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More Reading, Writing or Listening


I have averaged about 4 hours a week of lessons over the internet for the last 18 months, and I am trying to decide how to supplement this. I could watch Spanish television such as CNN or HBO but all I actually catch is a word here or there, I don’t understand anything to be honest.

I could read BBC Mundo and look up the words that I don’t know in the dictionary. This is a very slow process.

Or I could write about something and practice and improve my vocabulary that way.

So I am interested to know if there is any empirical evidence to suggest which is the most productive. I am sure that people will say ‘all three’ but with limited time I would like to know if one has been proven to more effective than the other options

updated JUL 12, 2010
posted by Stig345

5 Answers


Many studies show that the students who read the most, improve the fastest. I still have a hard time with listening comprehension but even native speakers in my wife's family ask me regularly: "what is the word for this or that?" Because of reading, My vocabulary is pretty good. English language films dubbed in Spanish tend to have a slower rate of speed, speaking wise. Also, if you have an ipod try News in Slow Spanish on iTunes. Also on iTunes, whether you are religious or not, you will find that there are some podcasts of Calvary Church in Spanish, especially the ones from Phoenix, are easy to understand. Also, try iTunes audiolibros. There are kids books from Curious George to Chronicles of Narnia and many others that you can listen to.

Don't try to understand every word. Try to get to the point that you get the generally idea what is going on. Eventually the blanks will fill in. And remember: when you watch a movie or TV in your native language, you miss words all the time because the speaker was too fast or mumbles. But you know what is going on because you understand all the context around the word you missed. That takes more time in Spanish but it does come. At least it is coming for me. I had a dream in Spanish last night in which I kept telling the speaker to slow down but I still knew exactly what he was saying. Of course it was my dream so that makes sense.

Good luck and keep listening and reading.

updated JUL 11, 2010
posted by ocbizlaw

I am learnig english, and I have studied about six months so I have found a very easy way to lern an other language and i would like to share it whit you, first of all look for a native speaker who realy care about your impruvements. It is not dificult, if you are realy intersted in it I can talk whit you by skype ou sond some emails and I have some friends in my school who will be very hapy to talk whit you, and help you to improve your spanish and you only need to help them to improve their english

I am sure that we can help us and this is my skype address (adnmiky1)

I am goin to be very hapy to have a chat wiht you, and introduce my frends

I am from Mexico and I am sure that I make mistakes all time in my writting, and i would like to improve my english too

Here are a few corrections for you smile

I am learning English, and I have studied about six months and so I have found a very easy way to learn an other another language, and I would like to share it with you. First of all, look for a native speaker who really cares about your improvements. It is not difficult. If you are really interested in it, I can talk with you by skype or send some emails, and I have some friends in my school who will be very happy to talk with you and help you to improve your Spanish, and you only need to help them to improve their English.

I am sure that we can help us each other, and this is my skype address (adnmiky1)

I am goin to be would be very happy to have a chat with you and introduce my friends

I am from Mexico, and I am sure that I make mistakes all time in my writing, and I would like to improve my English too

updated JUL 12, 2010
edited by Izanoni1
posted by adnmiky
There are quite a few mistakes in your post. Should I correct them or am I supposed to point all of them out to you? - Jsanthara, JUL 11, 2010
me siento muy agradecido por toda la atención y claro me ayuda mucho que me ayudes con mis errores gracias Izanoni1 - adnmiky, JUL 12, 2010

I'm sure you will find what works best for you, but may I suggest Lacasarojas.com? Their free videos are relaxing and fun and start off with Spanish phonetics, something that I think is missing in almost all Spanish lessons that I've seen. I have been studying for a little while, and I learned some valuable stuff in the first few lessons. Give it a try if you want.

updated JUL 11, 2010
posted by estudiante9871
Thanks I have done a couple already. As they are only 10 minutes they are managable sizes - Stig345, JUL 11, 2010

Interesting question Roger.

As you say "all three" is the obvious answer.

I suspect it varies from person to person.

Might I suggest that conversation could be helpful. If you can find a Spanish speaker, a chat with them would probably be very helpful. Sadly, I rarely encounter someone to speak Spanish to, but if you know someone, give it a try.

Best of luck.

updated JUL 11, 2010
posted by fontanero
My lessons on Skype are spoken, I am looking for a way to supplement them. - Stig345, JUL 11, 2010

I would have to agree with OCbizlaw that reading is a very important part of language development. I would also recommend that when you spend time reading that you read actively. Read with a good Spanish-Spanish dictionary or if you do not already own one, read in front of the computer so that you can look up words on the RAE. It also helps to take notes about what you are reading, but be sure to take all your notes in Spanish. When looking up words, if you find words that you are not familiar with in the text of the definition that you were initially interested in, it also helps to make note of these words and look them up as well. The longer and more often that you do this, the more connections you will make between the meanings of words in Spanish. Quickly review your notes often (4-6 times/day) the first couple of days after taking them then space out the time that you look at them to every couple of days then every couple of weeks and so on.

Regarding watching Spanish television, if you are having trouble keeping up with what is being said, I have discovered a couple of things that have helped me in my own abilities to the point that I now can usually understand about 90 - 95 percent of what is being said and usually, even if I don't hear each and every word, I can still understand what is going on from the context. If you are trying to translate the conversation in your head as it is being spoken then the first thing that I would do is try to break that habit. Instead listen to the sounds and rhythm of the speaker. Try to imitate what you hear without trying to translate it. If you have dvr or Spanish dvds/vhs then take advantage of the rewind button and repeat short clips while trying to imitate the speakers including his rhythm and intonations. After awhile, you should be able to start picking out words, and phrases and before long you'll find yourself understanding much of what is being said. The main thing is just stick with it. It won't happen overnight. Its a process, so enjoy the ride. smile

updated JUL 12, 2010
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
You have reached my goal. Which is being able to undertand a program, say CNN, on television. Do you live in a spansih speaking country ? How long did it take you to get this far ? How many years and how many weeks a month of study ? - Stig345, JUL 12, 2010
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