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Can Learning Spanish Feel Like Sex, Gambling, And Chocolate?

What is the link between gambling, chocolate, sex and…learning Spanish? You might be surprised to hear that the same part of the brain’s reward centre activates in response to all four stimuli, but that’s what scientists in Barcelona recently discovered. Participants in an experiment were encouraged to decipher new words in a foreign language whilst experts measured the chemicals in their brains. The results lead scientists to claim that those who felt more rewarded from learning new words were able to learn more. In other words, participants who naturally feel good when they learn, are more likely to learn more!

6 Ways To Turn Your Vacation Into A Spanish Learning Venture

Traveling to a Spanish speaking country has always been the single biggest motivator to Spanish students; in fact, it’s perhaps the only reason most of us decided to even start learning the language. After all, what good is a language skill if you never wish to be where it’s spoken! It’s a shame how so many of us consider it a divine right, as English speakers, to be understood everywhere we go, be it Mexico, Mongolia or even Mars. Now, traveling abroad is a costly affair and not all are lucky enough to make it. But what if you are? Well, then you really are lucky since one such trip can accelerate your Spanish learning like nothing else can.

6 Alien-Sounding Spanish Verbs In An Instant

Etymology is an incredibly wonderful tool when it comes to acquiring new words. Dig deep enough into the history of any language and words that seemed utterly alien and unrelated until now suddenly start to appear familiar. This works best when the language in question shares genetics with your native tongue. Fortunately, Spanish and English share a stronger ancestral bond than many acknowledge, which makes learning new words easier than it seems. Let’s see how etymological mapping can help us learn some of the most commonly used Spanish verbs that, on face value, seem to have little semblance with their English meanings.

Easy Trick To Learn The Spanish For Your Clothes

You could be out on vacation shopping for some items of clothing in a Spanish-speaking country or perhaps you just want to flaunt your Spanish to a bunch of native speakers. No matter what your motivation, learning to name what you wear everyday in Spanish is a cool skill to have. And, if you know the right way to learn, it should take you no more than a few minutes to conquer them all and reproduce them “on the fly” without having to fiddle with mental translations. If cramming up words after words is your forte, we’d recommend saving that skill for something harder as this one calls for hardly any efforts on your part!

The Cause-Effect Trick To Remember Your Por And Para

Be it Spanish or any other language, the most painful aspect invariably turns out to be the appropriate usage of its prepositions. To us English speakers Spanish prepositions might seem way too unruly and chaotic but that’s how the Spanish speakers feel about English too. Try explaining to them, for instance, why you live “in” the house but are “at” home! Grammar rules, more often than not, defy all logic. Fortunately, when it comes to the Spanish por and para, there still exists enough logic to save your day. Mastering this logic is key to proficiency in Spanish as these prepositions are just too damn indispensable.




Learn Spanish Watching Telenovelas At DramaFever Latino

Our friend Andrew was terrible at Spanish. He would often complain about how difficult it was and how despite, his most sincere efforts, he would never be reasonably fluent in the language. We always tried to encourage him, but we must admit that we too doubted the prospects of him ever becoming fluent. Even after several Spanish courses and video tutorials, Andrew could barely get started on conversations with native speakers. It was overwhelming and he was ready to call it quits. But in a last frugal effort he decided to take some time and work from Argentina (one of the many virtues of working as a web developer).

A few months later Andrew returned a changed man. What were once fragile mutters limited to basic introductions and overused phrases became elaborate discussions plentiful in colloquialisms and hand gestures. It was a beautiful sight.

Tacit learning vs. classroom Spanish


Without enough exposure, no amount of studying will help your Spanish
Without enough exposure, no amount of studying will help your Spanish
Photo credit: Christoffer licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
In retrospect, although Andrew struggled more than most, his experience was not atypical. You probably know someone who moved abroad and picked up the language quite quickly – faster than if he or she would have studied it from his or her home country. Intuitively, it is not hard to see how the constant exposure to a new language in day-to-day interactions would push one to learn faster. However, educational research tells us that it is more than just frequency of exposure, but also the method of exposure. The improved rate of learning comes largely from the use of tacit vs. explicit knowledge creation.

Think of tacit knowledge as intuition. It is knowledge we already have or acquired through past experiences, but we are unable to easily explain it to others. It’s what we have learned through practice, observation, and repetition. Think of knowing how to ride a bike, or more relevant, your own native language. You may not necessarily consciously understand the ins and outs of it, but you know what sounds right and what doesn’t and how to speak it. On the other hand, explicit knowledge is what you learn from studying facts, policies, and rules, i.e., your typical classroom learning experience. Both are important methods for knowledge creation, however language learners tend to spend the majority of their time developing explicit knowledge. Meanwhile those who learn a language in a foreign country develop a more extensive tacit knowledge drawn from exposure to the local environment and even television.

Total immersion is always at hand


Tacit knowledge development is precisely the reason why most “experts” will tell you that watching foreign television is a great way to learn a language. Now, Andrew was lucky that he could afford a vacation in Argentina, both financially and job-wise. But, let’s face it, such vacations are not always terribly practical or even affordable for most of us. As much as we’d love it, not all of us are blessed with the life of a freewheeling globe-trotter. There’s job, there’s family, there’s the anxiety of an alien culture, and then there’s the expenses involved. So, does that knell the doom of immersion for us lesser mortals? Not in today’s world at least, thanks to the global connectivity provided by the omnipresent Internet!

Short of taking a long break and moving to another country, the best (and the most amusing) way to immerse yourself into a new culture is through the local entertainment they produce, which reflects the language, traditions and customs of their world. An immensely useful example is watching traditional Spanish shows or telenovelas to practice listening comprehension and absorb the elaborate yet necessary colloquialisms. It’s no coincidence that this is the method recommended by many.

If you live in the United States, you may already have access to some Spanish TV channels. Or, if you’d rather watch from your computer or phone, take a look at free sites like DramaFever Latino, which allows you to watch full Spanish telenovelas online from Latin America and Spain with English subtitles.

Nonetheless, we’re not saying it will be easy: The tacit learning method requires active engagement and participation, not mere rote memorization. But it will pay dividends! Auditory learning tends to be more organic - babies learn languages by simply listening to the flow of dialogue and drawing logical connections. While you’re no longer a baby (we’d presume) your learning process will be somewhat similar. By watching Spanish shows and telenovelas you’ll be listening to real dialogue, not perfectly enunciated classroom Spanish, which will strengthen your listening abilities in real situations.

That being said, don’t burn your books yet. The best learning method is one which effectively combines traditional explicit learning with tacit knowledge creation. After all, knowing the difference between what sounds right and what is actually right can save you moments of mild embarrassment.

DramaFever Latino


DramaFever is one of the richest sources of free TV shows and novelas
DramaFever is one of the richest sources of free TV shows and novelas
Photo credit: DramaFever Latino
Of the many resources available all over the Internet when it comes to television programming in the Spanish language, DramaFever Latino is one of the most promising ones worth giving a shot. Launched as recently as 2009, this site has rapidly become a behemoth of a database with the credit of having one of the largest collection of international television content.

Available on a wide range of platforms including iOS and Android, this library currently offers over 13,000 episodes from across 12 countries and counting. This overwhelming array of programs should be enough to satiate your taste no matter how fussy. And if you can manage to get hooked to even one such program, that’s the Holy Grail of learning Spanish! Entertainment is the best teacher, more so when it comes to learning Spanish.

You can choose to be a free member or paid depending on your financial comfort. Even if you choose to go for the free subscription, you have at your disposal the entire collection of videos, unlimited with no strings attached, albeit with commercials. A paid subscription (which is surprisingly not quite a hole in your pocket at less than $10 a month) gets you the same library but in high definition and without any commercials.

Not keen on having to sign up on a zillion websites every time you find something useful enough? Well, DramaFever allows you to login with your existing Facebook credentials so no need to waste time filling out those annoying registration forms. By the way, the paid plan is also available $9.99 a year if you’re not a big fan of paying every month. However, you are advised to first try out their free subscription before you decide to take out that credit card.

So, there you are; no more excuses for not getting enough exposure to Spanish. Just go for the kill! There is a whole world out there doing incredible number of different things to help you learn that language. It’s a shame if you still feel you don’t have enough resources at hand. Just remember: It is entirely possible to learn Spanish without spending a dime and without getting bored. All it costs is your willpower and perseverance.

Feel free to drop a note in the comment section below to share your experiences with DramaFever Latino with the rest of us. We are eager to hear you out!

We love comments that add value to our discussions and help build a healthy community of Spanish-lovers around them. Please keep’em comin’; feel free to speak your mind. Everything’s welcome unless you’re spammin’ or trollin’ (refer to our Comment Policy). You’re also welcome to share links to relevant resources but no annoyin’ sales pitches please! So, let’s get talkin’, shall we?

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4 comments

  1. Gracias! What a great resource! I've been trying to find Spanish telenovelas - and even thought about buying some from Amazon. But this is exactly what I needed. Now if only there were a way to switch the English subtitles to Spanish...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Maybe not for all of them but they do have Spanish subs for some of their shows. Here's a post announcing Spanish subtitles on Dramafever from their blog. http://blog.dramafever.com/2012/09/watch-your-favorite-dramas-with-spanish-subtitles/

    I have also mailed Alberto from DF asking him if they are going to add Spanish subs for more shows in the near future. Watch out for my update as he advises. Glad you liked the read...have fun with your Spanish learning! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Total immersion is definitely a great technique, complementing Spanish courses , but I think classes with a native teacher are vital.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This whole site is such an amazing resource! I've looked through all sorts of sites, even the BBC español resources and this is just what I've been looking for!

    I'm a high school AP Spanish student, with a very old and ineffective spanish program. I'm going to spread these great articles throughout my whole school!

    Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete

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