Learning a Second Language as an Adult
December 31, 2017 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I’m an English-only speaker who has relatively recently begun working for a multinational corporation. This year I’d like to learn to read and understand spoken Spanish. I have the Duolingo app, which is already helping a lot. But what should I do after that?

Rosetta Stone? Take community college classes? Check out Spanish books from the library? Is it even reasonable for someone to gain basic proficiency in a second language at 41? All tips welcome!
posted by something something to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Start watching spanish-language television and movies. Start with english closed-captioning on, and after a while try it without the closed captioning.
posted by erst at 11:13 AM on December 31, 2017

While it is not free, I have found News in Slow Spanish, available in Latino and European versions, very helpful for comprehension and vocabulary.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 11:16 AM on December 31, 2017

Duolingo just announced a Spanish podcast as well.

I think finding a community college class would be good, and/or look for meetups to practice speaking.
posted by mogget at 11:25 AM on December 31, 2017

fluency fast - best adult-learner language acquisition modality.

i did a 4day spanish immersion. it was great.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:54 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

And I’d be happy to have a Spanish newbie buddy. I went with the great courses and pimsleur which is on audible. Plus duolingo and some books. It’s been slow.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

the pedagogy i noted above, for fluency fast, is called tprs.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:26 PM on December 31, 2017

Yes, I'd recommend taking classes (in person) at a community college. It's hard to replicate the level of concentrated effort that a college class will force you to make. Also, if you're in an area with a large Latinx population, you will probably find that there are a lot of native speakers in those classes, particularly at the higher levels. A lot of people grow up speaking Spanish but never really learn the orthography because they only ever use English at school, so they come back later in life to improve writing skills and grammar.
posted by desert outpost at 12:30 PM on December 31, 2017

If your community college has it, I think classes are a great idea. Having a real live teacher to ask questions, and assignments to keep you on target are worth it to me. (Personally I find that an app I can do 'any time' means that I will never get around to it. But obviously YMMV) And a teacher should have connections to other resources in your area to help.

Once you have a little groundwork, find someone to talk with in Spanish. Language has to be used!! Nothing helps like actually having conversations. I haven't used it myself, but I've seen others talk about MyLanguageExchange, which helps people connect as pen-pals, chat, or voice partners.
posted by Caravantea at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

It’s harder at 41 but people do it. Depending on your proficiency when you finish duolinguo, I’d say a couple of things that might help are:

1) take a class with a conversation section. In learning a living language, there is no substitute for interaction with a human being

2) check out the app News in Slow Spanish and see if it’s at your level. Jumping right into actual media with its real time speech speed and informal language may throw you for a loop.

Rosetta Stone...eh, I’ve never been a fan but YMMV.
posted by Smearcase at 1:57 PM on December 31, 2017

I'm in the position of wanting to maintain fluency in a number of languages, and I've found watching television shows to be invaluable. For Spanish, telenovelas will be helpful to get your ear used to conversational Spanish, while the news will expose you to less colloquial language use. Reading the news is helpful for re-inforcing vocabulary knowledge.

You might want to check out the various Spanish language conversation Meetup groups in the area.

But do think about your own learning style, what previously worked and didn't work for you when you tried to learn a foreign language. For example, I know in my case, repeated exposure is what I need, and trying to learn grammar only frustrates me. My brain picks up patterns in language through repeated exposure. So at the moment I seem to be unintentionally picking up Japanese from regularly watching anime, when I haven't actually been trying to learn Japanese.

But your learning style may be different, and a different approach may work better for you.
posted by research monkey at 5:14 PM on December 31, 2017

This app is currently under development. The method is fast, effective and fun once you understand the principles behind it.
posted by onecircleaday at 8:01 PM on December 31, 2017

Definitely classes, to keep you moving forward and give you the chance to speak and think in Spanish. They also let you learn from others’ questions that might not have occurred to you, and force you to keep working on your weaker skills rather than avoiding them.

I think doing as many different things as you can is ideal, so throw whatever appeals from TV, podcasts, a language cafe, app, Spanish websites, language exchange, that you think you will keep up with, all the while making your classes the centre of your learning.

I like the Notes in Spanish podcast, which offers several levels. They also have related worksheets, though they’re a bit pricey so I haven’t tried them.
posted by penguin pie at 3:16 AM on January 1, 2018

there's a strong language-learner community online that has useful stuff for motivation, understanding the journey and seeing different techniques.

Olly Richards has good advice and writes about learning Spanish on your own - good way to see what kind of process it is. He also facilitates a facebook group that has lots of good advice on.

I find this summary by Lydia Machova on general advice for learning languages really great.

My own perspective: it's totally doable, but it always takes more time than you think. It's hard for someone doing this the first time to understand the different stages in language learning. A year might not be enough for your goal, unless you give a lot of time for it.

So based on that, the tips are: find something you enjoy, otherwise you won't put in the time you need to. Try to do some of it most days. Get people or some system that you get corrections, so you can improve.

Focus on the areas you actually want to know - i.e. if you want it for your workplace, learn business-related terms from day 1. Most textbooks/courses start with something generic like ordering food from a restaurant - for me, this is a waste of time, unless that's what you actually want to do.

Good luck!
posted by squishles at 3:33 AM on January 1, 2018

Ask a Spanish speaking co-worker if you can practice Spanish with them by speaking/emailing/iming exclusively in spanish
posted by watrlily at 12:02 AM on January 2, 2018

Go to your library and see what books and audio courses they have. I'm lucky to have a well-stocked library with Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, Living Language, and other courses; yours might have some good stuff as well.

In particular, look for readers, like maybe the Easy Spanish Reader or this First Spanish Reader - and see if they have any children's books you like in Spanish, like Un Grillo en Times Square. You might find Spanish for Reading useful.

Also, the A Mi Aire podcast is good and has full transcripts.

Community college classes are great if you can make the time. There's a great intro level college course online called Destinos.

It is definitely possible to gain basic proficiency in a second language in your 40s. You can talk about your progress and challenges over at the Language Learners' Forum.

Buena suerte - and have fun!
posted by kristi at 10:39 AM on January 4, 2018

« Older What does getting an auto salvage title mean to me...   |   Give my tshirt new life Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.