Category Archives: #Spanish

10 Ways to Learn a New Language Faster

I learned a new language at the age of 50, and here are some strategies from language experts that have helped me speak Spanish with hundreds of native speakers in various countries.

1. Learn a new language the same way you learned your first language:

  • Listen to native speakers often and for long periods of time.
  • Watch how they communicate.
  • Imitate what they say and how they say it, which may require using your face muscles, mouth and tongue in new ways to produce some new sounds so that you can be better understood.

2. Listen to content that is interesting and at your level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced).

3. Be happy, relaxed, and curious while learning, and be comfortable not understanding everything that you hear. Focus on understanding the general meaning of what is said, and not so much on understanding every word.

4. You should spend time every day learning if you want to learn fast, even if it is for only 15 minutes. If you go for days or weeks without contacting the language, your progress will slow to a crawl.

5. Ask native speakers for help, and in particular you should know how to say in your new language:

  • “Excuse me …”
  • “How could I (find/do/go to, etc.) …?”
  • “What is this?”
  • “How do you say …?”
  • “I don’t understand.”

6. Learn the 100 most common words in the language, then the 500 most common words, and by the time you learn the 1000 most common words you’ll understand 75% of daily conversations.

7. Speak from the first day you start learning a new language, and be willing to make many mistakes every day for the rest of your life communicating in your new language. Be creative and say things any way that you can, because having to say things in a roundabout way is both normal and essential.

8. Use all of your senses to learn the language by connecting words with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch. Have fun learning a new language!

9. In order to move from beginner to intermediate and then to an advanced level, you must develop the ability to speak using expressions of time and mood – past, present, future, and conditional verb tenses, and in some languages the subjunctive mood.

  • Beginners speak in the present tense, and learn to speak about the past and the future as they progress.
  • Intermediate speakers are much more comfortable speaking about the past, present, and future. They also learn to speak using conditional phrases that any native speaker uses commonly, for example: “I would keep doing things the way they have always been done, but I have an idea …” Another example: “If I were you, I would learn a new language because …”
  • Advanced speakers use various expressions of time and mood, and when they can do this like a native speaker, they speak like a native speaker speaks. The word “fluent” is hard to define, and I choose to believe that I have been speaking “fluently” since I reached intermediate level (which many people can reach in 3-6 months, but which took me a few years).

10. Find language coaches and teachers who (1) work at understanding you, (2) don’t correct every mistake you make, (3) demonstrate how to say things correctly, and (4) use words you understand or can learn.

It’s never too late to learn a new language, and not only is it good exercise for the mind, but it will enable you to discover and enjoy more places and people.

IMPORTANT! Chris Lonsdale’s insightful TEDx video is the inspiration behind much of this content, together with strategies that I have gleaned from various other sources as well as from my own experience teaching English as a second language. Watch the video of Chris at https://youtu.be/d0yGdNEWdn0

Also posted in #EFL, #ESL, #español, #learnenglish, #learnspanish, #teachESL, #TEFL, #TESOL

Consejos para una Vida Éxitosa

Cada persona cambia significamente durante la vida, y hoy día desde tengo casi 56 años, nada es más importante que vivir con propósito y el deseo de crear un mundo mejor. Por eso, tengo unas ideas que quiero compartir con ustedes acerca de los hábitos y actitudes que son muy importante en mi opinion.

SEAN PRESENTE. Desde que vivimos completemente en el momento presente, cada vez más me siento obligado a centrarme en el aquí y ahora. Nuestras mentes van para tantas direcciones – por lo menos sé que mi mente funciona como así – y nuestras mentes están constantemente llenas de charla, y perdimos demasiado tiempo pensando en el pasado o preocupandonos por el futuro. No estoy tratadando de decir que no podemos o no debemos aprender del pasado, tampoco significa que no debemos preparar y ahorrar para el futuro. Sólo significa que el momento presente es donde vivimos, y es muy importante enfocar en la ahora … en el presente. Nada más. Apaguen la mente. Olan las flores. Disfruten la vida. Den gracias. Respiren conscientemente. Animen a otras personas. Sean esperanza!

HABLEN MENOS Y ESCUCHEN MÁS. Sean personas que dice muy poco. Tengan en cuenta que muchas personas hablan demasiado, y ellos dicen muchas cosas que son críticos y sin amor. Cuando otras personas están hablando, escuchen con atención. Cuando hablen, digan muchas cosas que son útiles y amorosas. Las palabras pueden manifestar los milagros, así que a través del poder que está ubicado dentro de ustedes, les sugiero que manifiesten algunos milagros hoy con sus palabras.

SEAN AMABLE y NO SEAN SIEMPRE CORRECTO. Es muy importante dejar todo juicio y permitir a la gente ser y hacer lo que quiere. Es tan fácil de encontrar defectos en otras personas, de ridiculizar a los demás, de presentarnos superior a los demás. Pero ¿Piensan que esta aptitude es un servicio a los demás? Claro, hay momentos en que es importante hablar en contra de las injusticias en el mundo, pero la mayoría de las veces que pasamos tiempo discutiendo y criticando y juzgando a otras personas, no es más que nuestra necesidad de tener razón en nuestros propios ojos en lugar de ser amable. Cada uno de nosotros es dada oportunidades todos los días para elegir entre ser amable y ser correcto, y parece que la elección de ser amable es siempre la mejor opción.

DEN. Podría ser un poco o podría ser mucho … pero de cualquier forma pueden verla, el dar es una buena manera de vivir. Den a alguien una sonrisa. Den a alguien el benefício de la duda. Den a alguien una flor. Den dinero a los pobres. Den tiempo para ayudar a otros. Den el regalo del perdón.
Wayne W. Dyer en su libro que se llama, “El Gran Cambio,” dice esto:

“Apoyo incondicional. La cuarta virtud cardinal nos informa que estamos eternamente apoyados en el proceso de vivir de forma auténtica. Abandonamos la ambición impuesta por el ego y nos relajamos en el verdadero significado qu apoya nuestra vida particular. El apoyo incondicional se manifiesta como un servicio a los demás sin expectativas de recompensas, ni siquiera que nos den las gracias; es el componente más importante para sentir que nuestra vida tiene un propósito. Es la forma más segura de aprender a pensar como Dios piensa.” “Cuando nos vemos como expresiones divinas individualizadas de Dios, nos sentimos más inclinados a desear comprender la forma en que opera la fuerza creativa.”

VIVAN CON PASIÓN. Sólo tenemos una oportunidad de vivir esta vida, así que si hay algo que quieren hacer que han estado posponiendo innecesariamente, les invito a dejar de posponerlo … y en lugar de eso, busquen sus suenos! Este es un asunto que a veces es difícil de proponer porque vivir con pasión puede aparecer egoísta, especialmente para aquellos que piensan que pueden ganar el favor del cielo en negarse lo que disfrutan. También es difícil imaginar los más pobres, los que viven en la pobreza extrema y que buscan sólo para sobrevivir hoy día, es difícil imaginar que ellos pueden pensar en una lista de deseos; para ellos, vivir con pasión significa la intención de mantener su vida como es … parece que ellos solo pueden preocuparse en sobrevivir . ¿Cómo puedo justificar mantenando mi lista de deseos y mi intención de vivir con pasión cuando hay tantas personas que necesitan tantas cosas necesarias en el mundo? Una forma de hacerlo es a través de organizer su lista en una manera que da beneficio no sólo a sí mismo, sino también a la humanidad. Enfoquen en ganar un millón de dólares para que pueden dar la mitad a causas necesitadas. Vayan en un viaje en un crucero y durante su parada en cada puerto enfoquen en buscar y encontrar a los pobres que se sostienen con la venta de artesanías hechas a mano, y compren sus cosas. Aprendan un nuevo idioma para que puedan usar este talento para ayudar a la gente a aprender inglés, porque con este entendimiento de inglés la gente puede mejorar su vida. Completen un maratón de corriendo para que puedan ser más saludable, y para que peudan ser menos de una carga para sus seres queridos y en el sistema de atención de salud – haganlo para que ustedes tendrán más energía para ayudar a otros. Tomen una clase de baile para que puedan aprender más sobre una otra cultura. Tomen una clase de arte para que puedan pintar un cuadro bonito para colgar en el refugio para personas sin casa. Hay una gran variedad de formas en que podemos vivir con pasión que beneficia tanto a nosotros como a nuestros vecinos en el mundo.

Obra Citada: Dyer, Wayne W. El Gran Cambio, p. 105 Hay House, Inc. 2010.

Also posted in #empowerment, #español, #learnspanish, #personalgrowth, Blog de Español

El Clásico Soccer Rivalry – Medellín versus Nacional

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and it is good to see that the popularity of soccer has grown substantially in the U.S. over the last 20 years. Major League Soccer (MLS) now has 20 teams, and 4 more teams will be added by 2020 … and incredibly, most of these teams play in their own soccer-specific stadiums.

People in Spanish-speaking countries are mad about soccer, or fútbol as it is known here. I often see groups of kids playing spontaneous games of soccer in the street or anywhere they can find space, and weekly adult leagues are very popular.

There are more than a few classic rivalry games in professional soccer, such as Barcelona versus Real Madrid in Spain, and Boca Juniors versus River Plate in Argentina. In Colombia the most prominent rivalry game is known as “El Clásico” and it is a fierce battle between Atlético Nacional and Deportivo Independiente Medellín (DIM), two teams that share the same stadium here in Medellín. Even the team colors are part of this rivalry, for this game is also known as the Reds (Medellín) versus the Greens (Nacional).

Tomorrow March 20th at 3:15 PM is the next installment of El Clásico, and I am fortunate to have a ticket because the game (as usual) is sold-out. It should be a raucous affair.

But who should I root for?

I am just a visitor here for a few months, and if the game was Medellín versus the capital Bogotá, it would be easy to choose because I would root for the local team. But with both teams based in Medellín and sharing the same stadium, how do I choose? Or should I choose?

Neutrality is not an easy option … just ask the people of New York where both the New York Jets and the New York Giants share MetLife Stadium, which strangely enough is not in New York but in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Do the fine people of New Jersey even want New Yorkers rooting for their teams on Jersey soil?

One of my adult English students told me that virtually everyone in Marinilla supports the Green Team Atlético Nacional, so in order to bond with my students I went ahead and bought a white and Green Nacional t-shirt for me and a Green ball cap for my lovely wife. The next day I told my class about my purchases thinking that everyone would be excited, and to my disappointment I discovered that more than a few students as well as my best friend here are fans of the Red Team Medellín. I felt a bit snookered by my student who convinced me to go Green, however I don’t fault him because I am sure that he only sees Green.

Should I let the Universe decide who I root for? I actually bought my ticket from a scalper because when I arrived at the stadium I discovered that the game was sold-out, and the scalper had strategically placed himself within sight of the ticket office. As I walked away I noticed that the scalper was gesturing for me to come to him … I knew immediately what he was selling, and since I was disappointed not to have a ticket, I thought that I would at least listen to his prices.

I knew enough about the stadium to know that the “orient” (or East) section was in semi-neutral ground between the fanatical opposite ends of the stadium, however the scalper’s starting price for a ticket in this section was probably 3 times the already high face value so I did not even bother to negotiate for this ticket. At the time I did not know which fans sat in the North part of the stadium and which fans sat in the South, and I don’t think there is a West section because I think the fan sections wrap around toward the middle where during this game the Colombian National Police have dozens of officers stationed to form a barrier between the respective fan sections. So, I began my negotiation with the scalper for a ticket in Norte General, the North section of the stadium where there are no assigned seats and probably bedlam regardless of which set of fans sits there.

The scalper kept looking warily at the ticket office as he pulled the “stash” of tickets from his pocket, and I can’t deny that I felt a little surge of excitement as we began to do a little deal. Another gentleman even moved in close to watch the deal unfold. We went back and forth on the negotiations, and at least 4 times I tried to end the discussion and walk away. Each time he would re-start the conversation with a new lower price … on hindsight, I probably could have kept walking away until I got the ticket for near face-value. But I knew the game we were playing, and my attempts to walk away were just my ploy to drive down the price a little. We started at 50,000 pesos and finally settled on 36,000 pesos (about $12 USD), which was a little less than double the face value of 22,000 pesos. (FYI, I’ve been told that the average taxi driver in Medellín makes about 80,000 pesos a day, which is about double the minimum wage here in Colombia).

With ticket in hand I still did not know with which fans I would be sitting … and later I discovered that the Green Nacional fans are known as Los Del Sur, or “Those of the South” part of the stadium, and thus I would be sitting with the Red “Rexixtenxia Norte” Medellín fans. I have no idea what “rexixtenxia” means because it is not a Spanish word, but my hunch is that it comes from “resistencia” which means resistance.

Thus, tomorrow I will be sitting with the Red North Resistance … and I probably should not wear my Green Nacional t-shirt. That’s a bummer too because I really like this shirt – on the front the Spanish is translated as, “I am Green, I am Happy.” So, it looks like I’ll have to buy a Red Medellín shirt as well. What do you get when you mix Green and Red?

Medellin and Me

My journey to Medellin has been intense, fun, frustrating, wild, emotional, interesting, and adventurous (and many more adjectives).

When we got in the car to go to the shuttle in Prescott, I was excited, nervous and sad all at once. Sheri and I will be apart for 4-1/2 months, by far the longest stretch since we met in 1998. I was dabbing tears in my eyes as the shuttle driver made his way to Prescott Valley to drop off his coworker. At that point I switched to the front seat, and fortunately the shuttle driver dude was quite chatty, otherwise I might have been tearing-up all the way to Phoenix.

At the airport I was a little nervous about whether my checked bag would come in under 40 lbs. and avoid the Spirit Airlines hefty surcharge, but I was grateful to have a very nice (and chatty) ticket agent who even allowed me to stuff more things in my checked bag. As I awaited for my 1:48 AM departure, I thought more than a few times that this was way past my bedtime.

When the plane landed in Dallas, I got up from my seat and was struck by how ethnically diverse we passengers were … Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, Europeans, Texans (who seem to stand out), Indians, a Muslim women in hajib, other folks, and some fellow gringo mutts. This is the USA that I love.

The flights from Texas to Florida and then from Florida to Medellin were uneventful if not a blur, and I arrived at about 2:00 PM. I was hoping that I could convince the customs agent to give me a 6 month tourist stay, but alas I got the normal 3 month pass, which means that in March I get to wait in one of those wonderful Latin American lines to get my visa extended. (Yesterday I waited in line for 15 minutes at the grocery store to buy a bottle of water). Its all part of the fun.

I let myself get frustrated at the airport while waiting for the shuttle bus that would take us on the 45 minute drive from the airport to downtown Medellin. Almost all of the people I meet in Latin America are nice, which is true of everyone I meet everywhere for that matter; but occasionally you’ll meet service agents who think that rich gringos should not push themselves to the front of the line or even be in the line. So when I got to the shuttle bus there appeared to be plenty of room for big me and my big bag, however the driver was unwilling to pack me and my bag, so I stood at the curb and watched for at least 10 minutes while at least 4 other people (and their bags) got on that shuttle. After waiting a long time for the next shuttle to arrive, a new crowd of people surged to the luggage compartment in the back of the bus, and I was in danger of missing that shuttle were it not for a travel agent who saw me get bumped off the last shuttle.

It is also true that some Latin America entrepreneurs see dollar signs when they see a gringo, so if possible it is helpful to know the approximate price before you make a purchase. My host here in Medellin told me that the taxi from downtown to her house should only be 15,000 pesos (which is about $5 USD), but the bag helper and taxi driver told me that I would have to pay what the meter showed upon arrival. So I told the taxi driver what my host said, and on the way I watched as the meter gathered speed … ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-thing … we were at 40,000 Colombian pesos and not even home yet! So I again told the taxi driver that my host said that the fare should only be 15,000 pesos, and that – oh by the way – my host just happens to be an attorney, and thus when we arrived I gave him a 20,000 note and waited for change … and he gave me 5,000 in change.

Yesterday was a wild ride. I’m not sure how many people live here – 2 million, maybe 3 million people – but as you can imagine, this is one big, fast-moving, lots of people, sights, sounds, and smells kind of place. Just a little different than Prescott, Arizona. So I launched myself onto the public transport system, and took a bus from the suburbs to the heart of the city. They let me off at the metro, which is every bit as nice as the metro subway system in Washington, DC. Then I took the metro out and away from the city to a lower income area, then exited the metro train and got on a metro cable car which took us high up the mountain to the fringes of the city. You’ll just have to Google “Medellin Metro Cable” to learn more about it, but what happened is that visionary city leaders years ago worked to dramatically reduce the crime rate in this city by tying all the neighborhoods together. The poorer areas had been isolated, so the city invested millions in infrastructure to build not only the metro system, but also libraries, parks, schools, and other services. One of the promises made and kept by the city was regular trash pickup throughout the city, which obviously was well received especially in the poorer areas that had been regularly neglected in the past. One of the most remarkable comments I read before coming here was made by the former mayor of Medellin, one of the key people who spearheaded the transformation of this city … he said (and I paraphrase), “We must build our most beautiful and expensive buildings in our poorest neighborhoods.” How many people in power think like that anymore? That’s a beautiful thing … and the city has been rewarded for this visionary consciousness through less crime, more civic pride, a booming tourist industry, and much more. The city still has plenty of issues, just like any big city in the good old USA, but many positive changes are complete and still in process.

Back to my wild ride … so after riding the metro cable to the top of the mountain, I watched as thunderstorms moved into the valley and city below. It was pretty awesome to watch lightning bolts flash across the sky, but then it started to rain so people made their way back to the metro cable. However, due to the lightening and rain, the city shut down the system for the night and hundreds of us were stuck up on the mountain in the neighborhood of Santo Domingo. So I took a city bus down the mountain, which was quite the harrowing, wild ride, on wet slippery twisting streets … I was actually sitting in the front seat beside the bus driver, and he was calmly flying down the mountain, singing along to the music, avoiding all the motorcycles, pedestrians, cars, bicycles, taxis, animals, and whatnot that seem to dart from every direction in Latin America while at the same time avoiding collisions … I figured if the bus driver could be calm, then so could I … and I made it back home safely at about 8:00 PM.

I’m not sure what today holds, but I will soon find out as I wander out into the city … Medellin and me.

Also posted in #teachenglish

Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish

I started learning Spanish at the age of 48, and 4 years later I passed the B1 intermediate level DELE exam administered by the Cervantes Institute of Spain. (The DELE exam is a standardized test of Spanish language proficiency that is taken in 900 certified examination centers in more than 100 countries around the world). Now I am at the high intermediate level, and when I pass the C1 exam I will be considered an advanced learner of Spanish. Today I would like to share with you my “Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish.”

First, there is no secret to becoming fluent in any language. Granted, some methods work faster than others, however it still takes an estimated 3 hours of study and practice every day for 10 years to go from absolute beginner to near native fluency.

Not everyone wants to invest the time it takes to become completely fluent, so my second tip is to get clear in your mind what level of Spanish you’d like to reach, and then set specific and achievable goals for reaching that level of Spanish.

Thirdkeep it fun! Many people burn out quickly because learning a language becomes all work and no fun. Watch Spanish videos. Listen to Spanish music. Read Spanish news that interests you. Build your Spanish vocabulary in a way that is fun for you.

The fourth key is the importance of using the language from the very beginning. If you only know 100 Spanish words and a few verbs in the present tense, start speaking Spanish to everyone in order to make many mistakes … that’s how we learned our first language, and that’s how we learn a new language.

Fifth, check out the following list of programs and websites that I think are the most helpful for learning Spanish … they are listed in no particular order. Some are free, and some can be very expensive, so proceed as you wish. Also, be sure to go to my Spanish Words and Resources page to take advantage of the FREE resources there.

www.newsinslowspanish.com/latino – My favorite Spanish podcast. This link is to the Latino Spanish site, but you can also listen to the Spain Spanish program. You can get portions of these podcasts in iTunes for free to try them out, but if you want the entire audio program it is $14 per month. For $23 per month you get full access to the audios, PDF files, grammar exercises, etc.

www.spanishobsessed.com – This podcast is very well done, it is a British guy and his Colombian wife; you can listen to podcasts free, or pay a fee to get greater access.

www.lightspeedspanish.co.uk – This program is similar to the program above in that it was created by a British guy whose partner is a native Spanish speaker … they have some nice free audio and other resources, however the Spain Spanish accent is not the most commonly used throughout the world.

www.memrise.com – A good site for improving vocab, and there is a phone app that you can use.

http://www.laits.utexas.edu/spe/index.html – A very helpful site, free videos in Spanish for various levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), and the videos are accompanied by a text translation. I have downloaded many of their videos to my iTunes and iPod/iPhone.

http://www.learner.org/series/destinos  – Destinos Spanish educational telenovela, it is a bit dated but very helpful and free to everyone; go to this site and click on “Watch” at the top.

http://conjuguemos.com – Lots of people (especially youngsters) use this sites for the vocabulary quizzes and verb drills.

http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/VERBLIST.HTm – In my opinion, hands down the best site for finding all of the conjugations of all the Spanish verbs, plus there is plenty of additional information on this site that is very helpful.

www.yabla.com – Hundreds of videos organized by learner level and Spanish country accent, this is a nice site that costs $10 per month to use.

www.veintemundos.com – The name of this site refers to the 20 Spanish speaking countries, it is a free site with audio and text that highlights cultural activities.

http://noticias.univision.com/america-latina – Univision is the most trusted news source in the Latino community, and this link goes to the latest news stories for Latin America; listening to the news in Spanish is a great way to improve your ability to hear Spanish.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/temas/america_latina – BBC is very similar to NPR in the United States (and unfortunately NPR does not have a Spanish language version), and this link takes you to the latest news stores for Latin America.

www.duolingo.com – Another free site that asks you to contribute to the cause by reviewing other submissions … this site contains many helpful exercises.

www.fluentin3months.com – Benny is pretty well-known in the polyglot community and he emphasizes “speak from day one,” and he encourages you to work on becoming “fluent” in a language in as little as 3 months; he has written a few books, but the real value of this site is the language community as well as the email newsletter that includes many language learning links.

www.pimsleur.com – Pimsleur was my favorite program for a long time, however it became less useful to me when I reached intermediate level (which is about as far as Pimsleur will take you). Pimsleur is great at teaching you to speak Spanish, and since it is all audio and there are no books, you can use it anywhere (such as while exercising, driving down the road, etc.) In early 2015 Pimsleur released a level 5 Spanish program, and I purchased the download of the MP3 files for only $120 (the CDs are much more expensive). Sometimes you can borrow Pimsleur from your local library, so I encourage you to check it out.

www.rosettastone.com – Everybody knows about Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s most popular language learning programs. Most people believe that extensive marketing makes it so popular, but I believe it is popular because it makes building your vocabulary fun. (I completed all 5 levels of Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish).

www.fluenz.com – This little company fearlessly claims to be better than Rosetta Stone, and the program is equally as pricey. I own the two highest levels of Fluenz, and it has some of the best writing drills that I have ever found. Also, in Fluenz there is an English speaking instructor that clarifies grammar, vocabulary, etc., in contrast to the Rosetta Stone total immersion system where nothing is explained in English.

https://newsela.com – A very nice news site made for language learners that I recently discovered; to learn Spanish, go into the menu and click on Spanish Text Sets

Julioandgringo.com – My friend Julio and I created this site to provide entertaining and informative audiobooks, podcasts, and other products that help native English speakers learn Spanish.

Fotopala.com – Last but not least, our very own Fotopala.com site where you can find numerous resources that will help you learn English, teach ESL (English as a Second Language), learn Spanish, and be Empowered.

Also posted in #empowerment, #fluent, #learnspanish, #personalgrowth Tagged |