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Thursday, April 12

Learning Spanish Talking to Your TV

Amerigo's Mexican Treasure

Here's a technique I learned from a friend in Mexico city. Her English was excellent, perhaps at an advanced-intermediate to lower-advanced level. She had never taken an English course, never been abroad and didn't have any family or friends who spoke English.

How did she do it?

She watched American soap operas every day. She watched them actively. While the show played she repeated every word out loud as quickly as the characters spoke. At first she could only chime in and repeat the occasional word and just hummed the rest, but after awhile she could repeat almost everything that was said a fraction of a second after it was said.

Of course she understood almost nothing at the beginning, but that's not the point; she kept repeating what she heard. Her aural discrimination, her ability to hear subtle differences among sounds, got better and better. The key to this technique is that in order to repeat what you hear you first have to focus like a laser on the speaker. Your mind cannot drift. When your ear is well-trained your comprehension will improve as will your speaking ability.

How Should I Do it?

First the technique part:
To practice the technique, first try it on an English news broadcast, a movie or even a willing friend who will keep up a stream of speech for you to repeat. When you are comfortable with the technique, use it in learning Spanish.

Now add the Spanish part:
I suggest beginning with a Spanish-language news broadcast. Learning Spanish with news broadcasts offers four major benefits: there is only one speaker; we can see the speaker's mouth and facial expressions; we hear broadcast-quality Spanish which is clearly-articulated and less colloquial; and we are familiar with the characters and stories in the news.

After a few weeks you'll notice a significant difference in what you are able to hear.

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