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Fri Dec 9, 2011, 10:14 PM

I have a Spanish final in six days

Spanish 2. We've learned preterite, imperfect, and subjunctive, along with a raft of vocab.

I'm most concerned with the writing assignments on the finals. I've done well with the writing assignments so far, but they were done at home with a dictionary. Three 60 word paragraphs.

I do very well with vocabulary and basic grammar, but I have a block with speaking and writing, especially the Mexican accent my teacher has. Very thick. I have, I think learned to distinguish his V's and B's.

I've found that those of us who went to high school in the early 80's or before have no issues with subjunctive case, because we learned it in school as formal English. But they now only teach indicative case, apparently. That's a shame.

(Did you know they don't teach students how to diagram sentences anymore? Diagramming is the best way to learn proper grammar, I believe.)

Any tips on getting the fluency block conquered? I have Spanish 3 next semester, and am terrified. It's apparently total immersion, no English spoken at all.

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Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply I have a Spanish final in six days (Original post)
lazarus Dec 2011 OP
Starboard Tack Dec 2011 #1
lazarus Dec 2011 #2
Starboard Tack Dec 2011 #3
USA_1 Dec 2011 #16
lazarus Jan 2012 #18
USA_1 Jan 2012 #19
lazarus Jan 2012 #20
doc03 Dec 2011 #4
Igel Dec 2011 #5
lazarus Dec 2011 #6
TuxedoKat Dec 2011 #7
lazarus Dec 2011 #10
beac Dec 2011 #8
lazarus Dec 2011 #11
Odin2005 Dec 2011 #9
lazarus Dec 2011 #12
Odin2005 Dec 2011 #13
lazarus Dec 2011 #14
Lydia Leftcoast Dec 2011 #15
Capitalocracy Jan 2012 #17

Response to lazarus (Original post)

Fri Dec 9, 2011, 10:28 PM

1. Immersion is the key. That's how you learned your first language.

Sounds like you have a good grounding in grammar and vocabulary. That's your toolbox. Now you need to learn how the tools are used. If you have a Spanish speaking community available to you, spend as much time as possible there. Same with TV, radio and newspapers. Forget English. Stop trying to translate and you will start thinking in Spanish. That's how children do it. Listen and repeat.

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Response to Starboard Tack (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 9, 2011, 10:39 PM

2. I definitely have a Spanish speaking community here

Over half the people in San Diego speak Spanish. That's one reason I'm learning it. (The big reason is literature. I want to read Don Quixote and One Hundred Years of Solitude in the original.)

Time to turn on the Spanish TV. I've heard children's shows are good to start.

Thanks.

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Response to lazarus (Reply #2)

Fri Dec 9, 2011, 10:50 PM

3. Children's shows are excellent

Also comic books, and school books Spanish kids use.

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Response to lazarus (Reply #2)

Tue Dec 27, 2011, 12:43 AM

16. Don Q In the Origin Spanish Is VERY Difficult

 

I am a Latino and gave up trying to read it - Castellano (the correct word for the Spanish language) at that time was more difficult to read than Shakesperean English. You will have n choice but to keep a large dictionary of ancient words in order to translate them. Otherwise, the story won't make any sense. And that was my problem - many of those words are not used anymore and I was not familiar with them. After a while, going to the dictionary got very tiring!

I don't usually have that problem with modern Spanish.

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Response to USA_1 (Reply #16)

Thu Jan 5, 2012, 09:15 PM

18. I love going to the dictionary

one of my favourite authors is Stephen R Donaldson (fantasy, mostly). Most of his stuff is advanced, but his Covenant books are ridiculous. He delights in finding the 5th definition of an obscure word that hasn't been used in 200 years, yet it fits perfectly.

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Response to lazarus (Reply #18)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 12:48 AM

19. Terrific!

 

Glad to know you are eager to meet this very daunting challenge of reading Cervantes in 16th century Castellano. Perhaps you may also want to read The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities which was written while Cervantes was in his youth. It is a shorter book and funnier though not as well known.

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Response to USA_1 (Reply #19)

Fri Jan 6, 2012, 01:47 PM

20. I will look for it, then, when i'm ready to tackle this admittedly steep mountain of a read

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Response to lazarus (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 12:08 AM

4. The only class I ever failed n/t

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Response to lazarus (Original post)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 11:41 AM

5. Some pointers.

First, most Spanish speakers do not have a difference between /b/ and /v/. It's like saying that you can distinguish a Bostonian's /s/ and "soft c" or his /k/ and "hard c."

The two sounds merged for nearly all Spanish dialects over a century ago, and longer ago for some. Just like <z> and <s> merged (/ / = sound, < > = letter).

Second, Spanish subjunctive is very much not the English subjunctive. It's used (in Spanish) in all sorts of places where it's not used (and possibly has never been used) in English. And, formerly and formally, we use it in English in some places where it sounds bad in Spanish.

Third, two things really matter for learning to speak.

The first thing is inhibition. Kids learn to speak and make lots of mistakes as they figure things out. They have no inhibitions. The old advice to have a shot of whiskey is actually one to "lower your inhibitions." Don't worry about making mistakes. Most of us have a little voice that monitors what we're saying when we're anxious or self-conscious. Turn it off (easier said than done). Most Americans are inhibited because we somehow feel silly speaking a language that we don't see a need for and have seldom heard.

That "monitor" thingy is obnoxious. Kids don't have it. It can help train us in the language faster than kids learn language, but it needs to be controled. Otherwise it helps with slow speech but ultimately sabotages any attempt at fluency.

The second thing is how badly you want to speak, your motivation. It's easier to learn to speak in an immersion class because English isn't an option. If you want to speak you find a way. You puzzle out how to explain how you're related to your mother's cousin's sister's husband if you feel you have a need to do so--you sort through the words you have, the grammar, and voila--there's your sentence. If you need to go to the bathroom and the teacher refuses to acknowledge, "I need to go to the bathroom" you will find a way. Wanting to somehow "be like" the speakers of the target language also matters. If somebody looks down on Germans as Jew killers they're not likely to much care about German culture or want to "be like" Germans. If you think of them as the bearers of the culture of Bach and Goethe and Grass then, well, there's a motivation for learning the language. Most Americans simply don't see a need for a foreign language and we feel that English is always the better choice. (This separates out the serious learners from those who want to "be in solidarity" in some obscure, abstract sense of the word.)

The problem is getting inhibitions lowered and motivation up in time to practice over the next 4-5 days. In Russian class we were told to read something or produce a vocabulary list, get a stopwatch and then talk to the wall on that topic for so many minutes a day. The wall isn't going to embarrass you, your monitor will shut up, and your mouth (and brain) gets the practice. We were also told to find things that we thought mattered, but this was in a more advanced class--early stages you're stuck with "Please, Mr. Gonzalez, where is the bathroom?" and "My name is Jean-Pavel Yitzhak bin Rahim, I have a reservation."

It was the same with writing. We had to write a lot--just practice. Some things were graded in gory detail and we were to re-write them until we had no mistakes; others just got a check. Either way, there was no downside--we practice and that's it, or we practice and we're told what to fix, no penalty. On rare occasion the initial draft was graded, sometimes we were warned sometimes we weren't. The point: Our little monitor voice shut off for that, too. We blathered on paper and got over our collective writer's block.

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Response to Igel (Reply #5)

Sat Dec 10, 2011, 02:18 PM

6. thank you

I think what I meant with the subjunctive wasn't so much a one-to-one translation, but rather a frame of mind about a new case. English these days seems to be purely indicative. Young people today say, "I wish I was at the beach," instead of, "I wish I were at the beach." I've had no issues learning to use subjunctive in Spanish. I aced that part of the last exam.

The monitor thing is spot on. I'm going to spend the next few days just writing and speaking. I've already watched some children's programs with the closed captioning on to get a feel for the language.

I'm very motivated to speak and, especially, read Spanish. I think the English Only mentality is provincial and small-minded. Most of the people I interact with here in San Diego are native Spanish speakers. I would love to be able to interact with them on their turf, so to speak.

Oh, and on the "B" vs "V" thing, I just meant I'm able to tell when each is called for. Mostly. It almost seems that it's the opposite sound from what's written, if that makes sense.

Thank you again for your reply, you've helped me a great deal.

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Response to lazarus (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 12:45 PM

7. Here are some tips

First get yourself some Spanish music. Little kid music is good because the words are sometimes more repetitive. Someone told me once that the area of the brain that processes music also does language so you are getting a double benefit there. Linda Ronstadt put out some great CDs of Mexican ballads in the '80s that are great, Canciones de Mi Padre and Mas Canciones (the words are easy to understand). A good one for kids' songs is Diez Deditos by Juan Luiz Orozco (you can find in on Amazon) of maybe you can find them on i-Tunes too. Funny thing is you don't always have to be paying attention to get the benefits, so go ahead and play them in the background while you are sleeping too if you want to. I used to play Chinese children's songs for my kids in the car and would get lost in my own thoughts while driving them. Chinese is a hard language to speak and read without sounding hesitant. Everyone was having that problem in my class but one day I could suddenly read and speak Chinese with the right cadence, I was pretty amazed and so was everyone else in the class and I have to give the credit to that Chinese music. Something similar happened with French, my mom used to play French albums of various French singers every day (drove us crazy as kids) but one day after a few months of struggling with French (our whole class was frustrated again) something just clicked and I could understand the teacher's spoken French much better and other French speakers on tape too. Again, the class was amazed I was doing something they couldn't do...

Second, I would do more writing in the language. I don't think teachers nowadays have kids do enough writing where they have to think in the target language. The best exercises for me were when teachers would give us sentences in English and we had to write them in the target language. I don't know where you can find exercises like this. You can sign up for Spanish-Word-a-Day and then will send you a new vocabulary word each day used in a sentence though, I think that would be helpful too, then to write down the sentence in a notebook. Here's a few but there are alot more:

http://www.spanish-word-a-day.com/

http://www.braser.com/spanword.php

http://www.spanishwordoftheday.com/

Good Luck with your final!

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Response to TuxedoKat (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 05:59 PM

10. just bought the Ronstadt CDs

Can't afford the other one just yet, but will get them next weekend. This could help.

Plus, I love her voice!

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Response to lazarus (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:32 PM

8. I study Italian- a close relative of Spanish. I do fine with speaking, but writing is always a

challenge, probably b/c I began learning aurally when we lived there and I have a hard time abandoning the phonetic spellings I imagined as I was learning.

I couldn't agree with you more about diagramming sentences! Hated it when in school, but it really is the best way to make grammar an ingrained part of ones language skills. I'm not sure I could still tell you all the rules, but I can just "hear" when the grammar is wrong in a sentence.

As for help with fluency, have you tried watching movies in Spanish with the English subtitles on and vice versa? Alas, I can't do this much in the States b/c Italian isn't a common subtitle choice here (used to rent flicks w/English subtitles in Italy), but you should have lots of options w/Spanish. Reading one language while hearing in the other really helped me to get comfortable with phrasing. You might try Spanish language soap operas, if you have those channels w/your TV service. Soaps feature lots of repetition and simple, universal plot lines. And, of course, there's youtube.

Good luck!

(and know that if you ever go to Italy, you can speak Spanish there and probably get your message across about 75% of the time! )

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Response to beac (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 06:02 PM

11. I've started watching children's shows

in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. As I said, I can read Spanish a lot better than I can understand it spoken. I have to hit the dictionary every five minutes or so, but it's helping.

I'll try a film I know well next.

I wish I had been doing this all along. I have an A in the class, but I feel as if I'm behind. Some of that is that we have a lot of native Spanish speakers in class. Turns out I'm doing quite well.

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Response to lazarus (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:50 PM

9. As another poster stated, listen to Spanish-language music.

As for the subjunctive, I'm lucky in that I speak a fairly conservative upper-midwestern dialect that still has the Subjunctive.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 06:04 PM

12. it's lost in California

Last edited Sun Dec 11, 2011, 06:50 PM - Edit history (1)

and the deep south. Too fancified, I guess.

I asked the head of my daughter's school what in the world they teach kids now that they don't have time to teach handwriting, Home Ec, shop, diagramming sentences, etc. He really didn't have much besides computers.

Like kids won't learn computers anywhere but school.

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Response to lazarus (Reply #12)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 06:36 PM

13. Geez!

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Response to lazarus (Original post)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 08:14 PM

14. update

At the last minute, I figured out my block on writing those essays. I had been pre-writing them and trying to remember them. I was also making them as complex as the sentences I normally write in English.

Instead, I wrote short, simple sentences in English, then easily translated them into Spanish. Perfecto!

I think I did okay. Keeping track of three verb cases (preterite, imperfect, present subjunctive) was tough, and my pors and paras have always given me fits, but I feel confident I did enough to finish with an A in the class.

I'm currently taking a break for a few days (overload!), then will go back to consuming Spanish TV shows to work on my spoken fluency. Thanks to everyone for the help.

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Response to lazarus (Reply #14)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 11:23 PM

15. My hints as a former language teacher

1. Don't be afraid. That's the number one inhibitor. My best students ever were Malaysians, because all of them are at minimum bilingual (English and Malay are required in school) and often trilingual or quadrilingual (especially if they're from the Chinese or Tamil minorities). Their attitude toward Japanese was, "Meh, it's just another language," and they actively tried to use it whenever possible. They were the only students who would try to speak Japanese to me outside of class.

2. Watch Spanish TV with the closed captioning on. I did that before going to Cuba, and it was a great review. (Very few people in Cuba speak English, and even those who speak it don't speak very well.)

3. Read something that you're interested in: something about a hobby or interest of yours, a novel of the type you like, a magazine

4. Try speaking Spanish when you run into Latino people.

5. Yes, listen to music. When I was studying German and couldn't remember what case something was supposed to be in, I'd sometimes remember a fragment of a song that had exactly the right phrase in it to tell me, "Oh yes, that preoposition takes the dative case..."

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Response to lazarus (Reply #14)

Tue Jan 3, 2012, 03:47 PM

17. Something that helped me was watching shows I was familiar with dubbed in Spanish

The Simpsons, in particular. I learned a lot watching episodes where I already knew what happened, but dubbed in Spanish.

Buena suerte!

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