Let’s start with the foundation…
As you probably know, before you build a house you have to first put down the foundation.
The stability of the house depends on it, so if the foundation is poor your house won’t be standing for very long…
But if it’s good then you can feel safe and confident knowing you’re in a house that will last.
Building a good foundation requires a lot more than digging a hole and pouring some concrete into forms. It must be tailored to its site like a custom suit, taking into account soil conditions, water tables, even the quality of the backfill.
The same thing goes with learning Spanish…
And the foundation to learning any language is to learn the vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, etc.
Each individual resource is only as good as your ability to combine them together. That’s where traditional school Spanish and Apps get things wrong.
While they teach you tons of vocabulary and grammar, they are missing many other pieces to the puzzle…
And it’s why, like I mentioned earlier, students can have memorized thousands of vocabulary words, know all the conjugations and be able to write the best A+ paper in Spanish…
But not be able to understand a simple sentence from a Native Spanish speaker, much less organize their thoughts in a timely manner to be able to respond.
One of the pieces to this puzzle has to do with something that I call Rhythmic Reinforcement Training or RRT for short.
RRT deals with:
Taking relevant conversational Spanish words and phrases -> learning and mastering their proper pronunciation -> hearing them spoken properly -> Hearing them sped up much faster as it would sound when a Native says them.
In school and in the language apps, they throw a bunch of words and phrases at you, tell you to memorize them and then move to the next section.
Very little focus is on pronunciation, which is the first piece of the foundation…
And I don’t mean simply being able to say it once so that the App allows you to move to the next lesson but ACTUALLY knowing and becoming comfortable with the word and it’s every syllable.
Learning the RIGHT way to pronounce the words helps you sound more native when you speak and it also tunes your ears to the sounds of Spanish.
This allows you to hear the difference between the Spanish “e” and the English “e”, for example… In this way your ears expect the correct sounds.
Once you become accustomed to this, it makes it easy to know all the syllables and words being used when spoken to you.
This is when you’ll understand the phrases spoken to you at average speeds.
But we can’t stop there…
That’s because Natives don’t speak at average speeds, do we?
Not only do we speak fast but we cut letters and put together words to make life a living hell for non-native speakers… 🙂
Only kidding… well we do actually do this but not because we want to make life hard for non-native speakers, but because we are lazy and want to make life easier for ourselves.
Let me give you an example…
I’m currently teaching my girlfriend Spanish…
And because she’s getting rather good at it, sometimes I’ll say something too fast for her to understand and she’ll tell me to slow down and say it again.
Then after that she’ll ask me to repeat the original way I said it…
Only then does she hear the sounds.
So the other day, the garbage disposal for our sink was acting up and I quickly said:
Did you understand what I said?
I said: “Oye queeh loque ta’ pasando con eso.”
That will probably sound and look like gibberish to you just as it did for her…
So I slowed down and said:
“Qué es lo que está pasando con eso?”
Translation: What’s happening with that?
Major difference, right?
Same thing being said…
Essentially the same words being used (minus a few cut letters and a few jumbled together) but completely different sound.
Now obviously my accent and dialect will be different than other people’s (I’m Puerto Rican)…
But regardless of which country you’re in, conversational Spanish will feature many of the same aspects.
My family is from Puerto Rico…
I’ve lived in the Dominican Republic…
I’ve visited Spain and Colombia.
I have Venezuelan and Cuban friends in Miami, I have El Salvadorian, Honduran, Panamanian, and Mexican friends here in Washington, DC and I can truthfully say we all do similar things when we speak Spanish…
Think about when you speak English…
How often do you speak in a way— whether it’s really fast or you chop a word like “Sup?”— that a non-native English speaker would have trouble understanding?
Pretty often, right?
This is the same exact thing that happens in Spanish.
Now I want you to imagine hearing the first audio again, for the first time, but this time in a crowd of people talking, or when there’s music in the background, or when there are cars honking and sirens in the streets…
You can probably imagine that things can get pretty difficult…
The thing you need to do is to continue with this Rhythmic Reinforcement training…
Which again, is to take relevant conversational Spanish words and phrases, learn and master their proper pronunciation, hear them spoken properly, and finally hear them sped up much faster as it would sound when a Native says them.
The more you accustom yourself to hearing Spanish like this, the better you’ll understand it and be able to respond to it.
This will help you build the foundation that you need to become conversationally fluent.
In addition to this Rhythmic Reinforcement training, you also need to be actively trying to immerse yourself as much as possible.
There’s really no better way to learn to speak Spanish than moving to another country and “actively” trying to learn.
I say actively because just moving to another country doesn’t mean you’ll learn the language.
I’ve met many expats in the countries I’ve visited that can’t speak the language of that country even though they’ve lived there for 5-10 years.
I say this so you don’t think that you have to move to another country to learn the language.
In fact, that option usually isn’t even a valid one.
Most of us have lives and families that we can’t just pick up and move to a Spanish speaking country to simply learn the language.
So the next best thing that we can do is actively try to learn Spanish at home (RRT) and try to immerse ourselves as much as possible.
One great way to do this is through “artificial immersion.”
Here’s a list of some things you can do to artificially immerse yourself:
Do all of this with the thought of ACTIVELY learning.
It does no good to watch Narcos on Netflix while reading all the subtitles.
Your mind will just focus on reading the subtitles and you won’t even hear what’s being said.
Want a great “at-home” Spanish comprehension lesson?
Okay, here you go:
Step #1 – Grab a pen and piece of paper.
Step #2 – Turn on Narcos (or any Spanish Speaking show on Netflix, I’m just obsessed with Narcos) listen to a sentence without looking at the subtitles.
Step #3– Write down what you hear (don’t worry about spelling or anything like that).
Step #4 – Keep rewinding and listening until you either figure out the entire sentence in Spanish or you simply can’t understand what’s being said (this is okay).
Step #5 – Now slowly say what you’ve written down, sounding like the way they said it. Seriously, try to imitate them. Be Pablo. Sound like PABLO! PLATA O PLOMO!
Step #6 – Now you’re free to look at the subtitles if you don’t understand what they say. See if you can match the English words with the Spanish words.
Better yet, let’s try it together.
At then end of the day, you have to go out there and speak Spanish.
No matter how much practice and training you do, at some point you have to play the game.
The game in this instance is actually partaking in conversation.
No matter how much time you spend studying, if you don’t have lots of conversations, you will NEVER become conversationally fluent.
Don’t worry about making mistakes when you speak.
Just say it, put it out there, keep the conversation going.
It is so much fun to have an interchange, to understand and be understood.
The point is communication, not perfect correctness.
The more you communicate, though, the more correct your speech will become.
Words and phrases will stick in your head because you associate them with people and events.
Believe me when I say, that as Natives, we love when non-natives take the time and effort to communicate with us in our language 🙂 .
This is the way we attack learning Spanish here at SpeakSpanishFaster.com.
And this is only the beginning…
Try our new flagship course called Seven Day Spanish if you’re truly looking to speak Spanish better and faster.