April 17, 2017

Learning Spanish

For years I have been swearing that I was going to do this, and now I am finally getting busy with it. These are some personal observations, along with a few helpful references that I use.

Grammatical jargon and language dorks

When learning a new language, you run into people who immediately start talking about gerunds, the canonical imperative form, and all kinds of rubbish that you never heard of before. This is like the definition of theology as, "taking the simple gospel and making it complicated so you can talk to other theologians about it". If you have an extremely mathematical and logical "vulcan like" mind, maybe this will work for you, but I doubt it. I have an extremely mathematical mind and have worked my entire life writing computer software and all of this does very little for me.

So find ways to bypass and ignore this, at least for the first year or more when learning a new language. Then once you have a fair bit of road time, you can dive into all the grammatical jargon. Unless you were a straight A student in English, you will have to master what all this grammatical stuff is in the context of the English language before you can carry it over to Spanish (and learn the aspects of grammar that are unique to Spanish, or whatever other language you are learning).

Classrooms versus online learning

The main advantage of a classroom is the discipline it imposes on your own schedule. If you are self disciplined (and you should be unless you are an infant), you can put yourself in charge of your own life and get some kind of daily dose. It is recommended to people learning a musical instrument that they simply pick their instrument up each and every day and spend a few minutes with it. This is exactly what you need to do to learn Spanish. Your mind can only absorb so much new information each day, so you need to administer small daily doses and build up knowlege over time. Of course this doesn't sit well with a generation that expects instant gratification, but tough luck, get over it.

I have come to quite like an application I run on my Android phone called Duolingo. It has its detractors of course. Many of these are old die hards that hate change in any form and/or gained their language skills using old methods. Ignore them. The big plus of Duolingo is that you can easily get your daily dose almost wherever you happen to be. It is also free (more or less), once you learn to ignore the annoying ads. They added a terrible feature to the Android version where the "owl" pops out with some stale phrase that is supposed to be encouraging. Hopefully they will drop this ill conceived feature, but if they don't, train yourself to ignore it and hit the continue button as rapidly as possible.

General points about Spanish

If you have never learned a second language, the first thing to get over is getting upset whenever it is "not like English". You can actually learn to like it! If learning a new language was just learning a bunch of new words and replacing the old with the new, it would be tedious boredom.

As an example, in Spanish you can often drop the subject pronoun (there I go using grammar jargon). So in English you would say, "I want food". Whereas in Spanish you could (and often do) say, "Quiero comida" dropping the "Yo" that would be equivalent to the English "I". I think this is cool. So succinctness appeals to me. It gets even better. Instead of saying, "I am going to eat", you say something like "Voy a comer". How nice.

English is a total train wreck and hodge podge of special cases when it comes to spelling and pronunciation. At least it just has "the" instead of masculine and feminine flavors that you have to learn along with each noun. Spanish is much more tidy and logical, but not without its unfortunate issues. Pronunciation is rigorous and uniform. As I have mentioned, grammar can be quite elegant and condensed.

Online tidbits

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's Banking pages / tom@mmto.org