Ticos are kind and friendly people. They appreciate you trying to speak Spanish and are often happy to help you work through issues. When you engage in Spanish, you are showing respect for their culture and community, and your love for Costa Rica.
  9. People love your accent. Humans are biologically wired to be attracted to accents. When you think you are butchering the language, the listener is having a dopamine rush of pleasure.
  10. Do something every day. Spend at least 20 minutes to an hour engaging in Spanish. Change it up, keep it interesting and if you are bored….do something else. Language learning should be fun and engaging; if not, you are doing it wrong.

Learning Spanish is a lifelong process. There is no formula or method that works for everyone. The key is to keep going … keep calm and be nicer to yourself through the process. Your goal is never “understanding everything,” it’s about seeing how much you can understand today and then tomorrow and so on. Learning Spanish is stepping through the looking glass from being a tourist to being a local. 

The Howler Magazine
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