Posted by: Anni Orekh | July 15, 2010

Learning Spanish as an adult ( part 2)

What and how to learn

 Adults tend to learn a language by comparing it to their native language. They often want to know why something is said a certain way in the new language, and tend to be frustrated by the usual response “that’s just the way it is.” On the other hand, adults have an important advantage in that they choose to learn a language for some reason (travel, work, interest) and being interested in learning something is very helpful in one’s ability to actually learn it.

The bottom line is that it is not impossible for anyone to learn Spanish, no matter what their age. I’ve received emails from adults of all ages who are learning Spanish –  It’s never too late!

Here are some guidelines that can help you learn Spanish as an adult.

Be realistic
I once had a student in an adult ed. class who thought he could learn Spanish along with 2 other languages in one year. She had a terrible time during the first few classes, and then dropped. The moral? She had unreasonable expectations, and when she found out that Spanish was not going to magically flow out of his mouth, she gave up. If she had been realistic, committed herself to one language, and practiced regularly, she could have learned a lot.

Have fun
Make your French learning interesting. Instead of just studying the language with books, try reading, watching TV/movies, listening to music – whatever interests you and keeps you motivated.

Reward yourself
The first time you remember that difficult vocabulary word, treat yourself to a croissant and café au lait. When you remember to use the subjunctive correctly, take in a French film. When you’re ready, take a trip to France and put your French to the real test.

Have a goal
If you get discouraged, remember why you want to learn. That goal should help you concentrate and stay inspired.

Track your progress
Keep a journal with dates and exercises to make notes about your progress: Finally understand pasado compuesto vs imperfecto o pluscuamperfecto ! Remembered conjugations for venir! Then you can look back over these milestones when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

Don’t stress over mistakes
It’s normal to make mistakes, and in the beginning you’re better off getting several sentences out in mediocre Spanish than just two perfect words. If you ask someone to correct you all the time, you will get frustrated.

Don’t ask why
There are lots of things about Spanish that you’re going to wonder about – why things are said a certain way, why you can’t say something another way. When you first start learning is not the time to try to figure this out. As you learn Spanish, you will start to understand some of them, and others you can ask about later.

Don’t translate word for word
Spanish is not just English with different words – it is a different language with its own rules, exceptions, and idiosyncracies. You must learn to understand and translate concepts and ideas rather than just words.

Don’t overdo it
You’re not going to be fluent in a week, a month, or even a year (unless maybe if you’re living in Spain or spanish speaking Latin american country). Learning Spanish is a journey, just like life. There is no magical point where everything is perfect – you learn some, you forget some, you learn some more. Practice makes perfect, but practicing for four hours a day might be overkill.

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