Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, March 27, 2006

Having Fun with Spanish

by AJ

Ive increased my daily Spanish intake to about an hour a day. Im having a very good time learning this time, here's my usual daily activity:

Wake up in the morning and turn on a Spanish audiobook. Im using three, interchangeably: Patricia Va a California (TPRS), Casi Se Muere (TPRS), and Las Puertas Retorcidas.

Ive read through these books and have made flashcards of problematic phrases.. ones I have trouble hearing or remembering. Taking Steve Kaufman's advice, Im focusing on learning phrases rather than trying to memorize individual words. Phrases, after all, are chunks of functional language. They contain a great deal of grammar information, and are the speedier approach to learning vocab.

After work, I carry my ipod wherever I go. When I walk around town, I listen to the audiobooks. Sometimes I mutter the sentences to myself, but mostly I focus on listening and understanding.

I do this whenever I have free time during the afternoon and evening-- walking, grocery shopping, and at the gym.

At night, I put on one of the audiobooks-- and listen until I go to sleep.

Pretty simple really, and enjoyable. With repetition, the audiobooks are becoming more comprehensible. More importantly, key phrases are starting to sink in. I find them popping up in my head without effort. This is the phenomenon that J. Marvin Brown talked about-- with his Listen First (also known as ALG) program.

I studied Thai in a Listen First (ALG) program, at the AUA school in Bangkok, but only rarely experienced this effortless language phenomenon. Of course Thai is not closely related to English-- so that may be one reason. But there are others. For one, there was not enough repetition at AUA. Im listening to the same three (Spanish) audiobooks over and over and over and over. Ive probably listened to "Patricia Va a California" more than 25 times. Each time I understand more and I understand faster.

Another problem at AUA-- they did not teach reading (only at advanced levels). This, I believe, is a mistake. Im seeing that reading and listening combined have a synergistic effect... they complement each other and boost language acquisition. Reading makes listening more effective, because when reading you can go very slowly, and can identify words, phrases, and overall meaning at your own pace. Reading is also a powerful way to build vocabulary. Krashen, TPRS and The Linguist all advocate a combined listening and reading approach. I agree wholeheartedly.

San Francisco, CA