Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gathering your materials

I've given quite some tips on how to begin, how to keep momentum, etc., etc. The thing I haven't discussed is what I think are the best materials. Sure, sentences are a important part of my learning routine (and should be important for you aswell), but it's not the only thing. I use some very handy (and often cheap or free) resources to get exposure from. That's what I want to do today; some resources I think are necesarry for you all or which will boost your learning progress.

Get exposure/input
Language learning is all about getting yourself enough exposure. Textbooks want to let you believe this can only be done by artificial dialogues and stupid work lists. Bull**** I say, that's not how natives learned Spanish. Spaniards learned Spanish from hearing and seeing a lot of Spanish, that's why they're so good at it. So the tip I want to give you, is this: Get. Native. Materials. NOW! It's that simple. Buy Spanish books from or get them from a Cervantes library near your place. Although Amazon doesn't have much DVD's for Spaniards, there are plenty other good (Spanish) companies around which sell them at good prices (again, if there's a Instituto Cervantes near your house, you might get them there aswell).

Me for example: I love watching Friends. And although I used to hate dubbed series and movies (which is not good if you want to learn Spanish, so you'd better get over it), I got muself two seasons of it on DVD and searched the internet for transcripts in Spanish. Although I only use the audio for understanding (yes, I don't use the subtitles), I can use the transcripts if I misunderstand something or for acquiring more sentences.

Another thing you should consider, is getting yourself a satellite dish. Yeah, be like a foreigner in your own country, but if you don't live in a country where there are a lot of Spanish channels on cable tv (like in the U.S.) you might want to buy a satellite dish. They can be a bit expensive, but if you can tune in on hundreds of Spanish channels, it's work every dime. You could also try WWITV of course, but there are only a few good channels and buffering a channel can take ages.

If you were going to spend money on Spanish learning materials (other than native materials), you'd better spend it on SpanishPod. The first 7 days of your account you have access to all the premium materials, which are really good. Not only you have a nice podcast to listen to, you also have a PDF file with the dialogue transcript, a vocabulary list (brrrr, word list), expansion (THIS is what you need. Ready-to-copy sentences. Personally I translate the English part to Dutch, but it's still good) and some good exercises to train and measure the learned language. After the 7 days it can get ugly, because a premium membership is $30 a month. If you can't miss that amount of money, consider the basic membership, which gives you the dialogue PDF and mp3 in CD quality. But better get the premium content, because it's a great source of sentences (the first 90+ lessons will give you over 1500 sentences).

So what's the best way to use SpanishPod? Of course to listen to the podcasts, but try to listen to the ones you like (subjects you like, of course) and things you think you may need in the near future, and listen to them often. The podcasts aren't linked together liked normal lessons, so you can pick out the ones you want to do first. Also, find out what's the highest level you can take at the moment. The first few levels are in English, but later on (the higher levels) they're entirely in Spanish (which is good, because you want to have a lot exposure. Believe me, you want to get to it quickly). Listen every podcast a few times and read along with the dialogue. Also try to mine sentences from the dialogue to add to Anki.

Next thing to do is (if you have a premium account, or when you're still in the trial period) to copy the sentences from the expansion part to Anki. This won't take much time, and you're even learning from quickly seeing the sentences. As Anki supports audio, it might be a nice idea to download and edit the fix (this comes with every podcast, but is premium content) to add the audio of the sentence to the written sentence. The fix contains the loose vocabulary, but it also has each and every example sentence from the expansion tab as audio.

So not a member? Sign up NOW! (Yeah, some blatant advertising from my side, but I mean each and every word of it).

Stay tuned for more b*d-*ss material tips!


Jeffrey Hayes said...

These are all definitely good resources. A couple others that I would recommend, although haven't tried (but have heard a lot of good things about), are and

Now I know you may be confused at first, but the first one gives you the opportunity to find a place overseas where you can sleep (and many times eat) free of charge, but you have to work around four or five hours a day (of manual labor) in order for it to be a fair exchange. Since this is a Spanish-only blog, imagine working on a farm in Costa Rica for a few hours a day, then spending time or enjoying a meal with your "host family," speaking and learning Spanish more and more every day.

Couchsurfing has become increasingly popular in the past couple of years, especially for American tourists in Europe, but it basically provides you with a place to sleep free of charge (wherever you are traveling). This can also provide the same benefits as, where you can still practice the language with those you have agreed to stay with.

The last two resources I would suggest are intercambios and language immersion programs abroad.

Hope this helps!

Un saludo...

Peter said...

In many parts of the US (especially in states that border Mexico) there are one or more Spanish-language local television stations. I live in the Dallas area and there are at least 3 Spanish-language television stations that are local. Also many cable providers have a Spanish package that you can buy or add-on to your service, which will add even more Spanish language channels.

Rmss said...

Jeffrey; I actually use social network sites for my contacts, and the times I visit Spaniards they're friends. But for other people the links are very helpful, so thank you for them.

Peter; I'm jealous of them ;). In the Netherlands some cable providers offer one or two channels from Spain, but as I don't live near a big city that doesn't count for me...

Bilingual Blogger said...

Casa del Libro is another online option to get Spanish books. Their service isn't as good as Amazon's but they do ship internationally. (

With the Spanish Pod membership, do you know roughly how many hours a week of audio content you're getting?

Rmss said...

Depends on what your level is, but even if you already have a high level you can still use the elementary podcasts. So I guess about 1.5 hour per week, if you only listen to a podcast once. But I recommend listening to it several times, and adding the sentences to your SRS. So it can be up to 5 hours if you're not learning hard-core.