Tag 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


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.


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


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!

Should we keep going in Latin?

I received this letter:

Comment: Hi, My son is going into ninth grade and is taking Lingua Latina with you. He really enjoys it but also wants to learn other languages. We didn’t do a good job of passing on our Spanish to him and he wants to learn it before he graduates but he also wants to learn other languages. I am not sure what the best way is. I would really like him to finish lingua latina before doing another formal study but I’m not sure he will finish in two years. Ideally, he would finish lingua latina in the ninth grade and move on to other languages for tenth through twelfth. He recently started Spanish on DuoLingo and I encourage him to continue with that. I am also going to be doing some conversational Spanish with him and the little ones so he can grow. He understands well but speaking is difficult. I really think he is capable of learning both languages at once because he already understands so much Spanish but I don’t want to overwhelm his academic load next year. I am thinking about removing something to replace it with Spanish but its a tough choice. What are your suggestions? What is the best way to keep up Latin when Lingua Latina is finished? I would hate to see him forget the Latin he has learned. Thanks!
Here is my reply:
You can definitely learn more than one language at once.  Though it’s a bit ridiculous, I am currently working on seven.  The thought of this does not bother me.  I have seen it done, and know it can be done.  Europeans and Africans verify this truth every time I meet them.  It is not uncommon for them to speak four or five languages.
If you don’t want your son to lose the Latin and that he has learned, continue on with it.  Yours is a good plan.  Jump from Latin to Spanish, or another modern language.
However, I do think it’s a tragedy when students spend three or four or five years studying Latin and, in the end, are unable to speak it.  They have no one to talk to, and no country to visit.
Much better to learn Spanish, French, or Italian fluently and then come back to Latin.  Latin isn’t going anywhere.  It will be there when he comes back.  I didn’t start learning Latin until I was 23.  According to his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin didn’t start learning Latin until he was 40.

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

Learn Spanish, French, or Italian first!

I received this comment:

Hi Mr. Thomas, I have mostly younger children (4 that are 7 and younger, a 3rd, 4th & 6thgrader) and only began the process of really researching what I will be doing with my upcoming 7th grader this past year. My oldest has taken an online Latin course with Veritas Press for the last two years and LOVED them. This year was a transition course. She took the first level of the NLE and only missed one. She LOVES Latin. We have been a CC family for 6 full years, but the step to Challenge hasn’t been one I am jumping into for several reasons. However, in our situation it may be our best bet. One of my struggles is the 6 year Latin plan. I’ve been following your blog since the Fall and feel like you have been able to put words to several of my gut feelings. I have spoken with several families who have participated in Challenge and chose a different Latin plan. From what I see, it looks like we should start with Visual Latin for 7&8th grades and then Lingua Latina. Am I assuming correctly? Thanks for being such a dependable source of information.

Here is my reply:

Hello! I am so embarrassed.  Last week, I discovered that my site was hiding over 800 comments and questions from me.  I have not responded to literally hundreds of questions.   This is not like me.  Scrambling to catch up over the next few days.  

You are correct. I do not think Latin needs to take six years. In fact, the darkest part of that plan is that students are kept from studying other useful subjects like Spanish, French, were Italian, which I heavily advocate.   In my opinion, students ought to start with one of those languages and then study Latin. After all, if they never get to Latin at least they might know how to speak French or Italian. However, if they start with Latin and study it for 6 to 8 years, as many students do, they will graduate with a language they cannot speak.   Worse, they will have missed an opportunity to learn Spanish, French, Italian, or any other modern language that they could speak.

You are also correct about Latin.  After studying a modern language in elementary school, I recommend Visual Latin . in middle school followed by Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg.  

Again, I apologize for the long delay. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

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.

Latin for younger students…

I received this question:

What you recommend for Latin for younger kids?  We have heard from other moms that their older Challenge students really struggle having little to no Latin background. Our kids soak everything up right now and we would love to give them a really good foundation to learn Latin and Biblical Greek. Thank you!!!!

Here is my reply:

I don’t have much to recommend.  These days, I recommend Spanish.

I recommend Spanish for multiple reasons.  

First, there is so much out there for Spanish, and so much of it is kid friendly.  You will not have trouble finding material for younger children.

Second, Spanish is about 80% – 90% Latin.  Most Spanish vocabulary comes directly from Latin.  In class, my Hispanic students are generally my best students.  They have a big head start.

Third, if you never make it to Latin, or if you never finish Latin, at least, you will be able to speak Spanish.  This reason alone is good enough for me.  

I wish I had started teaching my own kids Spanish when they were small.  I started teaching them Latin.  They can read in Latin, and that’s great.  But, I truly believe that if I had started with Spanish and had then moved into Latin, they would be able to read in Latin… and speak Spanish.

I have blogged about this a bit on my site.  This page may help: https://dwanethomas.com/?s=younger

Have a happy Saturday!