Spanish Dictation with Audiobooks

I have recently been exploring foreign language dictation as a strategy to gain practice writing in a second language. It would be the equivalent of shadowing to the written form. In this case, you also use audio input and immediately convert it to text. How does it look in practice? You can take an audiobook and focus on one or two minutes of content. You listen to a small portion -5 or 10 seconds- and write down what you hear on a pad or the computer. When using a computer, I prefer to do it on Notepad or a [...]

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Learning Spanish with a Teacher

What is the best way to learn Spanish? You can learn on your own, work with a teacher, or even get a language course. Whatever the method you choose, learning Spanish (or any other language) involves other people. Even a self-directed student never learns completely ‘on his own.’ She will have to read or listen to content written or spoken by users of her target language. One of the main advantages of learning Spanish with a teacher is increasing your awareness of things that need improvement. You cannot see your blind spots. How could you spot what could be better [...]

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Reading a Book Series to Learn Spanish

One of the best things you can do to improve your Spanish skills in less time is reading a book series. Ideally, it would be a series you’ve already read in a language you know (i.e. in English). If you are a fan of Harry Potter or Games of Thrones, you should probably go over them again in Spanish. As you already know the plot, the characters —and you enjoy the books— your learning gains will be accelerated at a low cost. Another option would be to pick a series you haven’t ever read, written originally in Spanish. That’s exactly [...]

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How to Learn Spanish Reading (Translated) English Content

As you learn Spanish, you don’t need to give up your favorite English [or, insert your native language] content. You can read Spanish translations. If it’s a popular book, chances are that you can find an edition in that language. For websites and other digital content, there’s Google Translate. Let’s say you have a favorite blog or two that you read every week. You don’t want to miss what the author has to say, but you know that —to get better at Spanish— you need to read more in that language. Why not do both at the same time? Read [...]

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Long-term Language Learning

In August 2019 I started learning Italian. That meant that —for the next year or so— I would read less content in English, and more in Italian. As my target language was so close to my native tongue (Spanish), I thought: ‘Why not continue reading the book I’m halfway through (Educated, by Tara Westover) in Italian (L'educazione)?’. I made a quick search on Amazon, and I bought the Italian translation. I thought it would be a piece of cake. ‘Ha! Italian. That’s pretty much Spanish’. It was not. It was hard. I missed a lot. Even though I was able [...]

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Compelling Input, Graded Readers, and Spanish Learning

“(...) interest may be not enough for optimal language acquisition. It may be the case that input needs to be not just interesting but compelling. Compelling means that the input is so interesting you forget that it is in another language.” “Compelling input appears to eliminate the need for motivation, a conscious desire to improve. When you get compelling input, you acquire whether you are interested in improving or not.” 1 Stephen Krashen In 2011 I started learning German. Early on, I found that reading stories could be an effective method to learn the language. 'Which stories should I read?', [...]

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