Archive for the 'Spanish' Category

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More Spanish Resources

Since my previous post on resources for those studying Spanish, I’ve found a few more. Here are some of my favorites:

  • WordReference.com’s Spanish Dictionary – I mentioned in my last post that had not found an English-to-Spanish online dictionary that I like. I’ve finally found one. It’s the online version of the Collins Consise Spanish Dictionary. In addition to providing English translations for Spanish words and vice versa, it also lists common phrases that use the word with translations. A “See Also” list includes words with similar spellings. Unlike several Spanish dictionaries I’ve tried, searching for a conjugated form of a verb returns the infinitive version of the verb. A definition link provides access to full dictionary definitions in the original language. For a good example, look at this entry for the Spanish verb tener (to have).

  • Diccionarios.com – Spanish reader Choan C. Gálvez recommended this dictionary site. The interface is primarily in Spanish (which is good and bad). There are a number of nice features here, including verb conjugations. However, after running several lookups, I started getting a screen that seemed to be requiring a login. I couldn’t translate the whole page, but it looks like this is a pay site with limited free searches per day. For comparison, here’s the entry for tener.

  • Mundo Du – “Short stories, surprising tales” is the subtitle of this Spanish language short story site. Choan is a contributing author on this site. This is just the kind of practice I need… it also shows how much I have left to learn.

  • Cuentos de Cien Palabras – Another literary site, the name says it all – “One Hundred Word Stories”. These seem just the right length for someone like me who has to look up every other word. Thanks again to Choan for the pointer.

  • MiniD.net – This is the blog of Diego Martín Lafuente, focusing on technology and design. It’s a great, clean looking site. The level of difficulty is way over my head right now, but the subject matter is right up my alley. I’ve subscribed to the RSS feed, and I’ll continue trying to read it. This find was true serendipity… I stumbled across this while playing around on del.icio.us. I was looking at who else had bookmarked articles I had bookmarked, and noticed that one entry had Spanish keywords. Looking through that user’s bookmarks list, I found this blog.

A few Spanish Resources

As part of my study of Spanish, I’ve been looking around the web. Here are a few resources for learning Spanish I’ve found so far.

  • Spanish.about.com – I have a bit of a love-hate thing with about.com. On the one hand, they stick sponsored content inline with real content, they use banners and skyscraper ads, and navigation can be a real pain. On the other hand, each subsite is maintained by a human editor with a true interest (and generally, real knowledge) in the subject matter, and if you can navigate your way around the site, you can often find tons of good info. The Spanish subsite is just chocked full of resources for English-speaking students of Spanish. A few pages will even get separate links below.

  • Online Spanish lessons from About.com – This is an entire series of Spanish lessons, based on a Spanish I textbook available in most bookstores. It is recommended that you buy the book and follow along. Includes written lessons as well as audio instruction (mp3). I’ve browsed the book in the book store, and looked at some of the online lessons, and I think it could be useful. I’m planning to use this course after I’ve finished Pimsleur’s Spanish II or Spanish III.

  • Spanish for Beginners (about.com) – The last of my About.com links, this is an index page of brief lessons about basic spanish grammar, parts of speech, etc. A good first stop when trying to understand the basics.

  • Diccionario de la lengua española from the Real Academia Española – This is a Spanish dictionary for Spanish speakers, not an English-to-Spanish dictionary (I haven’t found one of those I like yet). Since I know so little Spanish so far, it’s of limited use, but it does have a nice feature – if you look up the infinitive form of a verb, the definition will have a blue-box icon next to it; click the blue box to see a thorough list of conjugations of the verb.

  • blog.com.mx – A blog, written in Spanish. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about since I don’t read much Spanish, but my intent is to try to read new posts as my understanding improves. You have to start somewhere.

  • Think Spanish! Maganzine – I’m thinking of trying a subscription to this. It’s written in Spanish, but each article has a glossary of words used in the article. They assume a fairly low level of knowledge. It got a decent customer review on Amazon.

  • UPDATE: Learn Spanish: Free Online Tutorial – Don’t know how I missed this one when I first built this list. This is a very good set of grammar lessons – about 97 so far. Many are brief, but a few are quite extensive. I wouldn’t recommend as a sole source for learning Spanish, but as a second source of info it’s great. A good amount of explanation of tricky concepts as well (e.g., estar vs. ser).

Spanish

I’ve always had a desire to be multilingual, but I’ve never had an easy time of learning another language. I took three years of French in high school, earning solid C’s the entire time. About the only things I learned (that I still know) are pronounciation and numbers. Given a written word in French, I can usually pronounce it correctly, although I don’t know what it means. And if I tried, I could probably still count to one hundred.

While in college, I worked part-time for QVC in an inbound call center, taking orders for items sold on television. There were a few (bilingual) Spanish-speaking employees, and they would take calls from Spanish-speaking customers. I think they even made a little more money. I thought this was pretty cool, so I bought some Spanish tapes at the book store. A few weeks later, I had put the tapes aside. I still didn’t speak Spanish.

Fast forward several years, to around 1997. I was at the local library, browsing for something intersting while my kids looked for books. Walking from the general fiction section to the children’s section took me right through the audio section. Glancing at the shelves, I noticed a fairly large binder that caught my eye. It was the cassette version of Pimsleur’s Quick & Simple Russian. At the time I had a 45-60 minute commute to and from work, and thought this would be a great way to pass some time behind the wheel.

If you are not familiar with Pimsleur Language Courses, they are probably different than any other language instruction you have had. They are based almost entirely on listening and responding to audio instruction, with practically no book work. For most languages there are three courses (I, II, III), each containing thirty 30-minute lessons. The Quick & Simple course I had borrowed from the library was just the first 8 lessons from the Russian I course – not enough to be of any real use. It seems that the Quick & Simple courses are just a marketing ploy by Simon & Schuster (who now own the Pimsleur material), to put an inexpensive product in bookstores to get interest in the full products. This is necessary because the full Pimsleur courses list for about US $350.00.

Although the 8 lessons I borrowed from the library were not enough to teach me very much Russian, I was amazed at how well I picked up the language. The Pimsleur method worked extremely well, and I found that my pronounciation was very close to that of the native speakers on the tapes. I enjoyed learning a lanuguage much more easily that I had before. I considered getting the full courses, but was stopped by the price tag.

Fast forward again, to last year. At my local mega-bookstore, the foreign language instruction section is directly between the front door and the Computer section. Passing through it as I often had, I decided to browse. My daughter takes Spanish in school, so I decided to have a look at the Spanish section. I ended up buying Pimsleur Instant Conversation Spanish, which is the first 16 lessons of Spanish I. I listened to them in my car, and enjoyed them, but never quite got around to buying the full Spanish I course.

As busy as I’ve been lately, I’ve been looking for things to do to relax that don’t take much time. Since I’m in the car an hour each day anyway (commute), I pulled out my Spanish CDs again a couple of weeks ago. I’ve enjoyed it so much I finally purchased the full Spanish I course, from eBay, for about $150. I’ll probably sell it when I’m done, and purchase the Spanish II course. I’d really like to continue with the study this time, and truly learn Spanish. To this end, I’ve added this new category to my blog, where I’ll record relevant links, observations on learning Spanish, reviews of learning materials, etc. Maybe I’ll even post a few entries in Spanish; although if I decide to try that I may create a separate blog.