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Learn Spanish Watching Series!

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Throughout this blog the importance of having fun while learning has been widely defended, in fact, this is crucial if we want to succeed in our aim. Because of this, it is important to get appropriate materials which ensure we will have a great time and, today, if there is a cultural product which stands out over the rest, I would say without hesitation that is the TV series.

If you are learning English, you are likely to know some of the multiple and popular series that can be found in the market. This is not difficult because English, in both American and British variants, is widespread. But, what can you do if you are learning other languages?

Obviously I can’t give an answer for every situation, but I can recommend you some stuff if you are learning my native language, which is Spanish.  So, I would like to dedicate this post to recommend some of the Spanish series of the last times which have received better critics and appreciation from the public, with the hope you find them attractive and help you learn a bit.

1. Gran Hotel:

  • Synopsis: “TV series of 39 episodes (2011-2013). In the year 1905, a young guy (Yon González) arrives at a hotel in the countryside to investigate the strange disappearance of his sister. While he is doing his research, he falls in love with the daughter of the owner and fiancée of the hotel’s manager (Amaia Salamanca). A love as impossible as it is dangerous. (FILMAFFINITY)”
  • My review: From my point of view, this series stands out not only for its meticulous photography and atmosphere, which takes place in the historical Palace of La Magdalena, but because of its very good recreated sensation of suspense and danger, with some mysteries which are not revealed till the end. The cast is pretty good; especially the veterans, but the attractive young couple of stars does well too. A catchy show that leaves you wanting more.
  • How to watch this series: You can enjoy these episodes for free only by registering in the website of the TV channel which produced the series, this one: http://www.antena3.com/series/gran-hotel/. Subtitles available.

2. El Tiempo Entre Costuras

  • Synopsis: TV show (11 episodes). An adaptation of the María Dueñas’ best-seller that tells the story of Sira Quiroga (Adriana Ugarte), a young seamstress from the capital city who sees how her life turns down and has to get ahead alone in a hostile place from the start as Tangier, in Morocco. The young dressmaker arrives there pushed by destiny to commit herself in a risky arrangement in which fabrics and models hide something much more shady and transcendental. (FILMAFFINITY)
  • My review: Frequently adaptations of famous books disappoint their fans, but this is not one of those cases. The truth is that this spectacular super production does not detract from María Dueñas’ original work, which I also recommend. The atmosphere, beautiful and full of dream places, took part in three different countries: Spain, Morocco and Portugal. With regard to the story, it has a bit of everything: history, intrigue, excitement, romance, danger and situations that leave us on the edge of our seats. Don’t think twice and give it a chance.

3. Carlos, Emperor King 

  • Synopsis: How a taciturn young boy became one of the most powerful men of Europe of all time. Along the story of the life of Carlos de Habsburgo since his rugged arrival to Castile, we will see how the inheritor of the Hispanic crowns grows as a statesman and how he becomes stronger by reacting to the threats that surround him, and the rights and wrongs of this counselors.
  • My review: This series is being broadcast right now, so it is difficult to offer a complete opinion. Nevertheless, I have to recommend it. Succesor to the previous historical series “Isabel”, this new one took the best of the previous series, with very appropriate data and situations, but added to it a special touch of life and color. I could not say if it is because of the renaissance atmosphere or the closest characters, but I like this new stage of the saga more

To begin, these three series are quite good. But, if you take a look to the links I posted you will see that you can have access to much more of the series that this channels produced. So that, if you don’t like my recommendations, you can pick something you find more interesting. So, there aren’t more excuses, you have a lot of material. Now is time to have fun while learning!

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3 keys to effective language learning

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Learning languages is a unique and special process in which a lot of different elements take part. The way is long, but fascinating, and there are a lot of resources which can help us to achieve our goal, but if we really want to succeed, there are 3 main factors which stand out from the rest and undoubtedly we must take them into account:

  1. Motivation

Regarding motivation, there aren’t many things we can say today that haven’t been already said. However, it’s always positive to remind ourselves of this driving force that each day pushes us a bit closer to our target.

The word motivation comes from the Latin term “motivus” which means “movement”, and the suffix –tion, “action” or “effect”. Therefore it’s a word directly associated to what stimulates us, it makes us get down to work.

Motivation gives us the positive energy to push ourselves forward. Because of this, those who really want to learn the language are very likely to achieve it.

With this in mind, now’s the time to think about your own reasons. Maybe you need it to promote your career, because you are interested in the culture of the country, because it’s challenging or simply because you like it. Whatever your reasons, if you are truly convinced, you can be sure that you are going to succeed.

Personally I think that the study of languages should be more vocational and I dislike the immense pressure that some people receive when they start to learn languages. Nevertheless, it seems that a lot of people get hooked in the process and in the end, they get a positive experience.

  1. Patience

There is no other alternative. As we saw in previous posts, language acquisition is an intrinsic process common to all of us, and it takes place progressively and gradually. The maximum exponent of this process is the mother tongue that we learn when we are children. As we can see, children need some years to reach a good command of languages, despite their brains having a much higher plasticity than adults’ (or at least that is what is said). At the very least, we have to admit that their attitude towards learning is much more open.

Furthermore, some scientific researchers suggest that there is a maximum limit of words we can learn per day (around 10). In any case, the truth is that our mind needs some time to complete the adaptation cycle and this cannot be forced.  Because of this, pressure and speed should be removed from this matter. The best option would be to flow and to let the process slowly consolidate without worrying about dates, deadlines or any other kind of quantification. If you have to compare your progress, wait from one year to another, then you will clearly notice the difference.

 Having eventually clarified the relevant facts, now I can’t help specifically mentioning all those magical methods which promise fast fluidity and results. I haven’t tried any of those methods by myself, but if there is something I can say for sure, is that there aren’t shortcuts nor miraculous formulas. For one, the base of language learning is that it takes a lot of time, and this has to be respected, and the more relaxed we are, the better results we will get. After all, stress doesn’t give any benefits. For all these reasons, if we ever find one of the above methods, it is better to ignore them, because it is likely to be a scam.

I don’t doubt about the existence of certain polyglots who are able to make the most of a reduced amount of words and some grammatical rules in a way that they can develop some basic talks in a short time. I suppose they were awarded with a special ability to make such connections. It is something that I ignore, but in any case, these individuals are the exception, not the rule.

In conclusion, don’t feel bad if you notice that your progress is slow, in fact, it is very natural, and is to be expected. It is very important to keep this clear to avoid frustrations and unnecessary demotivation.

  1. Daily practice

Now that we have the necessary motivation and are aware of the time that this process requires, we only need to set how much time we have to dedicate to succeed in the project.

In the case of languages, to keep up and improve them as much as possible, the best thing you can do is to practice every day. The process is inevitably slow, but you won’t go faster just because you devote a lot of hours to it every day, and less if you do it one day per week. For this reason, it is always better to dedicate sometime to it every day, even if it’s only half an hour, which on the other hand is positive because it can prevent us from getting tired.

Practices should include listening, reading and some grammatical exercises overall; this last thing is especially important if we are beginning.


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Do we really need a teacher?

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As we have seen in previous posts, language acquisition occurs naturally through a process that is in all of us and cannot be forced. Languages are not like other subjects, because they work in a totally different way. Languages are learned, not studied. Having said that, some questions may come up. For example, what is the importance of classes?

I could talk about my own experiences, the hours I spent learning grammar and the repetition of exercises about it. Did I learn something? Of course, in fact I attained a good base that helped me much later; but in those times I found speaking quite difficult. Some important parts of the process were missing and without those parts, it was not possible to complete the task.

Some years later, when learning English became a priority for me, I started researching  the topic; I spoke to a lot of people and analyzed different theories. Finally, I reached a conclusion. I tried to explain everything about this in my articles “Secrets of Learning Languages”. If you take a look at them, you will see that all is very logical. Actually, it is something easy to understand for me because I have tried it through my personal experiences.

The truth is that a big part of my own learning is due to my own efforts. In fact, we are the most important makers of the achievement because we are responsible for the activation of language learning mechanisms; that is, reading listening and providing great doses of motivation. No one can give us all of these.

Taking this into account, then it is necessary to have a teacher?

Having a teacher is not indispensable, but a good teacher can be a great help.

First of all, it is not always easy to be exposed to the language we want to learn, or to talk to native people, so if we have someone close to listen, it is a help. What is more, a teacher will always have more patience to listen to us and to explain us all the doubts than the people we may meet out there. Besides, even if the lessons are a bit mediocre there will be always something we can keep, so that our base can grow.

Apart from all of this, I have to recall that one of the main factors of success is motivation, and for a lot of people, to attend a class and have someone who assists them can be a good reason for going on.

But, despite all of this, there are also excellent teachers who know how to create interests and keep the attention of the students. If you find someone who knows how to guide you, gives you good recommendations and makes the lessons fun, you can improve a lot. As frequently happens in life, those who are passionate about their profession do a great job, just as those who do it merely to have an activity will get average results. The advice in this case would be not to resign yourself and to be a little selective. Then we should find someone who gives us a good feeling and uses the best methods. The current systems favor this because you can try some professionals till you find yours.

Having said that, the truth is no matter how good our teacher is, we won’t achieve our goal if we don’t really want to. We can never forget that the responsibility of learning is ours, so we are the principal actors.

In conclusion, provided that we are willing, a good teacher can help us a lot. If he or she is a good professional he can stimulate and guide us. But, we are in the twenty-first century and we have a lot of materials available: online courses, videos, applications, etc.; so it is not strictly necessary, because we can expose ourselves to the native language in many different ways. However the support that a great professional can give is without a doubt, so if we have this support, it will be always better, especially for those who are beginning. The decision is in your hands.

Also see:

Secrets of Learning a Language I

Secrets of Learning a Language II

Secrets of Learning a Language III


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Secrets of Learning a Language II

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“We can recognize that the acquisition of the mother tongue is a universal cognitive process, inherent to the human condition. The Language ability, materialized in the acquisition of the mother tongue, is a complex and specialized ability, which develops itself spontaneously in the child, without conscious effort or formal instruction, and it is quantitatively equal in all the individuals.” – Marta Baralo

Regarding to the topic of the listening, which was commented in my last post, I would like to add one note, and it is that in the most successful countries in learning foreign languages, like Holland, Belgium, Nordic countries, etc. children have access to TV programs in original version.  This shows us the importance of listening.

But let’s go on. We arrived to the point when children get to understand the world and the language that is around then. At this moment, they are ready to start emitting words and they do it in a natural way, without fear or pressure. Certainly, the absence of fear is a very important factor in favor of the process.

  • Speaking happens in a natural way when a language is understood y is a process that cannot be forced.

Therefore, do not feel bad if you have some problems to speak at the beginning. It is a long process that takes a lot of time. When you start feeling comfortable with the language, you will be ready to start speaking, and when you understand it very well and feel it as a part of you, you will express yourself fluently. Little children also start babbling some words and they perfect themselves little by little with time. The use of the language and the pronunciation improve when the years pass. The same happens to adults, because it is the same process.  We start emitting some words and rise level gradually, y there is no anything else, we can skip stages, it takes years, that is all. So that, as well as children errors are corrected with benevolence and understood, adults should receive the same treatment. Meanwhile, keep on listening, the results arrive for those who don’t give up.

  • Pressure is an enemy of the process of learning languages. The process takes a time and it has to be respected.

Today there are a lot of resources and applications that encourage speaking from the beginning. Whereas there is no pressure, this is not a bad thing, but languages are not learnt speaking, they are spoken when they are learnt. I don’t think that this is the best practice for beginners, unless they do it with the right tutor that can instruct them in vocabulary, because maybe the pressure is too big and this can cause frustration. Each thing has its time and comprehension is the first step. For levels from intermediate, however, it an appropriate practice because it can give you confidence, experience and you can always listen the native language, which is always positive. But remember always that to keep on learning you have to go on listening, among other things that we are going to see now.

Although it is true that children get to speak effectively, they do it somehow on a basic level. At this point, children are sent to the school where they learn to use one of the best existing tools to perfect and use correctly the language. Learning cannot be only based on listening, because then you would keep on speaking like a child. Do you want to know the tools that can help you to speak efficiently?

TO BE CONTINUED

Also see: Secrets of Learning a Language ISecrets of Learning a Language III


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Secrets of Learning a Language I

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Traditionally, courses to learn languages were focused in the study of the grammar, rules and a series of practices, which are based generally in the repetition of exercises to learn those rules. I think it is still being done that way in the schools today, although I am not sure at all. Maybe someone can comment something about this.

But, does it really work?

I think that it is enough to check the results to realize that… not much. In fact, since forever people who really want to learn a language tend to move to the countries where the desired language is spoken, which has a lot of sense.

But let’s go to the beginning, how is a language really learned?

To know the real process, we only have to take a look to those old times where every one of us learned a language with great success: the childhood. All the children of the world learn to communicate effectively in their mother language. This is already a positive data: the ability in inside all of us.

How do they do it? They simply discover it. Children have an open relationship with their environment; they play, explore and get to know it. They look at the people. In this process, they learn how to identify objects or people; they recognize them and start associating words to them, until they finally understand the meaning. That is, in the moment that they make associations they start understanding, and after understanding comes the execution.

  • That is why it is that important the use of images in the learning languages process. The mind is prepared to associate.

Little by little, they understand every time more words and after that, more and more complex constructions. Because the important thing is the idea, the language is a mere vehicle to express it. Therefore:

  • To understand a language is the first step to speak it.

That means that the first part of the learning is the comprehension. So, from the beginning, it is too important to be in contact with the native language. To start, it would be probably interesting to focus in the vocabulary and in the listening. Without any doubt, it is fundamental to listen to it. Today there are loads of resources to get it, such as podcasts, videos, programs, series, movies, etc. There are suitable materials for all the levels and adapted to all the tastes, and the best thing is that you can choose them according to your personal tastes. Do not forget it:

  • Listening to a language is the most effective method to learn it. Use always materials suitable for your level and if it is possible, about topics that amuse you.

TO BE CONTINUED

Also see: Secrets of Learning a Language IISecrets of Learning a Language III