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Tips on Studying Spanish in San Antonio
In many ways, learning Spanish in San Antonio is a distinct advantage. Well more than half the local population speaks Spanish as their first language, and the environment is rich in opportunities to learn and use Spanish. And as long as you are studying Spanish, you might as well get the most out of it. Here are some tips to help you learn the language and be able to incorporate your ability into your activities later in life.
Vocabulary. Vocabulary is hard because it involves a lot of memorization. There is simply no substitute for vocabulary, because no matter how much grammar and culture you know, if you donít know what the words mean, you cannot communicate. The key to learning vocabulary is to learn in small bites and to repeat the process over and over again. Study vocabulary for only about 10-15 minutes per time, but do it three or four times a day. One good way to learn is make cards with Spanish on one side and English on the other. That way you can practice the your knowledge in both directions. As you become sure you know a word and its forms, you can put that card aside an concentrate on those that remain. Absolutely do not wait until a major test to try to learn 200 vocabulary words. Youíll regret it.
Grammar. Verbs cause the most grief in learning Spanish grammar, primarily because of all the forms. Unlike English, Spanish verb forms change depending on who is doing something and when. As with vocabulary, repetition is critical, but with grammar, writing is also important. For one thing, tests are written, so if you have experience writing grammatical Spanish, you will have a better chance of writing correct test answers. For another, writing allows you to appreciate directly subtle differences (such as the stem change from "queremos" to "quiero" or the difference between "hablo" and "hablů"). Write down all irregulary verb forms. Do your workbook exercises and, if you feel you need more, write out the exercises in the textbook.
Pronunciation. Almost everyone has heard someone speak a language with an accent so thick itís essentially incomprehensible. Sometimes itís funny, but if you are really trying to communicate, you need to pronounce well. Spanish is relatively easy, and there are specific conventions of spelling that let you know how a word is to be pronounced. Donít just repeat Spanish words as though they were English. Try to make them sound like Spanish and you will be well on your way to being able to use Spanish for business or pleasure.
Reading and Listening. Even at the beginning, you might be surprised how much Spanish you can understand. In addition to the Spanish in your texts, of course, there are also Spanish language newspapers and magazines, many with pictures that help you figure out whatís going on. The library carries some of each. For listening, there are several Spanish-language radio stations, and two over-the-air Spanish television stations (plus a couple on cable). Radio mostly plays music, but television gives you the advantage of putting pictures to words. Try to watch the news in Spanish after you have watched it in English (so youíll know what the stories are). Talk shows are more difficult because itís usually just a series of talking heads, but you might get a bit out of them too.
Speaking. It can be intimidating to speak a foreign language, but the advantages of just doing it are great. Next time you go to a Mexican restaurant, order in Spanish. Go shopping at any mall and try to take care of business in Spanish. You may have to use some English, but any Spanish you use will reinforce your ability to function in Spanish, which is the aim of the course.
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