Learning to understand Spanish

5 Nov

A while back, I wrote a post about the simple steps to speaking Spanish. Well, I’ve got great news! It’s just as easy to learn to understand spoken Spanish. Here are the steps:

  1. Know what the person is going to say.
  2. Listen carefully to confirm that’s what they said.

That’s it! The great part about this approach is that if the person doesn’t say what you thought they were going to say, you can just ask them to repeat it until they say something that sounds close to what you want them to say. This approach does have some problems, such as when you’re negotiating a purchase and you think you hear you’re getting something different than what the seller actually said.

In all seriousness, knowing what the person is going to say is hugely important. Not only does the limited vocabulary of a given context help (say, the grocery store), but also the ability to recognize common phrases instantly so as to allow the brain more processing time for less familiar words. Fluency in listening is just getting to the point where you recognize everything instantly. And the best way to recognize phrases instantly is to have spoken them yourself, from which one of two possible conclusions may be drawn:

  1. Speaking a foreign language helps improve your listening also, sort of like The Writing Road to Reading.
  2. The fastest way to understand a new language is to speak it only to yourself.

Personally, I’m going with the latter conclusion. I’m pretty sure it’s the principle behind those “Learn Spanish in 10 Days” ads you see, too 🙂

2 Responses to “Learning to understand Spanish”

  1. kcauble November 8, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    I think your observation that speaking is a solid road to understanding is true in many other ways; for example, why are we supposed to praise God or bless (literally, ‘speak good of/to/upon’) people? Because it’s the ‘true’ way to speak. Unfortunately it’s not our first language, and so we need to praise and bless etc. in order to even understand our new language of praising and blessing.

    Probably that doesn’t make any sense. Oh well.

    • David Chandler November 8, 2013 at 11:22 am #

      Interesting thought. I will have to think more about what it means to understand our new language of praising and blessing.

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