Friday, February 22, 2008

Why sentences are so damn important

If you have been reading Khatzumoto's blog, you probably have read enough about sentences. But it doesn't hurt to just talk about it again. To be honest; I've been really sceptic about this method for a long time, until I decided to just pick up the idea and put it in practice myself. And I have to say, it just skyrocketed my progress in Spanish.

I'm surrounded by native speakers of Spanish in college, and we all just prefer to discuss our daily things in Spanish instead of in Dutch or English. In the beginning this was kinda hard because my vocabulary sucked in Spanish and my feeling for the structure of the language was just dramatic. This resulted in some pretty funny situations. Funny for the native speakers. I just felt depressed at some times and had a headache every day the first three or four weeks. Now I can discuss a lot of subjects with a fairly high level of confidence, just after five months or so. Still, my vocabulary isn't even near that of a native speaker, but I've grown an intuition for the structure of Spanish.

So what has helped me to get this? Simple; sentences. Adding new sentences every day, saying them out loud and decipher the meaning of the words and the structure of the sentence. Instead of learning I just read them, and it worked. It has been working since the first week I began to use my growing sentence database and it still works months after. I don't have the feeling that I'm actually learning something (which will be awkward for you and can result in a minor depression in the beginning), but I am learning something. A few weeks ago I had a presentation about a subject I never talked about before. But I was able to pull it off with just a few minutes of time to prepare, and the words flew out of my mouth. Afterwards I got some compliments about how my Spanish has grown in such a short time. It's not that I'm looking for compliments, but they're always nice.

My sentence database isn't that big at the moment, but I'm always looking for things I might need in the near future. It's handy to have a thematic dictionary because you can pick things you want to learn at that moment. I've been in Spain for almost a month last December. I knew that I'd go to bars and clubs with friends who are native speakers, so the things I wanted to learn involved names of drinks, youth slang and so on. That's why I've been looking for sentences which covered that particular subjects and added them to Anki. The people I went out with were suprised I knew some neat slang words and I was able to understand them when they used sub-culture words themselves. It certainly boosted my 'liking factor' of Spanish, and thinking back about it just makes me happy (something you'll need, because you want to remember yourself why you are learning Spanish - to communicate with cool people).

So start building you own personal sentence database NOW. Don't do excercises now and then but do them every day. It doesn't matter if you do 10 sentences of 100 per day, as long as you keep you Spanish alive and growing. Remember; this isn't time I've come up myself. I've just read a lot of posts of Khatzumoto who got his ideas from the great guys of If it has worked for them, and if it's working for me. Why wouldn't it work for YOU?