language learning | my journey to fluency in Spanish - prt. 2
Amara Amaryah | travel + books + poetry, always poetry. a platform for story-telling, visuals, positive self-talk and empowerment | language learning
here for the linguists amongst us. as you'll know, i am continuing to learn spanish and get fluent for free. i come bearing new tips so if you haven't already, you should slide over to read my first post on learning spanish for free. i've definitely noticed that my desire and skills for learning spanish have intensified. it is a pretty natural progression because i've been coming up with new ways to bring spanish into my day-to-day and... i'm even starting to annoy myself with it. in other words,
my spanish is getting better!
in this post i share what phase two of learning a language (for free) could should would look like for you.
know your learning style
have you asked yourself what kind of a learner you are? to go that extra mile and make fluency less stressful, knowing your learning style is a cute and kind thing to discover:
visual - needing to see the language, will often take notes, pays attention to facial expression when learning
auditory - needs to hear the language, will pay attention to tone and pace of the voice
kinaesthetic - needs to move around to embody the language, needs interactive involvement when learning
as a visual learner, writing things down and reading the language before or whilst i hear it helps me massively. consider your learning style and assess how you might effectively retain your new language.
and now for my language learning tips (actually vamos).
i have been talking to myself. a lot. having one-way conversations while i cook dinner and making jokes, having debates and interviewing myself (very fun). i felt weird at first but i do this a lot in english anyway. i live alone and i have loads of thoughts that live in my head so, to get out of my head, i talk things out. this could be saying out loud all the things i need to do tonight, it could be talking about how i am preparing my food and explaining why i am doing things the way that i am, it could even be responding to things as you watch them.
although it feels bizarre at first, i recommend this because you'll find out which words you're not familiar with and it will encourage you to draw for the vocabulary that you'd need. in my mind, it prepares me to have richer conversations with native speakers where i can express exactly what i mean rather than being limited and a little unprepared.
i have also been fortunate enough to practice on the phone with cuban friends which has helped me boost my confidence. in part one i shared some apps that allow you to connect with native speakers if you're in need of some.
also, since i am sharing, my favourite fellow spanish-learner and polyglot babe indira, sent this to me and it has helped me think about the physical work to achieve native-sounding spanish. check out this post, courtesy of shut up and go. one user commented that "[this] trains the tongue to stay around the alveolar ridge instead of the teeth which in turn would make some accents clearer". super duper interesting.
this leads on very nicely to my work to improve my vocabulary. my spanish dictionary has a new easy-to-reach home and when ever i want to practice or translate i have normalised reaching for the dictionary. you'd be surprised at the mini obstacles and excuses the mind makes, the little changes make the difference.
i have been following the tips from nathaniel drew on his 7 day journey to fluency in italian. this method is perfect if you have time to dedicate because it is 1) intense 2) immersive and 3) completely inspiring if we're just being real. in 7 days nathaniel immerses himself in italian and ends the challenge with a conversation with a native italian speaker. one thing, nathaniel does have a decent knowledge of italian already so it is worth keeping that in mind. the process is useful irrelevant of your level. essentially, i borrowed the idea of learning the top 100 most commonly used words in spanish so that i always have those in my bank. i already knew most of those because of my previous a-level studies so i moved on to the next set of advanced words that native speakers use commonly. memrise was my go-to source for this.
memrise has been a useful online resource for learning each of my assigned words slowly (even though nathaniel did it in 7 days, i am moving slowly through the method) and i use speed reviews and tests to help commit the words to my memory. memrise has a free option (as well as other paid options) which works perfectly for my goals. i think that the desktop version is great for this vocab activity but for other short videos and opportunities to see spanish in action, definitely download memrise as an app (still free).
beyond that, i'm still writing down vocabulary form netflix shows and youtubers and still translating texts that relate to topics i am interested in. i recommend doing this from english to spanish. this is something you can alter to your level, if you're a beginner maybe make the effort to translate a few key words that you may want in your bank. maybe translate a phrase. if you're not entirely there with your grammar then simplify it (maybe focus on the present simple or past simple tense). i think this is a great way to engage with topics you're interested in. whilst in córdoba last year, a translator recommended that i translate news stories so that i can talk about current affairs and get everyday phrases.
i invested in the Nissenberg Complete Spanish Grammar (third edition) book to help me be in the practice of conjugating in a more structured manner. i am glad that i didn't delve immediately back into grammar because i've been spending the last few months seeing what i remembered naturally. now i can focus on certain chapters and irregular rules to get more confident.
listening (and reading):
over the last few months i have been drawn to improving my listening and speaking skills. in my previous post i mentioned how my reading and writing skills have always been easy for me to lean into (as a writer) so this is a first for me. my listening skills have always needed more work, all through my gcse's and a-levels i remember getting through reading, writing and speaking tests with e a s e but my listening skills were… diferente.
in the last few months i have found ways of making listening practice manageable, dare i say enjoyable, so i had to share:
i have always been in the practice of listening to spanish music. this time i have had the lyrics up to be able to listen and read at the same time. a song i have been rinsing for a while has been Nena by Yendry (which has beautiful lyricism and meaning - see here). it is nice to be able to get a deeper understanding of metaphors and to be able to catch phrases hidden in rhythms.
i have also been watching 'cook with me' or 'grocery shop with me' tutorials in spanish. being able to get everyday supermarket language has been a useful and an interesting way to practice vocabulary and listening. my favourite polyglot youtuber is miss urban eve and her cooking tutorials are a joy. other tutorials could be makeup tutorials, room tours and film/series reviews.
finally, listen to music with slow singing to ease you in. reggaeton is always great but to be able to catch words (and to learn lyrics), starting with slow songs has helped me. i am an old soul so coming across new yoriquen salsa singer willie colon and the track 'que lio' has been great for me (and my neighbours). i know most of the lyrics and feel confident to move around to similar songs to catch on to (mainly puerto rican and cuban) salsa cuban lyricism. it also helps with understanding culture and the music is generally greater than anything and makes me feel like i am in a cafe somewhere tropical where the coffee will floor you and the sun is showing off midday, so there is that.
thanks for reading what i write. leave your tips and thoughts below and share with a friend learning a language.