Learning spanish

Not only am I busy with stained glass (more on that to come, need photos), and working my way through an ambitious reading list, (finished Holmes, currently reading “An American Tragedy”), but Amy and I are trying to learn latin american spanish for our upcoming trip to Costa Rica!

I’ve heard really good reviews of Rosetta Stone, and never enjoyed any of the other read-listen-repeat courses that I tried, so we took the plunge and bought levels 1-3. It’s expensive, but you get a lot of content: we’ve been working for weeks, doing an hour or so every other day, and we’re still not finished with the first of four sections on the first level! And I was surprised to find that in addition to the software we got companion audio CDs that contained the vocabulary and grammar covered in the lessons, so we can review while driving to work.

The structure of the course is surprising to me. After a quick audio check (the software comes with a USB headphone/mic) the program presents photographs, and native speakers say related phrases. Some sessions focus on vocabulary, flashing up a picture of a blue feather, and then the audio track says “azul”, and you’re left to realize that “azul” means “blue”. Other sessions focus on pronunciation, requiring you to listen and repeat words broken down into individual syllables (“hombre”…”hom”….”bre”). And other sessions string words together into phrases, and you might have to supply the missing word, or click on the photo that matches, or repeat the phrase for evaluation. No english on either the audio track or on the screen, so you’re immersed. But at first I found that frustrating, because I wasn’t sure whether I was learning “the man is cooking” or “a man is cooking”, or even “that man is cooking”. So far I’ve just concentrated on proceeding through the software content, but I’m constantly tempted to grab a dictionary and look words up.

Each lessons introduces a number of new words and grammatical constructs in a short period of time, but they structure the material in a fashion that guides you along. A lot of slides just display a variety of different food and drink items with the name for each, but then in another they’ll repeat words (el perro es negro, el gato es negro, etc, but add a new color at the end of that progression). I’m not sure my description does it justice, but it keeping me engaged in the material, and I’m surprised at how much Amy and I are picking up.

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