Best way to learn Spanish
March 2, 2005 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I minored in Spanish in college about 10 years ago, but remember very little of it. Just went to Tijuana to and had the opportunity to be immersed in the language and culture for 5 days. A lot of it came back and I was able to communicate .. now I have a huge desire to be bilingual. I'm back in Tennessee now ( where I live ) and won't be able to go back to Mexico for awhile. Whats the best way to learn to speak fluent Spanish in Tennessee? More classes? Books? Tapes ? I don't have any Spanish-speaking friends.. any ideas ? Is it even possible ?
posted by jason9009 to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The best way to learn another language is to have something you care about that you can't do in English. That's not always easy though. Maybe you should fall in love with a monolingual Spanish speaker.

More realistically, find a conversation partner, see if you can get Spanish language soap operas on cable, or find some Spanish kids' books or comics to read. I know a few people who swear by the Spanish translation of the Harry Potter books, if you remember enough to make it through those.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:02 PM on March 2, 2005

For reading, practice your Spanish by reading a lot of Spanish literature. Start with children's books or ones targeted for young adults and work your way up to the classics. There are also books with side-by-side translations - I've seen some Pablo Neruda poetry books like these - which would be extremely useful for someone in your position.

For speaking/hearing, rent a lot of Spanish movies with English subtitles. Practice associating the written form with the spoken form. It will be hard at first because fluent Spanish-speakers talk fast but eventually you'll reach the level where you can turn the subtitles off comfortably and understand the whole thing. The upside to this is that there are a lot of great Spanish movies out there, so it should be fun!
posted by Lush at 5:42 PM on March 2, 2005

Are you anywhere near a college town? You might be able to find opportunities to learn and practice there. I also second nebulawindphone's suggestion about Spanish TV. It trains your ear to the way people really speak, and you can train your ear to understand different accents and usages (Mexico vs. Argentina, Colombia, Chile). Same goes for movies- Netflix is your friend.

Reading Spanish-language online content can be great practice as well. Most major newspapers from Mexico and Latin America, as well as Spain, have their content available online.

And I'll pass along one more piece of language study advice: "a shared pillow is the best dictionary."

Good luck!
posted by ambrosia at 5:47 PM on March 2, 2005

Along the lines of what ambrosia suggests, see if there are any Spanish-speaking groups (probably from a university) that meet in your area. When I was getting my Spanish minor, por ejemplo, there were a group of people who would meet twice a month at the local Mexican restaurant and practice speaking. The immersion (along with a drink or two) really seemed to help me.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 8:40 PM on March 2, 2005

Where in Tennessee? has language groups--for example one group meets in Memphis and has 58 members, next meeting March 25th. Language groups are one of the unexpected features of meetup, according to the founder.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:23 PM on March 2, 2005

DVDs of Spanish films - turn on the Spanish subtitles at the same time so you can read it as you hear it. Also turn on the Spanish dubbing on English movies you know well and try to figure out what they're saying (something you can quote a lot of, like a comedy you watch often).

Spanish music. Find a radio stream you like, look up the songs you enjoy most, learn the lyrics and sing along. Play a Spanish radio station in the car.

Tutor someone in the basics. Going over and over the most basic stuff will ingrain it in your head until it becomes something you don't have to think about.

I second ambrosia's "shared pillow is the best dictionary" - it's very true.
posted by Melinika at 10:44 PM on March 2, 2005

I havent seen this suggested: Find a volunteer opportunity that puts you face to face with Spanish speaking people. I'm not sure how large the community is in Tennessee but in some areas there are literacy programs, training programs, etc. where they are looking for people who speak Spanish at all levels.

Having to actually engage people in Spanish on a frequent basis is the best way to learn. Listening to Spanish on TV or radio is good but its too passive. I think those methods help you comprehend the language but they only take you half-way there. You still have to go through the struggle on your own of putting your ideas into words.
posted by vacapinta at 11:49 PM on March 2, 2005

These are all good suggestions - the idea is to immerse yourself in the language and listen to, read, write, speak and sing the langugage as often as you can.

The idea of acquiring a Spanish-speaking lover is a great idea, but beware of one possible pitfall. This past winter I've had some sort of bizarre dating streak and have kept meeting Polish men. I'm learning a little Polish this way, but sometimes suspect that it's a kind of love slave's version of Polish, i.e., one guy taught me to say yes in Polish but claimed I didn't need to learn to say no.
posted by orange swan at 5:59 AM on March 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Some more ideas in previous questions here and here and here. (there was an even better one very early but I can't find it....)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:27 AM on March 3, 2005

spanish-speaking lovers also have a habit of teaching you baby talk, which can be embarassing if you don't catch on.

if you majored in spanish then is it more a case of remembering what you forgot rather than learning anew? if so, and you're frustrated with beginners books, there's a new edition of don quijote just been published - they must have had a worldwide print run of zillions because it's a gorgeous hardback that's selling for cheaper than paperbacks.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:01 AM on March 3, 2005

In addition to all those other great suggestions, I've been watching Destinos.
I just got back from Mexico, and I'm amazed at how much their comprehension has improved. Last year when I was there I was convinced nobody in Mexico spoke any Spanish at all.
posted by Floydd at 7:50 AM on March 3, 2005

El Mariachi played on my campus movie channel recently. Great spanish-language film.
posted by lorrer at 10:19 AM on March 3, 2005

Your local Spanish channel will have horrible spanish soaps and game shows, but most offer the news once in a while. That will help a lot with the spoken-word part of bilingualism.
posted by honeydew at 11:55 AM on March 5, 2005

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