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How I learned Spanish

A lot of people notice that I speak Spanish and I speak it very well. What they don’t know is that I learned it as an adult in my early 30s. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done so I wanted to share my secret.

1) Get pimsleur CDs for your car. Listen to each CD twice. Listen to it once and then listen to it again.

Get the package with the most CDs. I have a copy of the 1st set if you want to borrow it. The rest I borrowed from the library.

http://www.amazon.com/Spanish-Understand-Pimsleur-Language-Comprehensive/dp/0743523571

2) Buy a frequency dictionary (this way you’re focusing on the most important words). Learn ten new words via flashcards or one-side-of-the-paper is covered. In a year and a half you’ll know all the words that people actually use.

http://www.amazon.com/Frequency-Dictionary-Spanish-Vocabulary-Dictionaries/dp/0415334292/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1293991709&sr=1-1

3) Buy every Spanish Grammar workbook and work through it. This is horribly unpleasant and will take countless hours. It’s the only way to really learn. Practice makes perfect are the best ones.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_30?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=practice+makes+perfect+spanish&x=0&y=0&sprefix=practice+makes+perfect+spanish

4) Get a private tutor who is an American who lived in Mexico (there are surprisingly a lot of these). Group classes do not work.

5) If you go outside of the country to take Spanish immersion classes, be very particular about your school. The school I went to was intense compared to the school down the road. Their school was a big
party and people had been there for months and couldn’t speak Spanish worth a damn.

Overall, if you are not intensively interacting in Spanish. You are wasting your time.

Here are my two big caveats before even attempting to do this:

1) The state department says it takes 800 to 1000 hours to learn Spanish from scratch for its diplomats. In my experience, this is true. So, be patient.

2) Three years ago, the translation software available was really terrible. I’d have to completely re-write anything I put through a translation machine. This year I started using google translate again and it does a pretty amazing job. There is no doubt in my mind that in 5 to 10 years we’ll just be able to put machine in between a Spanish speaker and an English speaker and get a perfect translation for both.