To prepare for the eventual move to Costa Rica, we need to learn Spanish, which rocks since it’s a perfect example of self-directed learning. Why should the kids have all the fun? Our library system has been a great help since we can try different books and resources to see what gels with us. We started with library books for the kids, since it would be a fun way for all of us to learn together.
Our current reading includes Senor Felipe’s Alphabet Adventure, about a photographer whose assignment is to photograph one item for each letter of the Spanish alfabeto. It’s written in English, with Spanish words for each item photographed, and there’s an additional list of vocabulary at the end of the book. We’re also reading El sombrero del tÃo Nacho / Uncle Nacho’s Hat, which is bilingual, with the story written both in English (sprinkled liberally with Spanish words and phrases) and Spanish. The story follows Uncle Nacho as he just can’t seem to get rid of his old hat that’s full of holes. It’s very helpful for Trish and me to see both versions since the alfabeto book provides a lot of vocabulary but little in the way of verbs.
Another fun thing we’ve used for learning Spanish has been the cd Let’s Sing and Learn in Spanish. I ordered a lot of stuff from the library system and this has been great. The most important thing – the music is not annoying. That would have made it useless. Aside from one segue into 80s style freehouse, it’s a nice selection of songs with catchy Latin rhythms and melodies. Everything is sung in Spanish and is easy to understand. The cd also has instrumental versions of the tracks, which didn’t make sense to me until they were playing the other day and I found myself plugging in some the words and phrases. This is a MUCH better option than Cantos Y Rimas – Nursery Songs & Rhymes, which is just plain annoying (the singer, dancing kids and hand puppets are distracting).
Years back I took 2 semesters of Spanish and had a fun time of it, thanks to Destinos, the Spanish teaching soap opera. It’s called a ‘tele-course’ and seems to have been made with distance learning in mind. Trish thought the idea was cool and so I grabbed a copy of the dvds off Ebay for a lot less than the usual $500. It’s not cheap by any means, but the copy in the library system was not available to take out (and only VHS). Trish liked the idea so much that she also got some workbooks. We’ve started watching the dvds while we wait for the text materials and have learned quite a bit already.
We’re hoping the text materials fill in the gaps, especially regarding verbs. It’s pretty easy to pick up vocabulary visually, but in the first 4 episodes verbs have been glossed over. That’s not to say that the videos aren’t good – they’re done very well. Each episode consists of an intro, the episode itself and a review. The intro is easily skipped in favor of the episode, which tells the story and displays vocabulary as needed, and the review, which asks questions to test comprehension. At the end of the review is a teaser for the next episode. All of the episodes can be seen online at www.learner.org, though in small Youtube-size videos.
If you’re like me and commute to work, I can recommend 2 other resources. The first is an awesome free podcast called Coffee Break Spanish (‘Language-learning with your latte’). The hosts are Mark, el profesor, and Kara, la estudiante – Mark teaches and, we learn along with Kara. Each podcast is about 15 minutes long and is very well organized. The podcast itself is free, but they offer bonus materials with each podcast for Â£8.50 /month (they’re Scottish with great accents). I haven’t tried the bonus materials yet, but will consider them once we are done with Destinos. The bonus materials include a pdf guide, a bonus podcast, iPod flashcards and ‘iPod notes’ (whatever they are). The one thing to remember is that they teach the somewhat lispy Spanish from Spain, where ‘gracias’ is pronounced ‘grathias.’ Aside from that, everything they teach is easy to understand and learn. I’m on podcast 8 – they just finished up their 40th and seem to going strong with the recent launch of a second podcast.
The other commuting/car resource I can recommend is Pimsleur Spanish, which consists of 30 language and grammar lessons aimed specifically for audio learning. Learning purely by hearing works very well for me, and the most usefully lesson in this set was the one regarding pronunciation and similar Spanish/English words (ie Spanish you already know but didn’t realize). This is around $130 at Amazon so I definitely recommend getting it from your local library.
That’s what we’ve done so far, and it’s been fun! M explained to his Dadima (one of a zillion Indian terms for ‘grandma’) that ‘Hola’ was Spanish for ‘hello’ and asked Trish yesterday if she knew what ‘vaca’ (‘cow’) was. We’re incorporating little phrases into our English, and get to practice a bit with our Mexican neighbors down the block. I think the best part is just knowing that instead of dreaming of Costa Rica we’re working on something tangible to bring the dream closer to reality.Â Hasta luego!