8 May 2012

Duolingo the free language course

Learn a language for free. I’ve been waiting since December to get involved with this Project and finally I got my invitation. Duolingo is the brainchild of Luis von Ahn you can see his TED presentation where he explains what it is all about. The idea is that you study a language and it [...]

17 February 2011

Excuse me did I hear you speaking Spanish

One of the first things my new Spanish teacher said to the class was that we should always try to start a conversation whenever we heard someone speaking Spanish in a shop or on a train or wherever. I thought at the time that sounded like a good idea, in principle! This topic has [...]

16 December 2010

OU Results L140

At last the results have come out for L140. Sadly none of my group of "study buddies" or me, made distinction level (85% or better in each component) but we didn’t disgrace ourselves and we all passed. Here is my long awaited letter from the OU:

Open University L140 Results letter

Strangely I [...]

7 December 2010

December update

Resumé: its now 2 years and a week since I started learning Spanish and it isn’t getting easier or harder. It feels like swimming in the sea, if you try to go too fast it’s dangerous because you get tired and out of breath, plodding along is safest, and I can’t risk stopping because [...]

7 October 2010

Reading Spanish novels with Kindle 3

I read recently that a school in Kansas had given all of the students Kindle readers instead of the usual course books. There were several advantages for the students: they didn’t have to drag heavy textbooks around with them, all the course books had been downloaded onto a device weighing a few ounces. Just [...]

4 October 2010

After Open University, Adult ed and Kindle 3

There is a space of less than a week between finishing L140 with Open University and starting a level 7 Spanish course with Kent Adult Education. This is going to be interesting: the prospectus suggests that I am going to struggle at this level but 2 years ago I was attending French at [...]

28 September 2010

The end of L140

I haven’t posted for 6 weeks and the reason was Open University, in particular L140. This course has taken over my free time. The final exams (OU call them "end of course assessments") consisted of an essay; not too bad I thought, and a speaking assessment. That was stressful. The speaking assessment, 2 [...]

1 March 2010

Spanish TV via Satellite in the UK

My new satellite system was installed on Friday and it’s wonderful. I thought I might get half a dozen or so Spanish stations but I can actually get 14 and there may be more that I haven’t found yet.

The installation went smoothly, the guys from Challenge TV in Tenterden, [...]

22 February 2010

¡Hispasat viene!

At last all my heavy hints for the ideal birthday present have paid off, the installation is planned for Friday. After suffering Eurosat as my only Spanish TV channel for the last six months we are upgrading to a motorised dish that should be able to pick up at least a couple of [...]

26 January 2010

Where have all the Spanish Classes Gone

I’m getting started on the L140 Open University course, one of the suggestions is that students arrange some conversation practice with native Spanish speakers. No problem you might think. I put out lots of feelers but so far I haven’t found anyone to practice with, so I started looking for conversation classes.


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