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How many times have I heard this: "I'm too old to learn Spanish." Or, "Only kids' brains can absorb new languages." While I would like to just say "phooey!" and leave it at that, I've come to see that adults who say such things are in one of two groups: Traumatized Former Language Students, or Victims of Ageism.   There's a problem with language education in America: we don't do it. Why is it that the average person from any African national speaks four or five languages, with no language lab, little money at the local school, and no fancy computer apps? Because the people around them speak multiple languages: It's part of the culture. But also, sadly, it's because of a history of colonialism and the predominance of English in the world. French, Urdu, English, Patois. These folks switch between numerous linguistic codes with utter facility from an early age. It's a natural part of their culture. People in Africa (and Europe) expect multilingualism... read more

In English we have 5 vowels orthographically(in spelling), but phonetically(in terms of speech sounds) there are 14 different vowel sounds! Spanish only has 5 vowel sounds! This can make it rather difficult for Spanish speakers to pronounce English words. For English speakers learning Spanish, this means that we have to narrow down our vowel pronunciations.  When it comes to pronunciation, I always tell my students to practice their vowel pronunciation in Spanish: a-e-i-o-u is pronounced, in Spanish, "ah"-"ay"-"ee"-"oh"-"oo" The good news is that these vowels never change in Spanish pronunciation. Once you get those down, you can pronounce any Spanish word with confidence. 

If you have reached the present perfect and past perfect tense, you are a good way into your Spanish studies and it's time for a serious talk about grammar. I don't know of any shortcut around regular practice. However, you can do yourself an enormous favor by taking the time to discover what you mean to say in English before you attempt to construct the grammar in Spanish. It is possible to learn how to conjugate verbs in the present and past perfect tenses without truly understanding their meaning or where and when to use them in writing or conversation. If you are reading this, you've likely set higher goals for yourself. Let me begin by introducing the present and past perfect tenses in English. After we've grasped the purpose of these verb forms, we can move quickly and easily through the "rules." Recall that in the simple present or simple past tense we say "I live" or "I lived." "I love"... read more

So the warm months are here and I'm ready to meet students interested in bettering their Spanish.  Are you going to be studying abroad for the coming school year?  Do you want a head start on next year's Spanish courses?  Are you interested in giving the gift of bilingualism to your son or daughter?  Send me a message and let's talk!  No tienen nada que perder, y todo el mundo latino les espera!

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, 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!

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  

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