Getting better at Spanish this summer
June 3, 2012 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Best ways to enhance college Spanish in New York City this summer?

What are good ways for a college sophomore-to-be to continue to learn Spanish over the summer?

This individual has taken one year of college Spanish (in addition to basic Spanish in high school) and plans to take two more semesters this coming academic year, followed by a semester of study abroad junior year in a Spanish-speaking country, where the classes will be taught in Spanish (and all reading will be in Spanish (mucho gulp-o)).

Now he's off for the summer and in New York City. What could he do to amplify his knowledge of both spoken and written Spanish in the next three months? He would not want to take courses for credit but might enroll in a part-time language course at a language school (any recommendations?).

He can certainly do some reading on his own, but, like many of us, works better with external structure and feedback (yet needs a break from the intense academic pressure he has just undergone during his freshman year). So -- something a little *fun* where Spanish speaking *and* reading are involved?

(no travel involved, though, and we would like not to bankrupt ourselves here)

posted by DMelanogaster to Education (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
New World Spanish or Old World Spanish? If you want to learn Spanish as spoken in Central America or Mexico, you could get a job in any kitchen, washing dishes, etc. Not elegant, literary Spanish, but Spanish-immersion, complete with slang and profanity.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:11 AM on June 3, 2012

Watch Spanish language movies without looking at the subtitles.
posted by brujita at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2012

Yeah, you'll learn more useful, real-life spanish in one summer in a restaurant kitchen than you would in a full year of spanish classes.
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 AM on June 3, 2012

Best answer: Huh, I've neve heard anyone distinguish between old world and new world Spanish before..

My advice would be for him to limit himself to only reading and watching and listening to things in Spanish - but to make it as pleasant as possible so that it's not work. So, for example, he can watch anything he wants on Netflix, but he has to watch it in Spanish (or muted with Spanish subtitles). He can re-read the Harry Potter books or other easy, entertaining, pretty mindless stuff, but only in Spanish. Get him to look up the askme threads about recommendations for good Spanish music and have him only listen to Spanish music. Podcasts? In Spanish. Audiobooks? In Spanish. Change the language on gmail and facebook and everything to Spanish so that he sees it everyday (make sure he remembers how to change it back).

It sounds like he might get burned out if he has to do a lot of "work" on this over the summer, so my priority would be to make it fun. He doesn't need to learn everything before the school year starts.
posted by ke rose ne at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2012

New World vs Old World is roughly akin to US English vs. British English. If working in a kitchen doesn't appeal, you could try volunteering with immigrants or Spanish-speaking kids.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:40 AM on June 3, 2012

Not NYC-specific, but do some sort of volunteer work within a Hispanic community! Here in Atlanta, a large nonprofit serving Hispanic folks holds (among many other things) a Spanish-English conversation hour where people help each other learn their respective languages...if we have one, surely New York does in spades.
posted by threeants at 10:03 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: threeants, I have no idea how one finds something like that in NYC. It sounds ideal.
posted by DMelanogaster at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2012

(Sorry for the derail: I meant that that I guess I don't really see how it's a helpful distinction for language learning. British English means a lot of different dialects, as does American English. Spanish is probably even more varied.)
It would be helpful to know which country this person is going to, though. And it's worth a heads up that almost all Spanish dubbing in Spain is done with a Castilian accent, and dubbing in South America is usually done in either a Mexican or Colombian accent. If he is going to somewhere like Argentina, Chile, Mexico, or the South of Spain, we might be able to give more specific pointers.
posted by ke rose ne at 10:07 AM on June 3, 2012

New York has a HUGE Spanish-speaking community, and because of this partial immersion is weirdly easy. For instance, just this morning on the subway I was reading Spanish-language PSAs out of boredom. The word for "risk" is "riesgo". Huh, who knew?

Here are some bigger and smaller ideas for making the most of this opportunity:

* if he has a choice of where in the city to live, pick a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, for instance Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Actively use Spanish where possible in talking with neighbors, using local services, etc.

* opt to use ATMs and other automated services in Spanish (this will almost always be an option).

* read local Spanish newspapers like El Diario.

* take Spanish-language tours of local tourist sights.

* attend lectures, events, or classes given in Spanish. Not Spanish language study but cultural events catered towards local Spanish speakers. There must be a Spanish or Latin American equivalent of Goethe Haus, L'alliance Francais, etc.

There are TONS of nonprofits that work with the Spanish-speaking community in New York, and where Spanish language skills would be useful. He should use Idealist to find something that might work for him - maybe use "bilingual" or "Spanish" as a keyword?
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a few Spanish Language Meetups in NYC. I've not gone to any of them so can't tell you if they're good, but it seems like a good resource.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2012

He should look for a romantic partner who speaks Spanish and wants to also spend lots of time talking with him in Spanish. It is the best tried and true method: motivation becomes high, direct positive feedback complete with awesome rewards, someone to teach you the little intricacies of the language, etc. He can write the romantic partner love letters or just everyday notes if he wants to improve his writing, too.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 12:22 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely hang out (or ideally live) in an area with a good Spanish-speaking population: Washington Heights, Inwood, Spanish Harlem, the South Slope in Brooklyn...

Definitely agree with the recommendation for part-time bilingual volunteer work. If he's into the arts he should consider a little volunteering for NOMAA, a great bilingual arts service organization.
posted by lorimer at 12:38 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, weighing in on the Castillian vs. Latin American thing, yes, there are pretty substantial differences. Most courses will specifically lean in one direction or the other (at least, in my experience studying Spanish in high school and college), and there are differences in terms of everyday use on the ground in a Spanish-speaking country. I was actually corrected by locals when I let Castilian tinges slip into my Spanish during a visit to Peru.

If OP/this mysterious third party plans to study abroad in Spain, while getting a little Spanish immersion in New York might be interesting, it probably won't be helpful for communicating with people in Spain. But I happen to think that almost any language learning will get the right parts of the brain working, especially in terms of listening. Besides, if you can understand Spanish as spoken on the streets of New York, you can understand it anywhere.
posted by Sara C. at 2:12 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not only is there differences between Castillian and Latin American, but there are variations used in the different areas of Spain as are there variations among the Latin American countries. Luckily, NYC is cultural melting pot so you'll almost certainly encounter lots of these variations if you seek out Spanish in the city.

NYPL holds Mango Language Labs, which includes Spanish. The next one is in June.

For other opportunities, be sure to search not only under "Spanish," but also "Hispanic" and "Latino." Can he get in touch with his Spanish professor? They might have connections in NYC for him.
posted by asciident at 6:48 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

There must be a Spanish or Latin American equivalent of Goethe Haus, L'alliance Francais, etc.

Yep, those would include the Queen Sofia Institute and the Instituto Cervantes.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 7:42 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My Spanish professor suggested, when asked the same question, that I read/watch things in Spanish as much as possible - with the caveat that (and I too have just completed two semesters of college Spanish) I read/watch things I already knew, so that I wouldn't get bogged down in the plot and could really pick up the language. Seems less immersive, but I've found at my level I pick up many more linguistic nuance that way. Worth a shot!
posted by R a c h e l at 11:58 PM on June 3, 2012

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