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¡Olé! Helping Students Succeed in Spanish since 2004!

¡Hola!     Do you want to improve your Spanish skills? I've been teaching students just like you for 10 years! I have lots of tips & tricks to help you do your very best in speaking, reading, writing & listening in Spanish! How can I help you do your very best? By finding out about YOU!!       Did you know that people learn in different ways? We are all different and our differences make us who we are! ¡Qué chévere! How cool! Here are some questions to ask yourself: What do you feel you're pretty good at? What are your hobbies? What other subjects do you enjoy? How do you learn best? For example, do you learn better by watching someone do something new or by listening to someone explain what to do? Or do you learn best by doing something hands on?       By getting to know how you learn best, you'll have the tools to help you succeed in anything you do! I can offer you the most effective strategies to... read more

20 Questions

Today one of my Spanish students was learning vocabulary related to personal appearance (hair and eye color, height, etc) and had previously learned professions, so to practice all of this vocabulary, we played a couple rounds of 20 questions. We alternated who was thinking of the person and who was guessing so that she could practice both speaking and listening as well as practice her question words! She really enjoyed this, and I have used this method in the past with students which was very successful. It's a fun way to practice a variety of vocabulary and use imagination. 

Facebook for Language Learning

One of my favorite tools to use when starting lessons with students is Facebook. It's great because most students have smart phones and can open the app right there. And, you get your students to talk about people they know, or people they would like to know more about (celebrities and such). For my Spanish students, we open up a friend's page and just like that we create sentences and ask questions about: -names -age -where people are from -where they live -what they like to do, read, listen to, watch etc. -what they did in the past -relationships (family, marriages, friends etc.) -how they are characteristic wise or condition wise For Spanish specifically, it is a great opportunity to use the verbs: -ser -tener -vivir -estar -hacer -gustar -llamarse -ir   Since English speaking students sometimes struggle with the different uses between ser and estar, and the use of tener with regard to age, it's... read more

Tell me about your favorite movie

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I work with students of a variety of levels to improve their Spanish speaking ability. Meeting with a student twice a week can make it quite difficult to keep sessions fresh and exciting and to come up with conversational topics that haven't previously been covered. Today one of my more advanced students wanted to practice using the correct imperfect and preterit conjugations and so he described to me, in great detail, his favorite movie. Since most people can talk for a long time about their favorite movie, and it is easy to prod more shy students into engaging on this topic, I thought it a great topic choice on his part and will steal this idea to use with other students.  

Pretend you are Christopher Columbus...

Pretend you are Christopher Columbus, writing to the King and Queen of Spain to beg them to finance your trip to the Americas. Explain to them what you need, why it is necessary, what you hope to gain. In Spanish this requires the use of the subjunctive! I have often struggled with finding a fun activity to get students to practice writing the subjunctive in context, and came across this idea the other day. I used it this past weekend with a student who found it a fun yet challenging task.   One piece of advice I would say is to have a mini word bank of phrases that might be useful for them, as this was the only real obstacle to my student's success!

Study Spanish

I have used this website for years.  It is a free source of tutoring for any student wishing to understand Spanish grammar.  You can read or print out the explanations.  There are several quizzes to help your comprehension. It is also very USER FRIENDLY.   www.studyspanish.com  

Spanish language.

Spanish is becoming more and more important with regards to business. Learning Spanish will enable you to better communicate with Spanish speaking employees or co-workers. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to offer your product or service to the 350 million people whose mother tongue is Spanish? In North America, Hispanic consumers are the fastest-growing market segment. As for job opportunities, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have Spanish on your resume. In the United States, knowing Spanish can be particularly helpful if you work in healthcare or education. Increasingly, the building trades are employing more and more Spanish speaking workers. One thing is certain. If you are bilingual, you will be more marketable and have more career choices than your monolingual counterpart. Globalization, with it's accompanying free trade agreements is shrinking the business world, and those who know more than one language will definitely have the edge.

The Benefits of Growing Up Bilingual

I feel lucky to have grown up bilingual. I have my mother to thank for that, who insisted I learned a foreign language. I also attribute my passion for travel to my maternal grandfather. He was a top executive at Braniff International Airlines in Argentina and we were fortunate enough to travel for free when we were kids thanks to him. I also look up to my grandmother. She was a world explorer and wanderer herself; she took me and my brother everywhere on her trips. What my mother didn’t know – and maybe regretted later – was that by insisting on a bilingual education, she was encouraging her daughter to leave her home country. And that’s exactly what I did. With mastery of the English language, which I learned early in preschool in Argentina, I left home as soon as I became of age. Driving by the domestic airport (“Aeroparque”) as a kid meant freedom. It was a gateway for exotic adventures across distant lands. I always knew I’d be a perfect adventure-goer... read more

My personal Spanish learning process.

Do you realise how important is to understand Spanish or to have a basic understanding of the Spanish language right now in the US? Ask ex-mayor Bloomberg from NY if it is important or not. Sadly the High School and College curriculums are not adapted to what really helps understand the language. They focus on grammar so much, that they forget how to teach to learn. If you can handle a conversation in Spanish after several years of High School and College lessons, even being a straight A student, please raise your hand. I haven´t met once yet. And trust me, it is the same the other way around. Spanish schools teaching English didn´t get me far either. Best way to learn the language: Traveling. It might get tricky and expensive, but it is the best way. Second? I believe is music. If you listen to spanish songs and try to understand what these guys guys are singing, you might be surprised on how much can you learn. (Do yourself a favor and skip the reggaeton, please). That´s... read more

Learn Spanish without all of the boring memorization!

You don't need to spend hours memorizing new words or making simple concepts more complicated than they need to be to learn Spanish. The best way to learn Spanish is to focus on the similarities between English and Spanish. The fact is that whether or not you realize it, you already know some Spanish.   One book that I highly recommend is Madrigal's Magic Key To Spanish. This book takes you step by step to make you highly proficient in the language. I am not saying that this is a substitute for any class, but it is an excellent complement for nearly any Spanish class. I used this book after not taking Spanish for a while to make me proficient again. I also continue to use it when I don't like the class textbook and need to show a more clear picture of the concept.   Here are some examples of how to make Spanish easy in which Madrigal's Magic Key To Spanish illustrates:   Do you recognize what any of this means?   Oceano Atlántico Oceano... read more

Rory's Story Cubes

I frequently work with students who wish to improve their conversational Spanish skills. I strongly believe learning to actually speak the language is the hardest part for most students, because it is almost impossible to practice unless you have someone with whom to practice. I have certain students who I see on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and only tutor them in conversational Spanish. For me, keeping these lessons interesting can be a challenge, especially with shy students.  To combat this, I recently purchased a conversation starter game called Rory's Story Cubes. These are ridiculously great and have been a huge success among my students. Not only do the cubes give students the opportunity to use their imagination, they are also a great way to practice Spanish! I have challenged students to tell stories using only the past tense, or only the future tense, or by incorporating a command into each sentence. By putting stipulations on what they can and cannot say, you... read more

You are never too old to start

It could be anything: paint, draw, even a new language. The idea that you are done learning once you reach a certain age in your life is as ridiculous as the notion that all women should be homemakers. In fact, it is never too late to learn anything! Take me, for example. I am a magazine editor who found a new life teaching about the very subjects that I learned in college and applied throughout my professional life.   My goal is to ensure that you will learn as quickly as possible any or all of the four subjects that I'm approved for in WyzAnt. Whether you want to understand the finer points of proofreading, or need to learn how to speak or write in English or in Spanish, I'll give you the tools that you'll need to become an expert in your selection from lesson one!

Project-Based Learning in the Late-1960's

Ms. Betty Lynn Snyder, a sixth-grade teacher at Forrest Park Elementary, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas is my most memorable teacher. She was a great teacher because she made us think, write, and create. In Ms. Snyder's class I learned about Shakespeare's sonnets, The Belgian Congo, Nigeria and conserving natural resources. She was ahead of her time: she was a Project-Based Learning (PBL) Queen! The independent project learning broadened my knowledge of the world and of myself. It was through Ms. Snyder's class that I became enamored of the story of diplomat and Ambassador Ralph Bunche. This was particularly important, because I was the only person of color in my class--before our schools were officially integrated--and she found a way to create diversity in our learning. Thus, I always felt comfortable in her classroom and, in fact, I was elected secretary general of the mock United Nations. As I recall, Ms. Snyder had two sons--one of whom was named Edward,... read more

Turning a time-waster into a Spanish language learning tool!

This post is about television...the boob-tube....the object of the couch potato....the nemesis of many students.  We all know that television (including netflix, hulu +, roku, and even DVDs) can be real time-wasters.   When we need a brain-break, or just need to chill out, the TV can be so attractive!  Yeah, I know what I'm talking about because I've been there too.   Here's a quick tip for advancing your Spanish language learning:  the next time you are in the mood for an old favorite movie, try switching the sound track to your foreign language, but leave the subtitles in English.  As you listen to the dialogue, your brain 'receives' the meaning via subtitles.  What you are listening to, then, is "comprehensible input" which is absolutely key to effective language learning.  In addition, you hear and internalize the sounds of the language, which will benefit your pronunciation and your comprehension as well... read more

How I became passionate about the Spanish language

I discovered my passion for the Spanish language on a church trip to the Dominican Republic ten years ago while serving a group of amazing people there. At the time I was a junior at Western Michigan University and was majoring in Creative Writing. I had only taken a few years of Spanish in high school and was very shaky with speaking. However, something amazing happened while I was there! I found myself being able to communicate and slowly understand. A little boy named Jorge was sitting with my friend and I one night and slowly repeating  "estrella" when it suddenly clicked. I have little Jorge to thank for igniting that passion in me. I went on to double major in Spanish and Creative Writing, then continue to get my Master's degree in Spanish literature. Through the years I have lived in Santander, Spain; Queretaro, Mexico, and finally Barcelona, Spain for the past five years. My husband (who is Spanish) and I just moved back to Michigan and are starting... read more

Benefit of learning Spanish!

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States and the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world! It is the official language of nearly twenty countries spoken by more than 500 million people. Spanish is the second language of international communication, and is increasingly used in economics, politics and cultural relations. The rapidly growing number of students studying Spanish throughout the world have reported these reasons and benefits: 1. Better job opportunities 2. Improved memory 3. Aging more slowly (it has been scientifically-proven that learning a new language can delay the age-related decline in mental function, particularly as experienced in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s!) 4. Conquering that special person's heart (why not learn to speak with your loved one in their own language?) 5. Sense of personal accomplishment 6. Career advancement 7. Making more money 8. Reaching new markets 9. Making new... read more

Step 1. Find something that excites you!

It can be tasking and tedious trying to learn a foreign language.   Students often ask the question, "Why do I need to learn a second language?"  "What purpose does this serve in my life in a primarily English speaking world?"  For those that are motivated to learn a second language, the answer to these questions seem obvious.  For those that are not, this is harder to grasp.   I believe that we need to stop focusing so much on what the PURPOSE of second language is, and what productive function it will have in our lives.  Rather, if we focus on what excites us about that culture, and seek information about the language for the sake of learning, the purpose and function of second language skills will become more apparent.   We live in a world with a wealth of information at our fingertips.  Even if you don't have the privilege of going to a country where the target language is spoken, I encourage you... read more

Ser vs. Estar: To be or To be??....What is the difference!!??

Many of my students dread conjugating verbs. They dread it even more when the verbs are irregular and have the same meaning!!  The verbs ser and estar both mean "to be", so what is the difference between the two?? Ser is used to describe things that are permanent or often unchangeable.  For example, Yo soy de Estados Unidos.(I am from the United States).  The form of ser used in the sentence is soy.  You can not change where you are from. Ser is also used to describe characteristics, professions, religions and nationalities.       Estar is used to describe things that are temporary. For example, Yo estoy en Florida para las vacaciones(I am in Florida for vacation). I am vacationing in Florida, but I am not from there.  There is a little rhyme that is printed in the textbook, Realidades, which helps you remember when to use the verb, estar.  The rhyme goes, For how... read more

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