Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

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Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby Hank » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:21 pm

Hello all! I have been lurking for a while, and I decided to jump in and start participating.

I have been studying Spanish for four months. Part of my study routine is to listen to native Spanish speakers, either on television, movies, or videos on the internet. Sometimes I can understand the general topic that is being discussed, but for the most part it still sounds like gibberish with a few words that I recognize. I suspect that my limited vocabulary is the biggest issue. Does anyone have advice on learning to understand native speakers of a new language? Any kind of language learning advice would also be appreciated.

I have wanted to learn another language for many years, and I'm having a great time. I'm looking forward to the day I can watch a TeleNovela and understand it clearly, or read a book written in Spanish without consulting a Spanish/English dictionary so often. I'm also excited about being able to converse with my Spanish speaking friends in their native language.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby tastyonions » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:27 pm

You can try listening to Radio Ambulante: http://radioambulante.org/

The podcasts are authentic Latin American Spanish from many countries, usually with one person telling a story or being interviewed each episode. But the great thing for learners is that they all have complete transcripts, and many of them have translations into English as well if you need help understanding a part.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby iguanamon » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:37 pm

Welcome to the forum, Hank. Radio Ambulante is a great resource.

Learning to listen is a skill that takes time to develop and must be trained. It won't happen overnight and may take months. There's a great post by member leosmith at the old forum, HTLAL- listening from the beginning that goes into greater depth than I am going to do here.

The key to training listening, for me, is regular, daily listening- to the real thing, native-speakers, for an extended period of time. In the beginning stages many non-experienced learners rely on their courses for their audio and this helps but it isn't what you will be hearing "in the wild". This is where listening from the beginning is important.

OK, so you didn't do that. What do you do now? You need to find comprehensible input. Comprehensible input is native-speech audio that can be made to be understood. lyrics training can be a fun way to train listening. Song lyrics are short and often repetitive. The lyrics to most songs in Spanish that aren't on lyrics training can be found online by searching "name of song + letra". You can also find karaoke versions on youtube. You may think this isn't a serious way to "study" but figuring things out on your own is a great way to build confidence and have things "stick" better.

Also, I would start listening to the news with a transcript. There is a pay site called "news in slow Spanish" that some members find helpful but there are also a couple of free alternatives: NHK World Spanish. This is the real thing- intended for native-speakers. Yes, it's from Japan and the news has a Japanese focus in addition to international news, but the speakers are native Spanish-speakers. Here's what's good about NHK for training listening- there is an accurate transcript . Scroll to the bottom of the page and click- "Escuchar" or "Podcast RSS" to listen and click on the first article. Then you must click on each individual article to read while listening. NHK is also available in many other languages with accurate transcripts: including French, Portuguese; Indonesian, Russian, Persian, Hindi, Thai, Mandarin- etc.

Why is this good for training listening and learning vocabulary? You'll get used to the announcers, they are regular and don't change very often. Did I mention that there's a transcript? There are numerous ways you can use the transcript. You can read first then listen then read again. You can listen first then read then listen again. You can read and listen at the same time. If you are really feeling energetic, you can search the English site for NHK and read the English version of the story.

Another news site which will be harder to listen to is Democracy Now!. This is a Spanish-language translation of the US English language version and comes with a transcript. The Spanish is faster than normal speech because it has to fit into the same time frame as the English and Spanish usually needs more words than English does. The announcer is generally a woman with a rioplatense accent. The English language version also has a transcript too and you can make your own parallel text easily from it in just a few minutes time. Here's a sample.
Image

To make a quick, down and dirty parallel text: Open a text file in openoffice or word. Insert a two column, one row, table. Copy and paste Spanish on the left and English on the right. Adjust as necessary. Print to pdf or hard copy. Again, there are numerous ways to use a parallel text for learning: You can read the Spanish and only glance at the English to confirm your guesses or quickly find the meaning of a word or phrase; you can read the English while listening to Spanish; you can read English first then listen and read in Spanish, etc., etc. Pick what seems to work best for you. Ultimately, to really learn to listen, you'll be weaning yourself off of the parallel text and the transcript over time.

You can also do the same thing with subtitles. Have a look at emk's posts on "sub study" and "subs2srs" if you have the computer chops to do it. Check out what emk is doing with the animated Avatar series. If you can't do the subs2srs, you can also go to opensubtitles.org to search for subs to tv and films that may or may not be accurate and make a parallel text like the one above, if they're not accurate they'll still make a great parallel text and give you understanding of what you are watching. I can make that parallel text in about five minutes for a half an hour show. i don't do it for myself but for a friend who is studying Spanish.

This helps you to use audio to learn vocabulary by both listening and reading. In order for this to work, you can't do it just occasionally. You have to do regular, DAILY, listening- until it becomes automatic. If you can't deal with news- all of the telenovelas on the telemundo website and over the air have both accurate Spanish subs and English sub translations. The news is a good way to learn a lot of varied vocabulary and it often gets repeated as stories cycle over time. It is also extensive reading, especially with a parallel text. Extensive reading is a great way to learn a lot of vocabulary in a natural context.

So to sum up- audio with accurate transcripts, subtitles; Daily listening; Make your own parallel texts; and it's going to take a while- months. As long as you keep at it and don't give up, you'll get there. The problem with many learners is that listening is hard and takes time to train and reading is easier. Human nature is such that we tend not to seek to do the hard things in life. So, as a consequence, listening often comes harder for many to get good at simply because they don't do it enough.

Good luck, and again, welcome to the forum.
Last edited by iguanamon on Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:46 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby Serpent » Wed Dec 16, 2015 5:47 pm

Great advice my iguanamon as always :D
I really love lyricstraining, and some other of my favourites are GLOSS, albalearning, http://soundsofspeech.uiowa.edu/ (there's also a mobile app for the phonetics).
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby Hank » Thu Dec 17, 2015 12:40 am

Thank you for the quick, informative replies!

Apparently I'm on the right track. I started out with (and still use) Duolingo, but I realized that Duolingo alone wasn't going to take me as far as I want to go. I use most of your suggestions in one form or another. I didn't even read about them, but apparently I'm not the trailblazer that I think I am. :lol: I found the information in the link to the other forum very useful and interesting.

I didn't realize that the Telemundo and Univision websites have streaming with subtitles.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby James29 » Thu Dec 17, 2015 2:10 am

Hank wrote:Hello all! I have been lurking for a while, and I decided to jump in and start participating.

I have been studying Spanish for four months. Part of my study routine is to listen to native Spanish speakers, either on television, movies, or videos on the internet. Sometimes I can understand the general topic that is being discussed, but for the most part it still sounds like gibberish with a few words that I recognize. I suspect that my limited vocabulary is the biggest issue. Does anyone have advice on learning to understand native speakers of a new language? Any kind of language learning advice would also be appreciated.

I have wanted to learn another language for many years, and I'm having a great time. I'm looking forward to the day I can watch a TeleNovela and understand it clearly, or read a book written in Spanish without consulting a Spanish/English dictionary so often. I'm also excited about being able to converse with my Spanish speaking friends in their native language.


Welcome to the forum. You seem to have very good instincts. It takes a lot of vocabulary to understand native material. Understanding native conversations is one of the most difficult things to do. Don't get discouraged. Most people who start off by jumping right into native material end up quitting because the native material sounds like gibberish for so long they get discouraged. They don't realize how long it takes to learn a language.

Iguanamon is right... it takes a long time and you really, really need to have comprehensible input. Daily use of the language is critical. With just four months of study I would suggest you build up a decent foundation of vocabulary and try to get comfortable with the structure of the language. Working through a good course is the best thing to get you started down the road to your goal. Do native material on the side. Pick out something like Assimil (not Latin American, but probably the best option) or Living Language's Ultimate Beginner/Intermediate course (a great option for Latin American Spanish).

If you really want Telenovela-ish stuff try Extr@ Spanish or Destinos. They will be much more comprehensible than regular telenovelas and you will learn MUCH more for the amount of time you put in.

The good courses are designed to effectively and efficiently give you the exact foundation you need to take the next step into native materials. The courses are designed by experts to give you a decent amount of the most common vocabulary and the most important grammar. The audio is clear and professionally recorded so, at first, you can really focus on understanding and learning the language. Later you will be glad you built a good solid base as you will learn MUCH faster with native materials if you have already spent time working through a good course like Assimil.

The other good thing about a course is it really gives some sense of productivity and achievement. You will be able to see and objectively note your learning accomplishments. The other side of this coin is that some people do WAY too many beginner courses (like I did). Courses "trick" you into feeling like you are learning more of the language than you really are.

Good luck. Ask many of questions. Most important, trust your instincts and do what you think is FUN. You must enjoy the process in order to be successful.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby solocricket » Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:34 pm

As others have said, comprehensible input is good-- I'd recommend mixing in some children's shows or cartoons if you can find them. They speak more clearly, and they're quite funny (there are plenty of Latin American Spanish dubs of Phineas and Ferb and others on YouTube!). Other than that, it really just takes a lot of time. If you were starting Spanish from scratch-- without experience from another Romance language, for example-- it'll take more than four months. But keep listening, make it a part of your daily routine, and things will clear up soon!
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby Hank » Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:32 am

I'm not worried about frustration. I have always been the kind of person that enjoys the journey more than the destination. Frustration is just a part of it. What I worry about is reaching a level of fluency that I'm happy with and losing interest.

The predominant advice here seems to be to pay attention to shows for beginners or children. This seems like sound advice. Putting this advice to use, I started watching the animated El Chavo program today. The childlike voices took some getting used to, but once I got past that it went well. Especially since the actions of the characters was so closely related to the dialogue.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby Tomás » Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:29 pm

iguanamon wrote:Also, I would start listening to the news with a transcript. There is a pay site called "news in slow Spanish" that some members find helpful but there are also a couple of free alternatives: NHK World Spanish. This is the real thing- intended for native-speakers. Yes, it's from Japan and the news has a Japanese focus in addition to international news, but the speakers are native Spanish-speakers. Here's what's good about NHK for training listening- there is an accurate transcript . Scroll to the bottom of the page and click- "Escuchar" or "Podcast RSS" to listen and click on the first article. Then you must click on each individual article to read while listening. NHK is also available in many other languages with accurate transcripts: including French, Portuguese; Indonesian, Russian, Persian, Hindi, Thai, Mandarin- etc.


Are they still doing this? I could not find the relevant links to audio or transcripts on any of today's news stories.
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Re: Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish

Postby iguanamon » Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:45 pm

NHK is up seven days a week, however; you have to remember that Japan is about 13 hours ahead of US EST. There's a certain window of time during the day on NHK when the transcript and the audio may not match because of the time zone difference. Check back tomorrow morning (US time). Democracy Now takes the weekends off- weekdays only.
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