Learning a language is fascinatingly difficult because you’re being required to make sounds, that you’re not familiar with, in a way that expresses your thoughts, some of which may be important to you and eventually intimate. Even saying something as benign or innocuous as “Do you want to have lunch?” can be terribly embarrassing and traumatic if you get it wrong in the language you’re trying to learn. And yet, that’s part of the risk you have to take or the stretching you have to do to master this new language.
The best way to learn a language, Spanish in this case, is to strand yourself in a situation where you’re forced to use the language on a daily basis. Living in the United States and trying to learn Spanish, it’s possible and relatively easy to find people who speak Spanish to practice with. But it’s not the same as living in a Central American or South American country or in Spain for several months to immerser yourself in Spanish.
So, the next best thing is to force yourself to use Spanish as you learn it. Two great tools for this are movies and any reading material you can find. I recommend identifying your favorite movie or movies, something that’s on you entertainment center’s shelves right now, and see if the DVD has a Spanish dubbed soundtrack. Depending on the film the dialogue may not be easy to understand or there just might not be much of it or a great variety, particularly if it’s just “Run, run! Hurry, hurry! Duck!!!” But if it’s a favorite film you probably know a lot of it by heart. So, you know what they’re saying.
You probably can simply listen to this or these movies, without having to watch the images, and know exactly what’s going on because of the music and the ambient sound effects. “Ah, yes, here’s where Luke Skywalker and Han Solo fight off the tie fighters attacking the Millenium Falcon.”
Force yourself to watch these films practically on a loop. Have them on when you’re having a snack or breakfast. Instead of the radio playing, have these films playing. This will help you familiarize yourself with the Spanish words being used that literally translate the dialogue of your favorite films. The interest you already have in these films will make it much easier to deal with them on a seemingly endless loop.
Reading should also be part of your repertoire. While you can easily bookmark Spanish websites that you can find through internet searches, such as newspapers from different Spanish-speaking communities, you should also apply the previous notion to books. Find Spanish versions of Harry Potter or Tom Clancy, books you’ve already read so that you’ll know what’s going on, and read them over and over again (or at least once).
These two methods are great ways of immersing yourself in your new language if you can’t manage to disappear to Venezuela or Spain for three months.
However, regardless of what methods you use or even if you find a speaking partner who will allow you to practice on them, the most important thing to do is to read my eBook. Why? Because, if you don’t take the short amount of time it takes for you to master the basic differences in the pronunciation of Spanish as it contrasts with English, then you’ll be doing what I speak so often about, the dreaded “learning your version of Spanish.” That’s the odd phenomenon that every language student, regardless of the language, has experienced where in their attempts to wrap their heads and their tongues, teeth, lips and mouths around these new sounds wind up creating intermediate and wrong sounds —bad habit pronunciation— that only get in the way of learning the real language.
Master this first and then any practice and immersion method you choose from then on will produce greater results for you, faster.