Three Tips for Learning Spanish

linguisticsOne of the top items on many people’s bucket list is to learn a new language. Countless individuals are interested in learning a language that they are unfamiliar with, allowing them to communicate in a whole new way. A popular language to learn is Spanish, as it is commonly used in many parts of the world. Here are three tips for learning Spanish for beginners.

Watch a Spanish Movie With English Subtitles

An easy way to get a feel for the language quickly is to watch a Spanish movie or television show. To make it easier, subtitles can be set in English. This way, the person watching can see what the English words are supposed to be, and pinpoint which Spanish words correspond with them.

Buy an English-Spanish Dictionary

Dictionaries can be extremely helpful when learning a new language. There are some available that include two languages, which helps individuals learn words more quickly. By purchasing and English-Spanish dictionary, those attempting to learn Spanish can see both sets of words they need. They will find the English word on one side, and the Spanish equivalent on another. It comes in handy when out and about and trying to have a conversation with someone who speaks Spanish firsthand.

Another tip would be to get a learn at home course.  If you’re not sure what course to pick, then this article about Rocket Languages vs Rosetta Stone could be very helpful.

Find Someone to Study With

Learning is more fun when it’s done with someone else. Instead of studying words alone, people are better off finding a partner that can help them. Having someone to study the language with often makes it easier to learn, as they can hear someone else attempting to say the words, and not just rely on their own thinking.

Learning a foreign language, like Spanish, can be a tricky thing to manage. It often takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. By following these three tips, anyone trying to learn the Spanish language will have a handle on it in no time. It is ideal to start out simple, with some of the most basic words that are needed. Colors, animals, numbers, and daily conversation words are the best places to start. Once these have been mastered, it will be time to move on to the rest of the words in the language.

Drafting Your First Novel

writingThe time has finally come: you’re going to start your novel.  This is a very exciting time in most author’s lives, however it comes with several questions and a few things you can do in order to streamline your process.  Here are some of the best tips out there from experienced authors:

1.)  Write something that YOU would want to read yourself.  Don’t pander to an audience!  Do something that’s true from your own heart.  You must be able to draw on your own experiences.  That doesn’t mean that you have to write what you’ve experienced, but you must be able to relate to what your characters are going through – at least tangentially.

2.)  Think of a great plot, and then create a metaphor.  One of my screenwriting teachers taught me this.  Taxi Driver is one of the great American screen classics, and the taxi driver is a metaphor for loneliness.  Think of a concept that you want to illustrate, and then create a metaphor for it.

3.)  Avoid cliches and tropes.  This is self explanatory.  Sure they are there for a reason, and one or two cliches in a story might comfort a reader.  But too many, and the reader will become bored.  Shake things up a bit.

4.)  Always back up your work!  Back up your computer on a regular basis, onto different hard drives.  You could even use a cloud storage system such as Backblaze or MyPCBackup (I recommend this highly for authors who generally need to back up smaller amounts of data).

5.)  Make it believable.  If your readers can’t believe it, then it won’t work.  Note that you don’t have to stay true to planet earth as we know it, but you must stick within the world building rules that you have set forth.  This is what fantasy authors often do.

6.)  Have fun.  If you’re not having fun writing it, then nobody is going to have fun reading it!  Ensure that you’re engrossed in your own story first and foremost.


Jumping Into The Deep End

Would you start to use a language from the moment that you started to learn it?  Many language learning folks advocate the method of using the language as soon as you start as this will help integrate the language in your day to day life, and you’ll be a more effective communicator. They seem to say that learning a language in a classroom passively is a very unnatural way of learning a language.

But would it work?  Benny Lewis seems to think so.  He has been learning all sorts of new language to fluency for over 7 years.  And he has perfected a system where he just simply starts speaking the language – immersing himself and throwing himself into the deep end so to speak.  And it seems to work very well for him.

However, this method would not be for the faint of heart.  You have to have a good amount of self confidence, as I can’t see many shy people getting too much use out of this.  If you can’t go up to someone and start a conversation, you’re going to have a very hard time getting very far with this program.

Benny has a very popular blog, and he actually practices what he preaches.  We recently wrote up a Speak From Day 1 review and posted it on our blog.  Speak From Day 1: A Language Hacking Guide is his ebook where he outlines his strategy and philosophy, and more tips for language students.

Lost In Translation

I’ve never been a huge fan of reading translated books.  For example, Les Miserables.  I always feel that there is a certain thing that is lost when the language is translated…certain meanings of words and even just the cultural inflections.  I understand that translators attempt to preserve all of this, but I just feel like I’m reading the story through a foggy lens – I’m not getting the real thing.  Maybe this is just a misinformed mental block that I made up when I was in High School (as a High Schooler worried about this, I’m sure I was in the minority).  Lots of people love reading works of foreign literature translated into their own language.  I quite enjoyed the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, and that was a translation.  I didn’t really think of it being a translation, even, as I enjoyed the story so much.  I guess it comes down to more “literary” works.  But maybe that isn’t even important – maybe I should just focus on the story and the general themes of the story and not so much on the words themselves.  It’s a work of prose, not poetry, and although the language crafting is important, it’s not the whole thing.

I’ve been reading a bit on the internet about translating and even learning a new language.  The website Your Language Place has a great section on translations and how languages have come about in the first place.  It’s been an interesting read and I’m definitely smarter for it.  I’ve been wondering if I even might want to learn a new language.

And then I was reading more articles on translations, and realized this:  since when have you read a recent popular translation of a foreign work of literature?  Probably the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but besides that?  How much literature is going unnoticed simply because it’s not being translated into English?  I suppose my earlier point may become invalid – we’re missing out on a lot of cultural ethos because there is no translation for us.  And this is perhaps important to understanding different parts of the world and different views.

I’m going to make a point of seeking out obscure translations of modern fiction.  I’m sure it would be quite interesting and would be a great topic for random conversations.  How could it not make you sound smart and very well rounded to say that you’ve read Russia’s latest bestseller, or Italy’s newest crime novel.


On Proper Usage Of Poetry

There’s only so much you can do in terms of reading into poetry – how does one determine if they are taking the words for their own, and totally disregarding what the poet is intending?  I often find that my favorite poems are those that leave room for ambiguity without being so abstract that I cannot pin any meaning to it whatsoever.  For example, I adore the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.”  It is so clear, yet applicable to almost an infinite number of life situations that we often find ourselves in.  There have been so many times that the opening line of that poem comes to my mind in a certain situation.

I’m struggling with that right now actually.  I should have taken the road less traveled.  It would have made all the difference.  And not having done that, and it being quite impossible to go back in time, it’s terribly sad that I didn’t.

It’s difficult to say what Robert Frost had in mind exactly when he wrote this poem, but does it matter?  Not entirely.  But I would be curious to know – what was he writing this as a metaphor for (personally for him?)  It would just add some color to the poem.

But in knowledge of that specific information, would it shatter the illusion?  The framework would forever have a skin on it, and despite the fact that we could still apply this poem to our own circumstances, once one “knows” what the poem was “really” about, would we forever think that….oh, it cannot apply to me for it was in reference to that?

Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and as far as poetry goes, sometimes it’s better to be left in the dark so to speak.  I think the same lies true for lyrics in songs, for they are poems in and of themselves.  I much prefer to read my own meaning into the lyrics – once I hear what the song is “really” about it shatters some of the illusion, forever altering the way that I can apply the framework to my life and adorn it in the feathers and costumes of my experiences.

The thing is, we are all curious to know what’s really going on behind the scenes, but I find that I much prefer to have poetry remain forever in an abstract state…I could “think” it means something, but if I am never really sure I am then free to apply it to whatever I so desire, and it lives on in infinite splendor in my mind.