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The Witchcraft Of Spanish Vocabulary

The very first step to conquering a language is to tame its vocabulary. And sadly, that's the part that puts off most novice learners because memorizing strange-sounding words is too darn boring! A never-ending chant of rote rehearsal and a nervous prayer can see you through an upcoming test, but the process just won't cut it if your goal is to actually use the language in the street. It's a mystery how this incredibly inefficient method has survived this long and still continues to be perpetuated by schools and educators around the world. So is there any nirvana around this assault of monotony in our miserable lives? Anything that could make learning foreign words less painful?

Six Words That Rule The Streets Of Mexico

Having more Spanish speakers than any other country on the planet, Mexico naturally holds the lion's share in vernacular creativity. Mexican slang lexicon is not only matured and complex but also as colorful and diverse, if not more, as any of its counterparts. Given the proliferation of Mexicans in not only entertainment but rather every aspect of life and trade in the Western world, we already enjoy a healthy exposure to its slang vocabulary. Although an exhaustive study of any country's colloquialism would be overkill, learning some of the most common expressions is mighty fun and useful. Here, we explore ten of them from Mexico.

So Many Ways "To Pull" In Spanish!

Languages don't always work in predictable ways. They have rules and they break their own rules. They have more than one word for the same thing and the same word for more than one thing. This makes them frustratingly complex and it is this complexity that makes them beautiful. This complexity is the very hallmark of an organic language setting them apart from the likes of Klingon and Dothraki. One such fun aspect of Spanish is its translation for the English verb "to pull." If you've just started out with the language, it's a no-brainer: halar. But there's more than meets the eye. Turns out, Mexicans and their neighbors don't even like the word!

Comprender Vs. Entender: Do You Understand?

These are words that get mixed up by even native speakers, let alone noobs like us. Going by the dictionary, both are synonymous and have the same translation in English. However, the two have quite dissimilar connotations. Now the good news here is that mixing up comprender and entender is not a exactly deal-breaker like mixing up, say, ser and estar or por and para. So depending on how far ahead you are in your Spanish learning program, this might be a non-issue. However, if you're like me and suffer from an itch for perfection, knowing where to use one instead of the other is surely the difference between a rookie and a native.

Decode Mexican Place Names Like A Native

When the Spaniards first arrived in Mexico, they asked the indigenous locals for directions and that's where this story begins. The Indians, you see, didn't speak Spanish (duh) and named their cities in ways only they could pronounce. First line of defense, maybe? Who knows. But the Spaniards did their best to learn. And in the process, wound up thoroughly messing up those names. This is what happens when you try to write a word that not only doesn't exist in your language but is also nearly impossible for you to pronounce. The mistakes, however, stuck and with time gave Mexican place names their unique tongue-twisting character.




Tips On Using The World's Largest Language Learning Community

In the process of acquiring Spanish, we have used and abused an insane amount of free resources both offline and online. It is only with hit-and-trial that you eventually appreciate what works best for you, be it learning Spanish or acquiring any other skill. One of the resources many learners have used quite extensively is Livemocha and this article is going to focus on our experiences – and those of many other Spanish learners all over the world – with it. Having ransacked all that Livemocha has to offer in terms of Spanish, we have managed to put together our own list of strategies around squeezing it for maximum juice.

The social network


This is how Livemocha is modeled
This is how Livemocha is modeled
Photo credit: Linda Hartley licensed CC BY 2.0
Livemocha’s model is quite simple and intuitive. It merges social networking with language learning. So, basically you learn new languages using free online lessons, complete drills to assimilate your learning, and make friends with native speakers along the way to reinforce practical language skills. Now, Livemocha isn’t the only such site – you have others like iTalki as well – but being the largest community of learners has its own advantages.

Livemocha offers a free basic membership, much like most other social networking sites. When you join as a free user, you have at your disposal an array of free courses graded in levels along with several exercises and an entire community of fellow language learners to interact and socialize with. These courses have lessons covering every aspects of a wholesome language learning program, i.e., writing, reading, listening, and speaking.

The site has a rating system where you earn points and badges for performing various activities. You earn points not only for successfully completing your lessons but also for contributing to the community at large. For example, you earn points by chatting with other learners, reviewing their exercises, offering them feedback, etc. This is a symbiosis where your exercises are reviewed by those proficient in your target language while you review those of someone who is learning a language you’re fluent in. So, effectively, you are a teacher as well as a student, both at once. A brilliant concept that helped me acquire most of my Spanish skills without a formal teacher! Livemocha also offers a range of paid courses if you are willing to shell out some dough but this article is only going to discuss what comes for free.

Getting started


Just like any other social networking site, you start by creating an account and a profile with some personal details. Well, you don’t absolutely have to load up tons of personal information on this site as you would normally do on your Facebook profile. Almost every field is optional and you are free to decide how much you are comfortable sharing.

However, a profile devoid of any informtion looks pretty much spammy or insincere. Don’t forget that this is a community and the more you are invested in your social endeavors here, the more juice you get to draw. Since your profile is the first impression, it should be reasonably friendly and inviting. A decent mug as your profile picture counts as a necessary PR step.

Do put up a friendly note about yourself and your language learning interests in your “About Me” section as that’s the section that essentially introduces you. The next absolute necessity is telling what languages you speak and what you wish to learn. This will not only help other community members know what you are pursuing and what you know, but will also help Livemocha suggest the most relevant profiles whenever you perform a community search. So, if your profile says that your native tongue is English and you are learning Spanish, Livemocha would suggest to you native Spanish speakers who are learning English.

How to get the most out of it


Once your profile is up, you can immediately start engaging with the vast network of learners and learning resources. In the beginning, however, the whole array of options and tools might get you overwhelmed. So, let my experiences with Livemocha cut right through the clutter and bring to you the 4 most useful tips in order to maximize your benefits:
  1. Focus solely on the reading and speaking lessons. A major portion of every course is composed of modules where you click on pictures and listen to an audio telling you what the picture stands for. In my opinion, this module is an utter waste of time and energy as it won’t get you anywhere in terms of either speaking or reading Spanish. Instead, it is best to just skip to the reading exercise where you record yourself reading a given passage in Spanish and submit the recording to the community of native speakers for review. This will help you with pronunciation and diction in the most effective manner.

  2. Immediately start helping others with their work. So, if you are a native English speaker learning Spanish, you should immediately start reviewing the drills completed by native Spanish speakers trying to learn English. Don’t procrastinate on this one as helping others will get you more help which you so desperately need. A profile poor in “teacher points” is easily seen as someone selfish and unwilling to help – not the best impression you want the community to have of you. Helping others is the best way of making friends with native speakers and accelerating your learning.

  3. Always acknowledge their helpfulness. As you start submitting your exercises, you will start receiving valuable feedback from other community members who review your work. You must get into the practice of rating every feedback in terms on helpfulness and, if possible, offer a comment of acknowledgement. This will not only earn you points but also show your gratitude for their help. Besides, a good rating from you would also add points to the members whose feedback was rated and this would act as an added incentive for them to review your work more often and more sincerely. On the other hand, not-so-helpful reviews are also weeded out organically in this process.

  4. Interact with other members. We admit we are no fans of the Java-based chat interface of Livemocha but the activity nonetheless remains integral to your language acquisition program. Real-time interaction can teach you several finer nuances of colloquial Spanish which are otherwise not available on any course. If the interface peeves you, feel free to move over to something else like Skype once you have become reasonably comfortable with the chat-buddy.

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3 comments

  1. Nice tips you have provided.I want to learn world wide language English,please share some tips with me.I have started learning English with videos http://www.youtube.com/user/twominenglish Please suggest some tips for English learners.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks for providing this information really it is helpful

    TOEFL Grammar test

    ReplyDelete
  3. This July I'm organizing a team of 15 workers to make basic block houses for widows who are taking care of their youngsters alone. The majority of these men can't speak Spanish at all and are asking me about Spanish courses.

    I always recommend them Rocket Spanish (video presentation here http://vidshrt.com/Spanish_rockettwN ), why?, because I use it myself and it's powerful. I'm on an ongoing pursuit to reach fluency in Spanish so I've tried many courses and study programs. All of them have been boring or needed a certain amount of discipline that I simply cannot manage. Lessons are captivating and constructive, they contain dozens of real-life situations that I experience often when I go to Venezuela, it even teaches you how to argue in Spanish, you just can't beat that.

    I have a multitude of good friends in Venezuela, until now our conversations have been shallow. I look forward to my next visit to further improve these relationships with my newly acquired skill in speaking Spanish. So if want to learn Spanish, get Rocket Spanish. Stop searching and start learning!

    ReplyDelete

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