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United States
Joined 2071 days ago

85 posts - 107 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 Message 1 of 9
04 April 2015 at 7:39pm | IP Logged 
*Before I introduce myself, I do have a question about merging accounts? Whom should I contact? I created a profile, which must have been flawed, and purchased pro membership with it. Although I now have pro membership, my flawed profile has not been approved and so I cannot use its features. I created a new profile so that I could communicate with all of you and figure out how to fix it.*

Hello! It's my first entry on this site. I'd seen many language blogs referring to How To Learn Any Language (or HTLAL), but I had't actually spent some quality time looking at it until now. What an amazing resource! And what an impressive group you all are! I feel like a complete slouch after reading some of your logs.

A little about me. I'm a 44 year old school psychologist living and working in Southern California. I grew up here. When I was little, our TV picked up some channels from Tijuana. I used to watch telenovelas during the summer and found them fascinating. What did that lady say to make everyone look so shocked? Why did she run out of the room, crying? My family took trips to Baja from time to time and I fell in love with the culture and language.

My education in Spanish has been spotty. In high school, my Spanish classes were taught almost entirely in English and I left them without being able to say much of anything. I was totally unprepared for my college classes, which took the instruction up a few notches. During my first week in university level Spanish, more than one person said, "No offense, but your accent is really bad." Imagine speaking Spanish with a Valley Girl accent and you'll get the idea. At 19, I participated in a 10 week beginning immersion program in Mexico that rocked my world. Loved it there! My ability to speak and understand Spanish grew tons. If my course of study would have allowed it, I would have gone back for an entire year.

I've had a few immersion experiences since my first one at 19, though none of them have been over 5 weeks. I've also gone on vacation to several Latin American countries. I've been to Mexico many times. But I find it difficult to get over the intermediate hump. The subjunctive remains a mysterious world somewhere off in the distance. When I travel, I can communicate and get my needs met. I can carry on conversations with locals if they don't speak too fast and we don't talk about abstract topics. At work, I can convey basic messages to parents, but I feel like I sound like a Neanderthal.

About two weeks ago, I had another push to start my studies again. I was speaking to a family in Spanish and could not remember how to conjugate a simple word. I died a little inside. My goal is to be able to speak and understand almost everything when I work with parents and students. I would also like to watch Spanish movies and TV shows without subtitles. The good thing about working in education and living in Southern California is that I've been loaned or given lots of good Spanish learning materials.   

My resources
Pimsleur IV (and eventually Pimsleur V - once I get off the library’s waiting list)
Speaking Spanish Like Crazy (all levels)
Practice Makes Perfect (verbs, prepositions, subjunctive)
A few DVDs of Mexican telenovelas (with English subtitles)
An assortment of Spanish Learning books I’ve collected over the years (e.g., 501 Spanish Verbs, Spanish dictionaries and textbooks.)

So here's the plan so far.

*Listen to Pimsleur, Spanish Like Crazy, or Platiquemos from 30-60 minutes, 5 days a week. I drive to several different school sites during the week. I have Pimsleur and Speaking Spanish like Crazy on my USB in the car. Depending on my schedule, I can listen from 30 minutes to 90 minutes in a single day.

*15 minutes a day in a Practice Makes Perfect Book or something like it

*120 minutes a week with a Skype tutor

*15 minutes a day watching a telenovela or another show in Spanish or 15 minutes a day reading in Spanish.     

*10 minutes on my Anki vocabulary deck

*Take every opportunity I can to speak Spanish with Spanish speakers. Learning to speak a 2nd language can be humbling and I just have to get over my fear of bothering people.

My questions:

Is this overly ambitious? Or maybe not ambitious enough? Like the rest of you, I have a busy schedule and some days can be exhausting. I don't want to over-commit.
Sometimes I'm not sure where to start because my Spanish proficiency feels like Swiss cheese - developed in some areas, but lots of holes in others. Any advice from other Swiss-cheese language learners?

Also, how common is the vosotros conjugation? All of my education has been in Latin American, mostly Mexican Spanish, so the vosotros form hasn''t been emphasized in oral communication. I understand in other countries (e.g., Spain, Colombia, etc.) it's used all the time. How often does one hear vosotros in TV programs or movies from other parts of the world?   Would omitting it create a huge gap in my general ability?

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 3811 days ago

2224 posts - 6708 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 Message 2 of 9
05 April 2015 at 12:49am | IP Logged 
Welcome to the forum, Clarity! There are many opinions about learning languages here. Obviously, I have one too. It has been many years ago since I stopped actively learning Spanish. Funny that the materials haven't changed all that much in that time.

I wrote about my language-learning philosophy in a post called The multi-track approach. In short, yes, I think you need to pare down your resources a bit. I'd pair one audio course with either FSI/Platiquemos/Assimil. Instead of watching a telenovela with English subtitles, at your current level, I'd watch the 52 episode telenovela series designed for learners- Destinos. It's free online. You don't need the books. At the end of the 52 episode series you'll be surprised at how much Spanish you will have learned. After you reach a solid intermediate level, delve into the telenovela but forget the English subs. The rest of my advice is in my post link above.

The main thing about learning any language is consistency. You need to be consistent and persistent. Obviously, there will be times when you can't be consistent but being persistent will keep you in the game until you can be consistent. The more consistency you have the more you will want to be consistent. It becomes a habit.

There are so many resources available for learning Spanish out there for English-speakers that it is very easy to overload yourself. More courses aren't the answer. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because you have a lot of resources you must use them all. By paring down your resources, you will be much more efficient and less likely to burn out, in my opinion.

A good tutor can really help. I did that with Portuguese. I used the time for conversation and correction. It also helped me to work on my weaknesses. You have to use the time with your tutor wisely. Try not to use it for something you can do on your own.

I also recommend starting a log. Have a look at emk's log, Stelle's log and James29's log. Having a log lets you express your consistency, successes and frustrations to people who have been there before and can give you advice along the way. A log can also help to keep you honest with yourself. Good luck in your studies and, again, welcome to the forum.

Edited by iguanamon on 05 April 2015 at 5:28am

3 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 2071 days ago

85 posts - 107 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 Message 3 of 9
05 April 2015 at 5:02am | IP Logged 
Thanks so much for your insightful advice, Iguanamon! I really appreciate it. I read your multi-track strategy and thought it made a lot of sense. I am one of those people who tend to worry about understanding everything. I've been watching some youtube clips of a few popular telenovelas without English subtitles. I get the basic gist of it, but I agree that watching Destinos would be a better place to start to get more comprehensible input. Your thoughts on consistency are spot on as well. In all honesty, I struggle with this and I do think a log would help me. It's funny you should mention paring down my resources because I was having similar thoughts yesterday. Where to start? What to do? How to divide my time? It was a bit overwhelming, really. For example, if I decide to use Platiquemos as part of my learning plan, I will most likely be listening to the audio files in my car. Would it be confusing to use another audio course (e.g., Pimsleur or Learning Spanish Like Crazy) along with it? I haven't tried it yet so maybe it wouldn't be an issue at all. Again, thanks your help and for stopping by to welcome me to the forum. Great bunch of people here!         & nbsp;         & nbsp;        
1 person has voted this message useful

Super Polyglot
Joined 5252 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 Message 4 of 9
06 April 2015 at 10:41pm | IP Logged 
There is no way the moderators can transfer your pro status to your new account, and the Administrator, who might be able to do it, doesn't participate in the day-to-day running of the place. Sometimes an account can be revived, but I can't see the name of your previous account above - that would be the first condition for making an attempt.

Edited by Iversen on 07 April 2015 at 3:05am

2 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 2071 days ago

85 posts - 107 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 Message 5 of 9
06 April 2015 at 11:07pm | IP Logged 
Thanks Iversen! You cleared up a lot and I just sent you a PM.    
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 3924 days ago

1265 posts - 2113 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: French

 Message 6 of 9
06 April 2015 at 11:30pm | IP Logged 
Welcome to the forum. I suggest doing FSI/Platiquemos. Do the lesson with the text on the weekend and then do the audio in the car during the week. You are at a level where I think working through FSI would be great. I think of Pimsleur as more for absolute beginners and I think you are past that. FSI will review everything you would cover in Pimsleur so I'd just stick with FSI. It is very do-able as an all audio course if you do each lesson with the text the first time or two.

Another tv type show you might want to look at is Extr@ Spanish. It is a much more entertaining free learning telenovela.

Regarding the vosotros conjugations... it is not hard to be able to understand them when they are written or you hear them. If you do Assimil you will get familiar with them. I have found that being able to understand them and being able to use them is a lot different. If you can understand them you will be totally fine because you never need to be able to use vosotros. Everyone in the world will understand the ustedes conjugations. That's the basic default strategy I use with vosotros. Don't confuse vosotros, however, with the vos form which is another issue. With vos I recommend the same thing... be able to understand it, but you should be fine everywhere in the world using tu instead of vos. Later on it may make sense to be able to use vosotros/vos forms, but now there are much more things to worry about.

Good luck. Don't hesitate to ask anyone questions... there are tons of members who offer great advice.    
2 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 2071 days ago

85 posts - 107 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 Message 7 of 9
07 April 2015 at 2:23am | IP Logged 
James29, thank you so much for stopping by and welcoming me. Based on your and Iguanamon's suggestions, I've copied my Platiquemos program onto my laptop. I'll be transferring the audio files to a USB within the next few days. I'm tempted to try out FSI, just because 1961 diplomat Spanish seems like a hoot. I'm a huge fan of quirky. But I think Platiquemos might work better in my car and it's what I have in manageable mp3 files right now.

I began watching Extr@ after reading one of your log entries. Saw the whole dang series within a few days! And then couldn't resist seeing a little bit of the French and British version of the show. Did you know they use the same actor to play the American in the French and German versions of Extr@? I suspect he isn't from the U.S., though. ;) And the actor who played Pablo in the Spanish production plays the rich foreigner in the British production? As you can see, I had lots of fun with it.

I was very interested to read what you had to say about the vosotros form. I'm glad to know that I can use usted as a default if I travel to Spain or Colombia. Since my goal is to communicate with families in my area, the vosotros form isn't high up on the list of priorities. I definitely have bigger fish to fry.

I see that you are now conquering French! How wonderful! Do you find it easier to learn since you've learned Spanish? It's a distant, very distant goal to feel confident enough in Spanish one day to start French. I visited Quebec two years ago and just loved it there. I discovered poutine and savory waffles. And boy did their French sound melodious!

Thanks again for your suggestions and advice. This really is a great site to share one's language learning journey.     
1 person has voted this message useful

NoneRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2079 days ago

22 posts - 29 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 Message 8 of 9
07 April 2015 at 6:14am | IP Logged 
Hi Clarity! Nice to meet you. I grew up in Southern California too! What a fun connection.
I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and got A's but hardly learning anything. ha ha.
Enjoy your language learning journey!

1 person has voted this message useful

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