Cartoons. Yes, specifically cartoons! Netflix has a great selection of cartoons in Spanish and it seems a bit easier to follow than other more mature shows because of the simplicity of the language. This is the least intense yet probably most useful way in learning simple conjugations and such. Obviously, Netflix is not free but many have some access to Spanish-language cartoons one way or another, so look around until you find something that doesn’t drive you batty.
Duolingo. There are several free apps out there but Duolingo is definitely among the best. It’s not always perfect, but it’s free and repetitive and engaging enough to keep you going. People also like the feature which allows them to “compete” with friends and the reminders and incentives to practice daily are surprisingly effective.
Read Something, Anything! It is highly recommended to find something you’re interested in and read a bit each day. Not much, only maybe 15-30 minutes, and it should be a topic that you’re really intrigued by and want to know about. A good book is specifically suggested by some. Others have suggested similar strategies with reading a news article that interests you each day. The consensus so far has been NOT to use any translator or dictionary as a crutch to get through it, but rather allow your brain to start working to process the context and inference of words as we go. Even start with a children’s book.
Music. This one is easy, but is probably not the most effective. Find some Latin music that you enjoy and soon you will find yourself singing along to favorite songs. This isn’t really very useful for fine tuning anything about your Spanish skills, but it seems to get your brain engaged and the more exposure to the language the more likely you are to feel comfortable and not freeze up when you’re trying to find the words. Checking out live music events is especially engaging and highly recommended!
Movies & TV. This is significantly different from watching children’s programs and cartoons, honestly. The language is so much more varied, and here’s the other kicker-you can watch in English or Spanish but either way you go be sure the subtitles are on and you’re paying attention. The more variety the better. Many recommend Novelas (Mexican Soap Operas) as a way to become “invested” in the program so that you want to tune in for the next episode.
A couple of extras:
These aren’t free, but they can be very useful.
Be a tourist. Show your friends around town and expose them (and you) to a variety of new situations in which you will interact with people in both Spanish and English. Interact with the wait staff, receptionist at the resort, and clerks in all the stores and shops will expose you to a variety of words, accents, and expressions to help you get used to real life interactions. Try going off the beaten path (tourist path) a bit and try some new food places, see a movie in Spanish at the theater, or attend a baseball game.
Take an online college Spanish class. Many of the Universities and Community colleges around the country offer online courses at very reasonable prices. Sign up for an online course and actually do the work. The harder you try and the more courses you take, the more you will learn – pretty self-explanatory. But, you will still want some real-world experience to practice pronunciation and interaction with real people. Go back to the previous step for that.
Find a teacher or tutor. There are so many great teachers around willing and ready to help you learn for super affordable prices! Just ask around town or on one of the Facebook pages devoted to Rocky Point. You’re sure to find a group or a situation that will fit your schedule and your budget.
If you are really serious about learning Spanish. And, if you have the time and money available to do it, sign up for an immersion course in Mexico. The best idea will be to pick a place that is not a tourist destination (but check for safety of the area). Pick a place where few if any people speak English, live with a local family (the program will help set that up), and learn by doing. This is serious and you really need to be dedicated, but you will be surprised at how much you learn in a couple weeks. Once you get some of the basics down, you can build on them over time.
Recent studies have shown that repetition is key in learning new languages and both passively listening to something in the background (conversations, radio, music, TV, etc,) and actively listening and paying attention to the same content achieve similar results. So, go ahead. Turn the music up or leave the TV on. Just make sure you’re listening and practicing and eventually it will come to you.
Beyond that, just make every effort to use what you do know at every opportunity. Most people are patient and friendly and eager to help. Most of all, enjoy the journey into another world. When you begin to understand and speak another language, the culture and people seem to open up a whole new experience, unlike the “normal” tourist experience that most limit themselves too. It takes time and effort. But, it is so well worth it. What are you waiting for?
This article is brought to you by the Sonoran Resorts Sales Team, www.sonoranresorts.mx, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales and Marketing. Sign up for Jim’s Monthly Newsletter: http://www.tinyurl.com/JimNewsletter