12 March 2015

Horses are blue, shrimps are pink

Sometimes a random conversation leads into something very specific. Today I was talking to someone who has an apartment in Spain that she occupies 4 – 6 weeks a year, she says she would love to speak Spanish but her memory is rubbish. I suggested Anki, and make it a game; every word you capture is a small victory. You can never have too much vocabulary but choose relevant words first… if you are going on a riding holiday learn the word for horse, if you want to learn diving then choose words related to dive school.

Anki lets you make your own set of flash cards, but doesn’t restrict you to just words. Google “anki” to get you started then once you have a (free) account open your deck and add new words. If you have a language like Spanish or French where words are male or female, use that to help you remember them. To me male is blue, female is pink. Anki lets you put pictures and words into your flash cards. The Spanish word for horse is “el caballo” so I look on google images for a blue horse to copy into my flash card.

Blue horse

Here’s a nice one…

Anki will test me each day to see which words I remember and which words I need to actively learn.
What image would you choose for a prawn? (hint: la gamba)

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Bill Ferguson
Bill Ferguson

Spanish Teaching Resources

Getting good quality teaching and resources

The information I am going to share is an honest account of what I have tried over the past year and my opinions are just that, opinions. I will share my likes and dislikes, what works for me and what doesn't. This is a personal experience, I am not an expert but if you share my ambition of learning to communicate in a third, foreign language, then maybe we can help each other along the way.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche: "One who speaks a foreign language just a little takes more pleasure in it than one who speaks it well. Enjoyment belongs to those who know things halfway."

I think he is right. Its hard to define halfway but I think the fun starts when you know enough of a language to be able to make yourself understood, given sufficient time to think. At this stage you are not merely tolerated but treated as an honoured guest in a foreign country. People see you bravely struggling to speak and understand, and give you credit for trying. They are nearly always kind and supportive.

Go beyond this to fluency and its like a toddler growing up, you are no longer cute and vulnerable. You are competing for resources, in the adolescence of language acquisition unless you have a definite role you are treated with suspicion. Maybe that is the stage to consider moving on to another new language ...

Getting good quality teaching and resources is vital to success: encouraged by an influential book by Harry Ferber I now view language acquisition as a military campaign, I need to use my resources efficiently to overcome all resistance, I need to capture vocabulary and not let it escape. I need to wear down the opposition by attacking daily and not allowing it time to regroup. I need to learn the predictable tricks that the new language will play on me and be ready for them (this means learning grammar). Like any military campaign good quality intelligence is vital.

Learning a Third Language

My current ambition is to be able to communicate comfortably in English, French and Spanish. I began to study Spanish in 2008. I have been a student of French, on and off, for about 30 years and up to last year ....read more

Strategic Planning

When I started to think about taking on a third language I realised I had two main worries: firstly I didn't want to lose my second language ...read more

Fear of Losing French

As I see it there is a simple choice ....read more