Learn Spanish : Finding that Horse
Learn Spanish : Finding that Horse
What do we know so far? We found out that the best approach to language learning is to learn Spanish the very same way you learned your native tongue. Lots and lots of intensive listening without speaking comes first. This is how you learned your native language and this is how little kids will instinctively approach learning a second language.
By the time speaking comes, you will have mastered the fundamentals of the target language. You will know how to use parts of speech before you know what those parts of speech are even called. You have got to find a way to mimic this process. You have to find a way whereby you can learn Spanish in the same very manner in which you learned your native language.
This is what it means to start with the horse and not the cart. To start with the cart—the traditional way in which foreign languages are taught in the United States (and virtually all over the planet)—you will become a good interpreter of written text but you will not develop speaking skills.
To start with the cart could possibly short-circuit your speaking ability forever.
So how does on start? Does one go back and become a child again to learn Spanish the natural way? Is it even possible to come anywhere close to finding a method of language learning that mimics as closely as possible the natural, child-like manner in which we learned our native language?
There is. I know you've been thinking the whole time you’ve been reading this that this is sounding more and more like a sales pitch. And, if you've been indeed thinking that, then you are absolutely right. The only thing is, damn it, is that I have no financial interest in what I about to share with you! It's true. You will be able to call these companies that produce these products and ask if Douglas Bower has a financial interest in their company and you will get a big fat no! I do no own stock, I have no relatives who work for them, nor do I have an affiliate program going with any of them—damn it!
My interest is this: Americans are expatriating to Mexico in record numbers. They are transforming entire cities into something quite un-Mexican and it is because Americans cannot or will not learn the language. The consequent of their Spanish illiteracy is that they congregate into American Enclaves and create "Little Americas" all over Mexico.
I want that to stop and I am convinced it can if Americans learned a non-threatening, natural, fluid, and almost child-like way to learn Spanish. That is my interest; that is my motive.
Remember the quote in the previous paragraph,
"In a study by Postovsky, 1974; Winitz, 1981; J. Gary and N. Gary, 1981, they postulated that the most effective methodology for the adult learner of a second language is one in which listening (that "period of silence") before any speaking is done."
There is a home study course that does exactly this. There is absolutely no speaking in the course. There is just listening. This course mimics that "period of silence" which research shows children go through when learning a foreign language.
There is first the intensive listening and observing. There is the association of word, sight, and actions that teach you the necessary vocabulary and grammar long before you begin to speak a word of Spanish. The course also takes into account that as an adult you have distinct advantages over children in your more advanced brain development.
This course is called, The Learnables.
"International Linguistics Corporation, founded in 1976, develops and markets premier foreign language teaching programs for children and adults. The language materials reflect the most modern developments in language research and are thoroughly tested at different educational sites before being placed on the market. The language programs are recommended by educators and individuals, and have been used successfully by schools, home educators, and individuals in business and public affairs since 1976. All books are developed so that they may be used for self study and for classroom instruction."
What is Unique
"International Linguistics Corporation produces an extensive set of materials to acquire the foreign language, especially in Spanish, French, German, and English. It is not a beginning program that teaches a limited number of phrases. It is a full course of study. When purchasing language programs, we recommend that you examine the product to determine whether it is a beginning program or a full course of study.
International Linguistics uses a large number of illustrations to enable the learner to think directly from picture to foreign language. Some language programs mix English and foreign words in the same sentence, preventing thinking in the foreign language. Translation decreases the ability to think in the foreign language, whereas the use of pictures increases the ability to think in the foreign language.
International Linguistics employs native speakers of foreign languages so that you hear only authentic pronunciation. Some programs may not use native speakers. It is recommended that you inquire whether all the speakers are native speakers before you purchase a language program."
The "Period of Silence"
This course is designed at address the "period of silence" I mentioned previously. It is, in my view, uses the same natural process we used to learn our first language.
"Individuals can acquire a foreign language as easily as children develop their first language by following some relatively simple procedures. THE LEARNABLES® is a picture system of instruction that requires no translation from English. Students look at hundreds of pictures and listen to tape recordings of words and simple sentences by native speakers. Language comprehension takes place without difficulty. Students think directly in the foreign language."
I went through all the levels of their Spanish course. It was easy, fun, interesting, and quite amazed me that I was able to retain Spanish vocabulary without the need for rote memorization. I once had a situation where I was trying to remember a Spanish word but could not. I visualized the little cartoon drawing with the action I was trying to recall and the word came to me.
This works. This meets the need for the "period of silence"—that period of intense listening to the target language words and grammatical structure. You do no speaking. You are not ready for speaking. All you need to do is listen and follow the course directions to the letter.
I cannot emphasize enough the need for this intense period of just listening to the language. The Learnables gives you a directed and guided tour of the fundamentals of the language. You will absorb the vocabulary and grammar without even knowing it. This course will get you ready to start speaking.
Completing this course of Spanish study will get one foot in the stirrup of the saddle of that Horse of spoken fluency. Once you finish the five-course sequence of the Learnables Spanish I believe you will be ready to start the "speaking stage" of your Spanish learning. For this I direct you to the Pimsleur Spanish products.
"Dr. Pimsleur devoted his life to language teaching and was one of the world's leading experts in applied linguistics. After obtaining his Ph.D. in French from Columbia University, he taught French Phonetics and Phonemics, and supervised the language laboratory at UCLA. He went on to become Professor of Romance Languages and Language Education, and Director of The Listening Center at Ohio State University; Professor of Education and Romance Languages at the State University of New York at Albany; and a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Heidelberg.
Dr. Pimsleur was a member of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), American Educational Research Association (AERA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and a founding member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). His many books and articles revolutionized theories of language learning and teaching.
After years of experience and research, Dr. Pimsleur developed a new method that is based on two key principles: the Principle of Anticipation and a scientific principle of memory that he called Graduated Interval Recall. This program incorporates both of these principles to provide you with the most simple and effective learning method possible."
Principle of Anticipation
"The Principle of Anticipation requires you to "anticipate" a correct answer. Practically, what this means is that you must retrieve the answer from your own memory before it is confirmed in the lesson. It works as follows:
The lesson will pose a challenge -- perhaps by asking you, in the new language:
"Are you going to the movies today?"
There will be a pause, and, drawing on information given previously, you will say:
"No, I went yesterday."
The instructor will then confirm your answer: "No, I went yesterday."
Before Dr. Pimsleur created his teaching method, language courses were based instead on the principle of repetition. Teachers drummed words into the students' minds over and over, as if the mind were a record whose grooves wore deeper with repetition. However, neurophysiologists tell us that, on the contrary, simple and unchallenging repetition has a hypnotic, even dulling effect on the learning process. Eventually, the words being repeated will lose their meaning. Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning accelerates when there is an "input/output" system of interaction, in which students receive information and then are asked to retrieve and use it."
Graduated Interval Recall
"Graduated Interval Recall is a complex name for a very simple theory about memory. No aspect of learning a foreign language is more important than memory, yet before Dr. Pimsleur's work, no one had explored more effective ways for building language memory.
In his research, Dr. Pimsleur discovered how long students remembered new information and at what intervals they needed to be reminded of it. If reminded too soon or too late, they failed to retain the information. This discovery enabled him to create a schedule of exactly when and how the information should be reintroduced.
Suppose you learn a new word. You tell yourself to remember it, but after five minutes you can't recall it. If you'd been reminded of it after five seconds, you probably would have remembered it for maybe a minute -- then you would have needed another reminder. Each time you are reminded, you remember the word longer than you did the time before. The intervals between reminders become longer and longer, until you eventually remember the word without being reminded at all.
This program is designed to remind you of new information at the exact intervals where maximum retention takes place. Each time your memory begins to fade, you will be asked to recall the word. Through this powerful method, you progress from short-term to long-term memory without being aware of it, while avoiding the monotonous rote repetition used in traditional language courses."
"The Principle of Anticipation and Graduated Interval Recall are the foundation of the Pimsleur Method, but there are other unique components that are also important. One is the theory of a core vocabulary. We have all been intimidated, when approaching a new language, by the sheer number of new words we must learn. But extensive research has shown that we actually need a comparatively limited number of words to be able to communicate effectively in any language.
Language can be divided into two distinct categories: grammatical structures (function words) and concrete vocabulary (content words). By focusing on function words and enabling the student to comprehend and employ the structure of a new language, Dr. Pimsleur found that language learners were able to more readily put new knowledge to use. There are very few content words that are used every day. The essential core of a language involves function words, which tend to relate to human activities."
"The Pimsleur Method centers around teaching, in the shortest time possible, functional mastery in understanding and speaking a language. You will be working on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all at once, while also learning phrases that have practical use in daily life. It has been said that language is primarily speech. With this concept in mind, Dr. Pimsleur created his language programs on audio because he knew that students of languages would learn better with their ears, not their eyes. This is achieved through what Dr. Pimsleur called "organic learning”, which entails learning on several fronts at once. His system enables the student to learn grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in a natural and exciting way.
This course is designed to teach you to understand and to speak the essential elements of your new language in a relatively short time. During each half-hour lesson, you will actually converse with two people, using the type of language spoken by educated citizens in their everyday business and social life. The program's unique method for presenting dialogue relieves you of most common learning problems."
Just the other day I got a reader e-mailing me asking me what I would suggest he use in the United States to keep his hard-earned fluency level at a high pitch. I suggested, without hesitation, the Pimsleur’s courses that sit on my shelf. I still use them and I live in Mexico. They are like having your own personal tutor with whom you will be talking all through the 30-minute lessons.
The course is the perfect follow-up to the Learnables. Once you go through the Learnables you will be ready for the Pimsleur Spanish products—the speaking component of your new language acquisition.
If I were Bill Gates rich, I would buy the Learnables and Pimsleur products and pass them out like candy. That is how sold I am on these products. I've used them. They work. What more can I do to convince you to begin your Spanish training
course of study with these products. Use The Learnables first to achieve that educative "period of silence" and then The Pimsleur Spanish products to begin your speaking component of your instruction.
Go to part 4 of this series - Learn Spanish : The Cart