Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Spanish Update

by AJ

Spanish is going quite a bit faster and easier than Thai... not surprisingly. Ive now learned about 200 new words in two weeks... from reading TPRS mini-novels and from Tuck Para Siempre. That puts my total vocabulary around 500 words or so.

In addition to reading for pleasure, I listen to an audio mini-novel (again, TPRS) every day for about 15-25 minutes. I find that I understand about 80% at this point.. enough to get the main ideas. Ive read the text version of the mini-novel several times and this has greatly aided my listening comprehension. Now Im eager to get ahold of more Spanish audiobook/print book combinations.

The main lesson Ive learned from all of this is that stories are incredible memory hooks. I remember the new words so easily. When I review a new word, I immediately remember where I encountered it in the story/book and this makes it much easier to remember its meaning. Im learning the words in an authentic context.

Contrast this with the typical textbook approach-- the word is introduced in an asinine dialogue... then listed in the back of the chapter in a "vocabulary section". Students are expected to memorize these words and their meanings but find it very difficult to do because the words are not introduced in a meaningful or interesting context. Result: They study, remember them for the test, and then immediately forget them.

Several years later they take the TOEFL test and do badly. Teachers, parents, and politicians then blame them. "They don't study hard enough", "they don't care enough", "they just aren't motivated".

But its not the students fault. Its the schools and the teachers. Education personnel are always harping at students to take responsibility....

I think its time for them to take their own advice: Take responsibility for the failure of your classes, programs, textbooks, and schools.