learning Spanish fast
June 11, 2010 9:40 AM   Subscribe

What is the fastest way to learn Spanish?

I could potentially be spending several months in a Spanish-speaking country, starting several months from now. I have taken several Spanish classes over the years, and have enough Spanish that I can communicate in a rudimentary way - enough to order in a restaurant or maybe to explain how to get somewhere to a Spanish-speaking person or whatnot, but not enough to have any kind of nuanced conversation. I'd like to try to get my Spanish up as much as possible before I leave. What have you had the most luck with - I'm open to classes, tapes, online resources, watching Novelas on TV, whatever.
posted by serazin to Education (15 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Live Mocha is the standard rec around here for online stuff. I'm not sure if you'd be too advanced for the lessons, but you will be able to be connected with native speakers that can converse with you.
posted by Think_Long at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2010

Read to get the vocabulary. What a lot of Univision to get the listening comprehension. Once you're on the ground, provided you stay away from English speakers, you'll be improving at a really fast rate if you have a solid foundation of vocabulary and a trained ear.
posted by falameufilho at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2010

Reading a newspaper online from the country you're going to should be a huge help with vocabulary. Newspapers are usually written at a fairly easy-to-understand level, too. And it'll help get you up on current events there.

Which country would this be?
posted by veggieboy at 10:00 AM on June 11, 2010

Best answer: serazin: " I'm open to classes, tapes, online resources, watching Novelas on TV, whatever."

All of that, at the same time. Inmersion is the best way to learn a language and, even if you aren't in a spanish-talking country right now, you can fake it.

Watch movies and series in (or dubbed) Spanish (using subtitles in English at first then in Spanish to help you follow the dialogue), use youtube in spanish, listen to music and podcasts, read news in spanish, join a discussion board to practice, use livemocha, get some friends to talk to in spanish through skype or something, make a blog, translate your Operating System, and so on. Every little thing helps and can make a difference in the long run.
posted by Memo at 10:03 AM on June 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

A friend whose Spanish was pretty close to nonexistent moved to Argentina recently. In the months before he went, he was very disciplined about using the Rosetta Stone CDs he bought. And which he returned (for a refund, scroll down) within six months. They didn't make him fluent, but he was able to communicate fairly easily when he arrived in Buenos Aires.
posted by rtha at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2010

Vocabulary you can pick up by osmosis. Verb vonjugation is HARD, and you have to study it. I wouldn't bother with a course, though. Flashcards are the best way, assuming you are a self motivated person. I would focus first on the present tense, the praeterite, the perfect, and the compound future. The conditional, subjunctive, proper future etc are hard, and aren't essential if you just want to be understood.
posted by randomstriker at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2010

I've been volunteering to teach English one night a week. The vast majority of the students are recent Mexican immigrants. If you did something like this, you would use whatever Spanish you already know so much you'd get a lot more fluid very quickly. It might be an especially nice complement to whatever else you're doing, as the students won't expect great Spanish from you (you're there to teach English, after all) and you can ask them questions about Spanish.
posted by deadweightloss at 10:45 AM on June 11, 2010

Have you taken a foreign language before? What worked?

For me flash cards and other schemes not involving a human being are basically worthless; worse, they create a mental map between the L2 language and the L1 native language which impedes learning. Interacting with a human allows me to learn very quickly and without much in the way of study (at least for the language itself; for Chinese and Japanese substantial effort is needed to learn the writing system).

So if you are like me, ignore the above and do a few 4-or-6 hours per weekend classes.
posted by rr at 11:37 AM on June 11, 2010

My inner geek is showing, but I recommend the websites for the major international shortwave broadcasters. Check out the BBC (England), DW (Germany), or RNW (Holland), to give three examples. These have websites, articles, and podcasts in English and Spanish (as well as Thai, German, Korean, Arabic, and so on) so that you can read and listen to the same article or feature in both languages to help your comprehension. And it's all about current events, so it'll keep your interest.

As noted previously on metafilter, the BBC no longer broadcasts via shortwave to the US, but fortunately we have the intertubes.
posted by math at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


mnemosyne has been invaluable for me to broaden my spanish vocab fast, daily. its a killer open source piece of software. i only recommend it as a supplementary tool though.
posted by talljamal at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2010

Traditionally, anecdotal evidence has suggested that the fastest path to learning a foreign language is to date a speaker of said language.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:10 PM on June 11, 2010

What seems to be working for me is to find interesting material in Spanish: magazines, books, etc., but emphasis on interesting; otherwise there's no way I'd get through them.

I learned English as a kid by reading Nintendo Power.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:28 PM on June 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips folks! I'll come back and mark some best answers after I try some of these strategies for a bit.
posted by serazin at 9:50 PM on June 12, 2010

Remembersaurus's spanish flash cards are useful for getting all of your basic vocabulary completely solid. Keeping all of the vocabulary straight in my head is usually my biggest problem when learning a language.
posted by comwiz at 5:13 PM on September 3, 2010

Response by poster: Hey folks, I've tried to implement most of the suggestions in this thread including livemocha, reading various sources in Spanish, listening to Spanish etc. . I guess the "best answer" is doing it all at once, but all the suggestions have been helpful and although I can't really describe the process as fast, I do feel that I'm making consistent progress.

The other resource I've been using but that isn't mentioned here (but which I'll just say for the posterity of the thread) is Destinos, the oh-so-80s telecourse.

Anyhow, Thank you all!
posted by serazin at 9:21 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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