Category Archives: Spanish

Check this out!

A friend of mine, and a fellow teacher, David Durham is about to launch a Spanish class online.  Many of you have been asking me… “Where do I go to learn Spanish?”

You have read my recommendations.  Now, with exitement, I can add another recommendation.

David, like me, spent quite a bit of time in Europe.  Also, like me, he has spent quite a bit of time in the classroom.  He is now bringing that combined experience online.

I could use a refresher course in Spanish.  Who knows?  I may just join some of you in David’s online class!

And now, my good friend David Durham

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Let’s just get this out there: I’m an unapologetic language freak.

We all have our quirks. But I can point to a specific event that shaped my life perhaps more than any other single event.

At the age of nine, I was living in Perth, Western Australia with my parents and three brothers. For some reason I will always be grateful for, my parents decided to take the long way home to the States; rather than flying back, they decided to take a ship. So we boarded the HMS Canberra and set out across the Indian Ocean. Our first stops were my first exposure to other languages and cultures (unless you count Australian). I was enthralled with the chatter all around me, and my nine-year-old mind was blown away that they could understand each other! We made stops at ports in Sri Lanka, Yemen, and Egypt before leaving the ship in Naples, Italy and making our way through Europe by train. In each country, I listened to the language being spoken and did my best to imitate it. (Yeah, right.)

It wasn’t long before I had the opportunity to study first Spanish, then French in school, and I took to them like a duck to water. When I got to college, I continued my study of French and Spanish and added a little German and Portuguese. (I became conversant in Portuguese in the most informal possible way: I had a number of friends who had grown up in Brazil, and I loved hearing them speak Portuguese together. I asked them to speak it with me, and they agreed!)

I later had the opportunity to live for several years in Europe, where I picked up Dutch and a little Italian. Am I completely fluent in all of these? No. Seven languages at seven different degrees of fluency. But I am conversant, and that is what I want to stress here:

A little goes a long way.

When you learn to speak another language, it opens up all kinds of doors. Not only doors to other cultures in general, and not only potentially beneficial career opportunities but doors to people’s hearts. It can lead to relationships that might not have been possible otherwise. I’ve spent many years singing and recording in French, and knowing the French-speaking world pretty well, I can tell you that I probably wouldn’t have earned the trust of thousands of French speakers if I didn’t relate to them in their own beautiful language.

But language also opens doors to strangers whose language you might only know a few words in. Everywhere I travel, I try to learn some basic phrases at the very least – greetings, and how to order tea are at the top of my list. Oh, and where to find the restroom. They of course know I’m a foreigner and don’t speak their language fluently, but the effort of speaking to them in their mother tongue can go a long way. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

My latest linguistic adventure is Arabic. I’m watching videos and have periodic tutoring sessions via Skype with a Syrian friend I made while visiting refugees in Germany.

What language(s) do you intend to become conversant in? Whatever you choose, it will add a whole new dimension to your life, and you will be the richer for it.

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You can listen to David’s podcast episode on being a polyglot, as well as other episodes, here.

Spanish?

I received this question:

My son needs to learn Spanish.

I was wondering if you have any suggestion as to a curriculum that you’ve heard is good or know to be good and effective. Cost is an issue but I have a bit of knowledge of the language and can help him out quite a bit. 

Here is my reply:

Ugh.  I wish I had time to study Spanish again.  Unfortunately, I am paid to guide people through irrelevant books that almost no one will ever read and in which even fewer people are interested.   Sigh.

Here is what I suggest.

First, join DuoLingo.  It’s fun.  It’s free.  And, it’s fantastic.  It will really help with pronunciation and with vocabulary acquisition.  It may, or may not help much with grammar.  It does include grammar instruction, but I feel there are better places to learn the grammar.

For example, there is this helpful Spanish Grammar series on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL18DCAA11F203EE63

Here is the first video:

Not sure why it’s so fuzzy.  Worth it anyway.

Second, start listening to the podcast Coffee Break Spanish.  It’s really good.  Don’t let the Scottish accents deter you.

I would also recommend you pick up any cheap Spanish grammar from a bookstore, or, even better, any Spanish grammar from the library.  Start reading the grammar, and start listening to the podcast.

Once you start to get a hang of things, this series looks really good:

And, finally, when you are ready to have some fun, I like this series:

Everything I recommend is free.  I am moderately fluent in Spanish, and I learned it all free online.

One last thing… start now.  The sooner you begin, the sooner you will speak Spanish!

Latin Lite

I received this letter:

I am a 17-year-old high schooler (homeschooled) taking your Visual Latin course (I just finished VL1 and will soon be starting VL2). To start, I would like to say that your course is a lot of fun, and I am thoroughly enjoying learning Latin. Before your course, I didn’t think much of learning a new language beyond what I have to for high school, but given how much fun this course has been you have inspired me to try to continue learning languages beyond my required high school course and see how far I can get.

My first question is one of reading Latin. I have been trying to read one of the Latin primers designed for this task, Carolus et Maria, however, I am having trouble with a specific part. Verbs going at the end of sentences often makes it difficult for me to read a sentence well because I won’t be able to tell what’s going on until the very last word. I was wondering if you had any advice, tips, or tricks when it comes to being able to read more comprehensively and hopefully be able to read faster. Is there a shift in mindset? Is it because the endings aren’t memorized yet? Is this something you delve more into in Visual Latin 2 or in any of your other courses? Does it just require more practice? Any help here would make my Latin reading experience much easier.

My second question to you is a bit broader. Like I have said I hope to continue practicing Latin and learning other languages, my current plan is to start Spanish after I have finished the bulk of Latin and work my way through many of the Romantic and other European languages before I take on a language with a completely new alphabet such as Greek. I was wondering what you thought of this plan and was wondering if you had any other advice as I move ahead in my adventure.
Here is my reply:

Continue reading Latin Lite

Too many people idealize Latin. Here is the truth.

I recently received an inquiry about my online classes.  The woman who emailed me added an interesting sentence in her email.

I’m realistic and don’t want to idealize Latin into something it’s not.  

Wow.  She nailed it.

Too many people idealize Latin.  Here is the truth.

With almost every curriculum, you are going to spend 5 – 6 years studying Latin.  When you finish, you will possess a language you can practice with almost no one.  You will have no one to speak to, and no Latin-speaking country to visit.  As a bonus, you will find yourself involved in very frustrating, pointless arguments about the proper pronunciation of a language no longer spoken.  Fun. 

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies.

I have spent over 20 years studying Latin.  I now live in a world of dry, dusty, and mostly boring books.  My wife doesn’t get my job.  My friends don’t get my job.  My kids don’t get my job.  Every week, I spend 20 hours or more reading old books hardly anyone cares about anymore.  Another 30 hours, or so, grading.  It’s lonely.  

On the other hand, if you study Spanish, French, German, Italian, or any other modern language, you will be able to speak to native speakers within a year, maybe less.  Plus, there are many beautiful countries you could visit.  That really is fun.  

Here’s the dirty little secret Latin teachers never tell.  If you learn Spanish (or French, Italian, Portuguese, or a dozen other European languages), and then you tackle Latin, you will find Latin much, much easier.  My very best Latin students are Spanish speakers.  Why? Easy.  Spanish came from Latin.  

So, what if you study Spanish, but never make it to Latin?   You will still speak Spanish!  Or, Italian.  Or, French.  You get my point.

A lot of kids are required to take Latin in school.  I feel for them.  That is why I helped create Visual Latin.  I wanted to take one of the dullest subjects on the planet and make it interesting… maybe even fun.  

If you must study Latin, start with Visual Latin.  Then, join one of my Lingua Latina classes.  I do everything in my power to make these classes enjoyable.  I also do everything I can to get students through Latin as rapidly as possible.  With either Visual Latin or Lingua Latina, students will be able to read the New Testament within two years.  

After achieving that incredible goal, you could move on to a modern language.  

But, if you have a choice… start with a modern language and then tackle Latin.

While you are waiting…

Today I received this question:

“What would you suggest my children until the are ready for Visual Latin in a year or so?”

That’s easy.

Spanish, French or Italian.  You can do it all for free right here: https://www.duolingo.com/courses

I doubt Latin would even be difficult for students if they would learn one of these languages first.

If you want more than DuoLingo, click on this link and scroll down.  You will find more material than you will ever use for German, French, Spanish, Esperanto and more.  Seriously, there are a lot of links here.

Of course, if you are ready to learn Latin, I can help with that.  Just click on the schedule below.

Have a happy Saturday!
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Dwane Thomas, May 21, 2016

Will Latin grammar help me with Spanish grammar?

I received this question:

I’m 26 and currently learning French and later want to learn Spanish.  The only problem is that I have quite a bit of trouble with grammar. Do you think the visual Latin course would be helpful to learn French and Spanish?

 Here is my reply:

It’s certainly possible.  It sure helped me.

The grammar of Latin is far more behaved than the grammar of Spanish and French.  I have found the grammars of modern languages much easier to understand due to my study of Latin grammar.  

I actually failed English grammar in school.  On multiple occasions.  I also struggled with German grammar.  It was not until I studied Latin that it all came together.  

The nice thing about Latin is that it is essentially frozen in time.  The grammar is manageable because it does not change.  The grammars of modern languages are in constant flux.  

Let me know if you need more help!

French, Spanish, German, and so on…

These days I am focusing on learning Italian.  That is, when I have a few spare moments, I am focusing on learning Italian.

I have two reasons.  First, I am going for better Latin pronunciation. I believe the “Italian” pronunciation of Latin is the pronunciation that makes the most sense.

Second, I am planning to take people to Italy next year.  Might help to know some Italian.

Actually, there is a third reason.  The third reason is that DuoLingo has not yet released Greek.  I’d rather be studying Greek.

If you are studying French, Spanish, or German start here: https://www.duolingo.com/.  It’s free and it’s fantastic.

I only wish they had Latin.  But, they don’t.  If you are learning Latin, and struggling, I can help.  Just click on the “recession-proof Latin” link below.

If you are studying a modern language, though, go with DuoLingo.