Help me get better at Spanish?

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rlpowell
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Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby rlpowell » Wed Aug 28, 2019 5:22 am

Hi! I've been studying Spanish for a while, mostly flashcards and Duolingo but also some spanishpod101.com . I don't know how to measure my skills effectively, but when reading most texts I only need to stop for vocabulary or particularly tricky idiomatic phrases; I typically look something up every 3-4 sentences (again, mostly vocab). Good enough to start reading some books maybe, but:

My verbal comprehension is *terrible*. I basically can't understand anything being said when native speakers are talking; I get maybe 1 word in 8. My speaking ability is also not great. I'd really like to get better with those. Unfortunately, I have surprisingly few chances to practice with Spanish speakers, despite living in California.

I would especially like ways to practice these things purely auditorily, like when doing the dishes or whatever.

I grabbed Pimsleur, and I find level 4 comfortable, but I've seen that at least some people here say not to do Pimsleur past about level 2. I really enjoy the format, though; I'm very very much an auditory learner.

I've been trying to watch TV in Spanish, mostly translated stuff but some native, and it's really hard; I mostly just can't follow what's being said at the rate people are speaking, even if I could understand it written.

I guess my questions are as follows:

1. Should I be using a commercial language learning program, or is it time to just dive into Spanish media? If a commercial program is appropriate, what would people suggest?
2. Given how hard verbal Spanish is for me, should I be trying to consume TV I mostly can't understand? If so, should I be doing it with captions or just trying to understand the speech by itself?

I'll accept any other tips, of course.

Thank you!
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby Cenwalh » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:51 am

I cannot recommend the YouTube channel Dreaming Spanish enough for increasing spoken Spanish comprehension. He speaks slowly, draws pictures or makes gestures for concepts not likely to be known, and has different difficulty levels so pick the one you find fits your level.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby Dragon27 » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:02 am

Not being able to understand spoken language is a typical problem for beginning learners, because they learn the language primarily through written texts, dictionaries, etc. But you claim to be an auditory learner and this usually entails learning primarily through audio materials, and in that case there shouldn't be that much of a gap between your reading and your listening comprehension. Have you used audiobooks (maybe, simplifed for language learners), all-spanish podcasts for learners, etc?

Anyway, the only way to develop your listening comprehension (so that you can watch Spanish TV and understand most of it) is to listen to lots and lots of hours of Spanish speech. If you can't just jump into authentic native material, there should be plenty of intermediate stuff. You should find the material that is interesting to you and is slightly (or not so slightly) above your level (so that you won't lose your motivation from boredom or frustration) and consume it regularly (consistency is key) and in large quantities. And then just keep increasing the difficulty until you're at the level you're satisfied with.

I'm not a big fan of commercial language learning programs like Pimsleur, FSI, etc., so I can't give you any advice on that. I usually start with authentic audio as soon as possible. TV (especially movies, TV series are usually a bit easier to get used too) is usually somewhere on the higher end of the difficulty scale, so you might try to set that aside for later. Documentary movies (like, for example, nature documentaries) are usually easier to understand; the narrator's speech is often clear and with great enunciation. Same goes for audiobooks. On the other hand, authentic audiobooks have more complicated vocabulary and sentence structure than regular speech (because they are, well, books). There's a famous listening-reading method (or simply L-R) to learn language through audiobooks, but it's not for everyone.

Another great source of free listening is Youtube, of course. There's myriads of spanish-language channels with all sorts and categories of content. Science, gaming, entertainment, travel-vlogging, etc. You can use channel crawler (or any site with similar functionality) to help you search through those, or just enter any query into the search field of Youtube.

I can recommend Espanol Automatico channel. It's more difficult than usual beginner listening stuff, but less difficult than native, non-learner-oriented podcasts, so it can work as a way to transition yourself to a more advanced level.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:58 pm

I'm pretty sure the only one here who says not to do Pimsleur past level 2 is Speakeasy. I generally defer to his encyclopedic knowledge of language learning materials, but on that one issue I disagree. Pimsleur is excellent all the way up to level 5, and if you have access to it there's no reason not to use it, especially since you seem to like it.

Listening to Spanish TV is a good way to improve your listening comprehension, but it can take a while to see results so try not to get frustrated. If would be able to understand it if it were written, and you know the basic pronunciation rules, then you'll be able to understand it spoken... eventually. I think the news is the best thing to watch, because it's the closest you'll get to "textbook" pronunciation, and it may cover events you're already familiar with, which will give you an advantage.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby tungemål » Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:15 pm

I can recommend:
https://spanishlistening.org/
http://videoele.com/

You can find audio/video at different levels, and with a transcript! Very useful.

To answer your question 2: If you mostly don't understand it, I don't think it is much point in listening to it. You need material that is on your level - that is, you can comprehend most of it. Listen first (without captions) trying to get the meaning, then check the captions or the transcript for the bits you didn't get.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:44 pm

Deinonysus wrote:I'm pretty sure the only one here who says not to do Pimsleur past level 2 is Speakeasy...
La pluie de vos injures n’atteint pas la parapluie de mon indifference.*

Continuing the digression -- and trying to ignore the unrestrained aggression, sniff, sniff -- a bit of clarification of Speakeasy’s position on the use of Pimsleur might be of some help to the reader. Speakeasy has completed the entire Pimsleur programme for every language that he has studied. Without question, he fully enjoyed the experience and he continues to highly recommend this language-learning product. He fully recognizes that the beginning student will continue to learn much about the basic structure of the target language beyond Level II of the programme. Going further, he asserts that even the lower-intermediate student would benefit from revisiting Pimsleur IV and V as a means of consolidating some of what they have learned in more advanced programmes. In fact, this type of study is really quite enjoyable, it is akin to watching the movie Casablanca for 146th time.

Now then, with the respect to Speakeasy’s supposed “not to do Pimsleur past level 2” recommendation, this advice has frequently been offered in the context of a beginner’s questions concerning the use of several language courses more-or-less concurrently. In such cases, Speakeasy recommends that one begin with Pimsleur I and II and then switch to a more intensive programme such as Assimil, FSI/DLI, Linguaphone, and so on. Having completed, say, the first half of one of these complementary language-learning methods, Speakeasy recommends that the beginning study take a pause, complete Pimsleur III, and then return to the more intensive programme. The procedure continues up to the highest level of Pimsleur. He has found that this jumping back-and-forth between the Pimsleur programme and the more intensive programmes breaks the tediousness of the former and allows the student to better appreciate and to fully exploit the Pimsleur method.

*The rain of your insults does not touch the umbrella of my indifference.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby iguanamon » Wed Aug 28, 2019 3:46 pm

Welcome to the forum, rlpowell. Yes, you can learn Spanish on your own but you may have to rely a bit less on web based learning.
Deinonysus wrote:I'm pretty sure the only one here who says not to do Pimsleur past level 2 is Speakeasy. I generally defer to his encyclopedic knowledge of language learning materials, but on that one issue I disagree. Pimsleur is excellent all the way up to level 5, and if you have access to it there's no reason not to use it, especially since you seem to like it.
Listening to Spanish TV is a good way to improve your listening comprehension, but it can take a while to see results so try not to get frustrated. If would be able to understand it if it were written, and you know the basic pronunciation rules, then you'll be able to understand it spoken... eventually. I think the news is the best thing to watch, because it's the closest you'll get to "textbook" pronunciation, and it may cover events you're already familiar with, which will give you an advantage.

I completely agree. Pimsleur will not teach you a lot of vocabulary, but if you say the phrases during the provided pauses , the course will do what it is best at, give you good pronunciation and help make production come easier.

There are many ways to use the news and there are some free options available. I don't really have time to go into great detail right now as we are dealing with an oncoming hurricane here on the island. Have a look at my post here Understanding spoken Latin American Spanish, which explains what I would say.

Also, consider doing a more thorough text and audio course for Spanish- Assimil, FSI Programmatic, even Berlitz self-teacher, Teach Yourself, Colloquial, something a little more thorough than duolinguo. Also, look at doing Clozemaster Spanish in your spare time. Destinos is a great way to supplement any text/audio based course.

Finally, work on grammar. Knowing the conjugations and gender agreement are critical in learning Spanish. It's important. It will definitely help and should not be neglected. Also, check out our Spanish Group here on the forum. Lastly, think about starting a log here so you can get help from more experienced learners along the way.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Aug 28, 2019 5:20 pm

Speakeasy wrote:
Deinonysus wrote:I'm pretty sure the only one here who says not to do Pimsleur past level 2 is Speakeasy...
La pluie de vos injures n’atteint pas la parapluie de mon indifference.*

Continuing the digression -- and trying to ignore the unrestrained aggression, sniff, sniff -- a bit of clarification of Speakeasy’s position on the use of Pimsleur might be of some help to the reader. Speakeasy has completed the entire Pimsleur programme for every language that he has studied. Without question, he fully enjoyed the experience and he continues to highly recommend this language-learning product. He fully recognizes that the beginning student will continue to learn much about the basic structure of the target language beyond Level II of the programme. Going further, he asserts that even the lower-intermediate student would benefit from revisiting Pimsleur IV and V as a means of consolidating some of what they have learned in more advanced programmes. In fact, this type of study is really quite enjoyable, it is akin to watching the movie Casablanca for 146th time.

Now then, with the respect to Speakeasy’s supposed “not to do Pimsleur past level 2” recommendation, this advice has frequently been offered in the context of a beginner’s questions concerning the use of several language courses more-or-less concurrently. In such cases, Speakeasy recommends that one begin with Pimsleur I and II and then switch to a more intensive programme such as Assimil, FSI/DLI, Linguaphone, and so on. Having completed, say, the first half of one of these complementary language-learning methods, Speakeasy recommends that the beginning study take a pause, complete Pimsleur III, and then return to the more intensive programme. The procedure continues up to the highest level of Pimsleur. He has found that this jumping back-and-forth between the Pimsleur programme and the more intensive programmes breaks the tediousness of the former and allows the student to better appreciate and to fully exploit the Pimsleur method.

*The rain of your insults does not touch the umbrella of my indifference.
Deinonysus means no offense to Speakeasy and enjoys his posts very much, particularly the ones on classic language learning materials! Il ne pleut pas d'injures !

Deinonysus appreciates the clarification that Speakeasy only recommends that beginners take a break from Pimsleur after the second unit, and perhaps return to the more advanced units later on. But Deinonysus still respectfully disagrees and thinks that if someone wants to do Pimsleur, they should do it all at once. Deinonysus is beginning to tackle FSI Basic French and he's glad that he finished Pimsleur, Duolingo, and most of Assimil first, because it's pretty intense!

Perhaps Deinonysus' order may be too slow for a more advanced or experienced learner, but it suits Deinonysus just fine.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:44 pm

Speakeasy acknowledges the vast experience in language-learning upon which Deinonysus can readily draw at will and further appreciates his often very thoughtful recommendations to others. Deinonysus is recognized as being one of the great contributors to the forum and, for what it is worth, he enjoys Speakeasy’s full support.

Deinonysus’ recommendations concerning the appropriate use of the Pimsleur materials are shared by many, if not most, experienced members of the forum. Speakeasy is fully aware that his own recommendations concerning Pimsleur make him somewhat of an outlier, a status of which he generally began to take notice around the age of four. Things haven't changed much since then.

On a more personal level, Speakeasy offers his apologies to Deinonysus for having feigned taking offense. He recognizes that none was meant and reaffirms that none was taken; Speakeasy was merely playing the fool. This should not be taken as a sign of Speaking's ageing, he has been this way all his life.

EDITED:
Typos. Again, and again, and ...
Last edited by Speakeasy on Wed Aug 28, 2019 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help me get better at Spanish?

Postby rdearman » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:52 pm

Is there some sort of contest to speak in the 3rd person which I haven't been told about?
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