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I speak in phrases...

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First thank you all for your wonderful and thoughtful responses.

I am learning spanish and I am learning it in phrases. Is this how you learned. Like....Creo que sí. I know the phrase but did you learn it as individual words and when you translate in your mind do you say, " I think so.....Creo que sí" or do you think....."Think what yes'" and translate it.

I am not sure why I feel I need to know the answer to these questions but somehow I believe it will help.

1484 views
updated SEP 23, 2008
posted by La-Cosa

4 Answers

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Natasha said:

Personally, when I first learn a phrase, I have to analyze each word individually and know how the word fits in the sentence. Maybe I'm obsessive about this . . . I can't help it. wink However, once I've learned a phrase, I don't think about it that way or "translate" it in my mind. For example, I use me gusta, me gustan, etc. all the time without even "thinking" about it.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing what Natasha describes. To take a real sentence and analyze its component parts, syntax, etc. is fine (especially if it helps you understand why it's said in a certain way or what the effect might be if you made some change to it). But, when it comes to actually speaking a language (producing a sentence), you don't want to be thinking about grammar/vocabulary (if you do, you're not speaking; you're translating). Stick to the phrases that are familiar to you (possibly, with minor substitutions) as much as possible. If you want to play with choices of syntactic structures, do it when you're talking to yourself; not while you're in the middle of a conversation.

updated SEP 23, 2008
posted by samdie
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It was this distinction that underlay the big change in teaching methods in the late '50s/early '60s. Until that time the usual practice was to teach words+grammar (with some translation of "real" sentences into your own language). When it came to producing sentences in the target language the thought was that you'd choose some words, combine them with a pinch of grammar and the result would be a sentence. After the change, the emphasis was on what they called "pattern sentences". You start with a real sentence and make modifications to it by replacing a word or two. So you might start with "voy a la playa" and replace the "playa" with other possible destinations ("al cine"/"a la biblioteca", etc.), thereby producing a bunch of sentences with the same pattern. Alternatively, you can start with the same pattern and substitute other subj/verb combinations e.g.
"vas"/"ella va"/etc. Or change the tense. In all cases you start with a real sentence (one that's given to you) and systematically modify it to produce other real sentences. At no time is your goal to combine a bunch of words from a list to produce an entire sentence. The underlying philosophy for this change in teaching method was (as James pointed out) it had been observed that this was the way children appeared to be acquiring language.

By the way, this is also why computers tend to produce bad translations. It's much easier to write programs based on words+grammatical rules than it is to write a program that recognizes (and uses/manipulates) patterns.

updated SEP 23, 2008
posted by samdie
0
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Personally, when I first learn a phrase, I have to analyze each word individually and know how the word fits in the sentence. Maybe I'm obsessive about this . . . I can't help it. wink However, once I've learned a phrase, I don't think about it that way or "translate" it in my mind. For example, I use me gusta, me gustan, etc. all the time without even "thinking" about it.

updated SEP 23, 2008
posted by Natasha
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when you translate in your mind do you say, " I think so.....Creo que sí" or do you think....."Think what yes'" and translate it.

First of all, it isn't "what," which would be qué, it is "that," which is que. So, literally it's "I think that yes."

Second, yes, I think we all learn in phrases, as well as by words. This is how children acquire language. They hear a phrase used in a certain situation, and they link the two in their memory. As they proceed, they begin to manipulate the phrases, using them in other situations, although always within the framework of rules. For instance, if you learned that "Creo que sí" means "I think so," you would probably manipulate that to come up with "Creo que no," or "I don't think so."

updated SEP 23, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
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