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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?

My Tryst With Spanish: What Worked And What Didn’t

Do you know how many languages are spoken in India? Well over a hundred! Needless to say, most Indians are bilingual, or even trilingual. And yet when it comes to foreign languages, we mostly wind up with the short end of the stick. So how did I manage to not only choose Spanish but also follow through on that choice? This is my story of how I began my journey with Spanish? There are countless stories of how people around the world have achieved their big and small language learning dreams; this one is mine. I wouldn’t stake a claim to fame for this feat but it certainly does feel good to be able to speak a foreign language finally!

5 Steps To Turning Facebook Into A Spanish Learning Machine

Facebook – don’t we just love to claim how much we hate it and how it’s ruining our daily routine? Feel free to rant but we both know who’s having the last laugh. With close to a billion users and counting, this phenomena is not going anywhere anytime soon. So you have two options: Either use it to share breakfast and cat pictures and make zero positive impact to your life; or turn the tables and make every minute you spend on it count. What do they say about life, lemons, and lemonade? Yes, it’s more than possible to turn Facebook into a solid Spanish-learning machine and make your social media hours productive! Here, we’ll learn how.

6 Spanish Words That Don’t Have A Direct English Translation

Every language has a certain character and that character is what defines it uniquely. What this terribly abstract blabber means is that every language has a portion of its vocabulary that just cannot, perhaps should not, be translated to another language – not word-for-word at least. Try translating spam or serendipity into a language other than English. This is not a defect; rather, if anything, this is what makes every language unique. So, I thought it would be fun to share with you this aspect of the language we’re all here for. And fun it was! By the end of this post, you’ll be left wishing English vocabulary were at least a wee bit richer!

Busuu Vs. Lang-8: The Brief Showdown

Learning Spanish is just one of those endeavors that become several times more fun and inspiring when done with friends. Learning anything, let alone a foreign tongue, is not something one would find terribly engaging if done in isolation. Luckily for our generation, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to collaborative learning. With the social media becoming as integral to our lives as breakfast and TV, it’s impossible for even the most hopeless of loners to stay isolated these days. Here, we’re going to review two services that mix social networking and language learning to bring you the best of two very disjoint worlds. So, let the showdown begin!




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!

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HOUSE RULES: We love comments that add value to our discussions and help build a healthy community of Spanish-lovers around them. Please keep’em coming; feel free to speak your mind. Everything’s welcome unless you’re spamming or trolling (refer to our Comment Policy). You’re also welcome to share links to relevant resources but no annoying; sales pitches please! So, let’s get talking, 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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