I want to speak Spanish ... again ... while driving
May 4, 2010 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Spanish was my minor in college (4 years high school + 3 years college) and I was able to speak pretty fluently for a non-native speaker. However, 12 years later and with little opportunity to speak Spanish, I find my skills are pretty bad. Though I can still speak Spanish I find I am very slow and need people to talk slowly. Also my Spanish reading skills are quite diminished. I remember a lot of vocabulary though my verb conjugation is pretty bad. I now find myself commuting 1.5 hours a day (each way) so I was thinking this might be a good time to bring my skills back up to par. How effective are "Learning Spanish" audio books from the viewpoint of someone who used to be able to speak fairly good Spanish (like me!)? Any recommendations? Thanks.
posted by mountainfrog to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I had the exact same experience with French, some years ago. Immersion in a French-speaking location for a couple of days brought it all back for me; when you have no choice but to function in the second language, skills get honed back up quick.

Can you stream Spanish TV or radio? Or load a player with an audiobook in spanish?
posted by LN at 6:29 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also recommend watching movies (with no subtitles) in addition to audio books, Spanish Rosetta may be able to help and I have seen friends (who were native speakers of the language and later forgot) brush up using those tapes before going to their native countries.
posted by The1andonly at 6:37 AM on May 4, 2010

Pimsleur has a bunch of tapes/CDs that are really, really good, although they're targeted at beginners. However, I think that Volume II (maybe starting halfway through) or Volume III would get you up to speed quickly. My library has them (in Latin American and continental versions). My son was fairly fluent and he found Vol III good practice.
My library also has Spanish novels on tape & CD for after you get back in the flow.

Is there Univision on your cable?
posted by MtDewd at 7:48 AM on May 4, 2010

Seconding Pimsleur--I learned a little Japanese with their CDs while commuting. When I went to Japan, the friend with whom I was traveling (who spoke Japanese) heard me ask for a bottle of water on a train while she was half-asleep, and later complimented my work in the matter. I was probably prouder of myself than I should have been.

However, you might also consider just absorbing Spanish-language media. Get some podcasts or radio shows for your commute, read Spanish articles online, and so forth. I've never attained the level of proficiency in a foreign language that you have, but I believe people who have say that it's easier to regain it than to acquire it in the first place. The "riding a bike" simile isn't quite on point, as it does take a decent effort (which could be or include the total-immersion route that LN took), but I understand it's close.

¡Buena suerte!
posted by tellumo at 8:35 AM on May 4, 2010

Thirding Pimsleur. I studied Spanish in high school, college, and independently and only when I did Pimsleur did any of it become functional. There's something about speaking silly sentences aloud over and over that makes things sink in. It helped my accent tremendously too.
posted by chrchr at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2010

I am going to suggest you steer clear of the "learning Spanish" audio books and look instead for audio books that are in Spanish, which a native Spanish speaker might use for their commute. They don't have to be from Spanish writers - Harry Potter has been translated into Spanish and is available as an audio book, as are many other popular books. In fact, maybe it's a good idea to start with a book you have read in English and get that as an audio book in Spanish. That way, you'll have the gist of the story already in mind and you can concentrate on the vocabulary and accents. If your commute is such where you are not actually driving, you can read along in a paper copy of the book too.

I really found the "learning Spanish" CDs to be way too easy, and I'm not anywhere close to being fluent.
posted by CathyG at 11:18 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with CathyG. Go for audio books. Go for real Spanish language materials made for native Spanish language speakers that you find interesting. You like sci-fi? Get some Spanish-language sci-fi. Etc. If you used to be somewhat fluent, then you will pick things up fair faster than you think--trust me.

You're going to get bored of the language tapes really quickly (especially if you already have some skill--I'm sure you've forgotten less than you think), they are stupidly expensive, and in the end won't get you anywhere close to fluency anyways. Take it from someone who has gone through all 90 of the Pimsleur Comprehensive Japanese lessons.

Also, check this site out for more ideas.
posted by dubitable at 1:59 PM on May 4, 2010

I always found that watching Mexican soap operas or other telenovelas was helpful in improving my grammar and verb conjugation... something about all those dramatic monologues. =P
posted by kaudio at 6:52 AM on May 5, 2010

Seconding CathyG and dubitable - I've found the Pimsleur stuff to be terrific, but if you want to get closer to fluency again, you want immersion. (And with 90 minutes each way, you'll have a chance to immerse yourself a couple of times a day.)

When I started language classes in college, they were all conducted completely in the target language. For the first week, I felt lost. By the second week, it was fine. Diving into a language in a way that's a bit beyond your abilities can help you improve immensely in a short time.

So, if you want some materials in Spanish, permit me to direct you to Librivox. That link has dozens of free downloads in Spanish, from Cervantes to Lope de Vega to Jose Marti. Your library probably has some other recordings. (A lot of libraries have "The Little Prince" in several different languages.)

In addition, there are almost certainly Spanish podcasts covering some topic of interest to you. Download a bunch and load them up before your work week.

posted by kristi at 11:00 AM on May 5, 2010

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