I started learning Spanish in 2001. I attended a beginner’s course in a language school in Singapore. Then in University, I studied a total of 5 semesters of Spanish language in Australia and Canada. I also lived in Bogotá, Colombia for 4 months in 2003 and Spain for about a month in 2004. I wrote here how I came to be interested in the Spanish language.
I can’t say I’m very competent in my Spanish. On the one hand, I definitely haven’t forgotten it totally like many people do when they have few opportunities to practice it. I have a very good friend with whom I have been practicing Spanish with since I started learning it. On the other hand, I’m not where I should be with all my experience in a Spanish speaking country and studies in the language. My speaking is pretty OK – it’s better than my speaking of Mandarin. However, my listening is quite poor (worse than that of Mandarin) and one area I hope to work on.
Since I took up the language, I’ve never ceased in my desire to improve. However, I haven’t always put in the necessary time nor did I go about seeking to improve my Spanish in the right way. I’ve got a lot of resources in Spanish, but I think one has to be smart in the way one goes about improving in a language. For example, a lot of my resources are just too difficult for me and what happened was I started to give up in using them.
Most Spanish materials you buy in Singapore are of the beginner’s level. You don’t find many intermediate to advanced materials around – simply because there isn’t that much of a demand for them. And that’s one of the problems I faced with improving my Spanish. Over the past few years, I ended up buying a lot of materials from overseas but they proved too difficult for me and had a demotivating effect upon me.
Having gone into English Language Teaching (ELT) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the past year, I’ve also learned a lot about the best way for one to learn a language which I hope to apply to my own learning of Spanish. Anyway, the below are some resources which have excited me recently.
I just ordered and received 7 Spanish graded readers from European Schoolbooks. I think one of the most important ways to improve one’s first or second language is through reading. I improved my English when I started reading English books. For many years, I’ve been trying to find Spanish books to read. I bought the first book of Harry Potter and many Spanish magazines but I ended up giving up. Why? Because there were too many new words I didn’t understand and going to the dictionary always eventually demotivated me. That’s why graded readers are so important. These are books that contain grammatical structures and vocabulary at certain levels. Language learners can buy such books that are at their level and enjoy the book without having to always look up words in the dictionary. I bought these books with the audio CDs so I can also improve my listening.
A website which I recently discovered is SpanishPod. I plan to listen to these free podcasts to improve my Spanish. There are hundreds of free 10 minutes or so podcasts whereby Spanish is explained with English. They’re pretty good! You can pay a bit for the transcripts and some exercises. If not, you can just download the podcasts for free. There’s also a ChinesePod version which I should really start on too! Haha!
Another interesting website which I thought of subscribing to (but I decided it was too expensive) is LoMasTV. I think it’s an awesome way to improve one’s Spanish. It’s basically Spanish videos with both English and Spanish subtitles.
Recently I also decided to start buying DVDs that have Spanish audio and Spanish subtitles. Rather than buying movies, I decided that getting Comedies would be good because each doesn’t last that long. If it’s too long (like movies) and you don’t fully understand what’s going on, you kinda lose motivation because you can’t follow what’s going on. So I’m hoping to watch one episode each day.
I’m also going to try and read more of my Spanish Bible. I have about 10 Spanish Bibles – mostly Spanish-English parallel Bibles. I bring my New Testament Spanish-English parallel Bible everywhere I go although I tend to read only the English side. I have to start to read the Spanish side more often.
There’s also this cool Spanish program I downloaded that I hope to use – WordsGalore. It’ll help me improve my Spanish vocabulary.
I got to know some of the above resources from this good Learning Spanish Blog. Lastly, for Singaporeans who hope to get to know other Singaporeans who are interested in Spanish things, you can go to the Spanish in Singapore Yahoogroups. Lastly, anyone interested to find out more about learning Spanish, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be glad to give you some advice based on my experience.