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Episode 43: What Type of Spanish Should You Learn? (Part 2)

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    Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

    Episode 43

    What Type of Spanish Should You Learn? (Part 2)

    How do you decide what type of Spanish to learn? In this episode, I’ll go over some key questions you should ask yourself to pick a type of Spanish. I also explain how to get started if you’re not sure what’s the best type of Spanish for you to learn.

    Then, I give you some practical tips you can implement right away so you can focus on your type of Spanish and make progress faster.


    Time Transcript
    00:35-02:17 Hola, ¿Cómo están? Bienvenidos al episodio 43. Welcome to episode 43 of the learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast. Now in this episode, we’re in part two of our discussion about how to choose a type of Spanish, right? So one of the number one questions I get asked is what type of Spanish should I learn? Right? Is it Spanish from Spain? Is it Latin American, Spanish? What type of dialect should I be interested in? So, I talk all about the reasons why you should choose a type of Spanish in episode 42. So if you haven’t heard part one of this conversation, please go back to the previous episode and listen to that first. It will really set you up for this conversation that we’re going to have today. But I’m going to get more into what are the characteristics of types of Spanish, how to choose the type of Spanish for you (So what you should focus on) and then once you have chosen type of Spanish, what to do with that information, right? So how do you actually apply that day to day, to improve in your Spanish quickly. All right, so I’m going to get into all that in this episode. But before I do, I just wanted to say a big thank you! Gracias to all of the listeners of learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast. We have now surpassed 100,000 downloads. So that is a great landmark. I’m so, I’m excited about that and I really hope that, you all are really getting benefit from this podcast. So I wanted to just say gracias to all the listeners, thank you for getting us to over 100,000 downloads. And I know this is just the beginning as we continue to provide more and more content on really helping you improve your Spanish cause that’s what this is all about. So, I wanted to thank you all for getting us to 100,000!!
    02:17- 03:33 With that, let’s get started with today’s episode and talk more about how you can choose which type of Spanish you should learn. Let’s talk about some of the characteristics of a type of Spanish so that you can really get more specific about your Spanish study. Now, by now you may have noticed that each type of Spanish has certain features that distinguish it from so-called neutral Spanish. First, is the accent and the flow of the speech, like the intonation that people speak with. So Spanish spoken in different countries or different types of Spanish have different cadences. So they all sound just a little bit different. So, think about the difference between hearing a British person an American or an Australian speaking. So although all of us are native English speakers, the flow of speech and our accents are very different. And also the pace of speech in a conversation between friends can be different from how a Spanish is spoken in a boardroom. So it’s also very different from the way Spanish is spoken on the evening news or in telenovelas, right? So, think about the different types of the flow of speech and the accent that people have as being a characteristic of a type of Spanish.
    03:33- 04:26 Another characteristic of your type of Spanish will be colloquial expression. So this is any idiomatic phrases, things that are used throughout a particular region that unfortunately some people will call it slang, right? Or informal language. And, you know, people would say, Oh! Well this is an important because educated people don’t speak that way. But the fact of the matter is, in our day to day speech, we use expressions all the time. In fact, “fact of the matter” is an expression, right? It doesn’t really have a literal translation into another language. So, just kinda think about the way people talk. I mean, these types of expressions are so pervasive that we probably don’t even realize we’re using them most of the time. And they can vary not only by country, but also by the context in which you’re in and what you’re using the language. So, this is another characteristic of the type of Spanish that you’re learning.
    04:26- 07:37 And the third one would be unique vocabulary. So again, depending on what type of Spanish you learn, the words of things may be different. So I talked earlier about the example of zumo versus jugo. So this really makes choosing a type of Spanish important, especially when you’re learning new vocabulary. So when you look up a word in a dictionary, you might be given several definitions and you really will want to know what one to choose. And this is super important because sometimes the same word can have a completely different meaning in a different country or context. So if you use a good dictionary, like wordreference.com or if you go to RAE or the Real Academia Española, the countries or regions are also sometimes listed so that you’ll know where and how each word that you’re looking up is used. So, if you know what type of Spanish you’re learning, you will know which definitions to disregard and which ones you should commit to memory. So one story I always tell (and if you’ve heard this one before, apologies) but I always tell a story about my favorite fruits because it really illustrates this point. The first time I had this fruit, I was on my favorite Island, Puerto Rico and I encountered it at an ice cream shop as the flavor “parcha”. I never had this fruit before in the United States and I tried it, I loved it. And everywhere I went, while I was in Puerto Rico, I looked for a parcha. Several months later I visited the Dominican Republic and I ordered a parcha from, a little sort of pool bar, right? So I go there “me dá un batido de parcha, por favor” like I want a parcha smoothie. And the bartender looked at me like I had three heads. And he looked at me and said: -Uh, “CHINOLA???”. And I said: -“PARCHA!!!” So he kept saying “CHINOLA!!!” And I just looked at him as I don’t know what he’s talking about. So then he shows me the carton that the juice was in and it had a picture of what I know now in English as a passionfruit. But it had the word chinola. So I saw it. I said -Oh, okay, sí, sí. Cause I knew that, cause I saw the picture, that’s what I wanted. But I had no idea that there was a completely different word for the same fruit on two islands in the Caribbean that are not that far from each other. So I was a little surprised. They sound nothing alike. And I thought that I knew the word cause I had just learned it, right? But I learned it in Puerto Rico and I was now in Dominican Republic and it just didn’t translate and I had no idea. So, next time I took a trip, I was going to Costa Rica, learned my lesson. I said, look, I’m going to look up the word before I visit, okay? And I’m going to see what they call passion fruit in Costa Rica. And I was surprised to find out this fruit had yet another name, which is “maracuyá”. So this time when I arrived at a cafe in Costa Rica, I was prepared and I knew exactly what to order from the menu when I was getting a smoothie. So silly example, again didn’t cause me any life altering consequences, but you can see how something this simple can be very important. And especially if you have dietary considerations. Myself I’m vegetarian, so I am very conscious of food vocabulary, especially when I travel.
    07:37- 08:07 But it is something to be aware of until again to and to not just assume Spanish is Spanish. I learned the word for that. I know what that means. So again, you might want to think about the type of Spanish as you are learning new vocabulary. And so again, this is just one example and the consequences of being unaware of these differences in Spanish can be as mild as getting the wrong drink order or it could be as severe as insulting someone unintentionally. So it is something that you want to be aware of
    08:07- 09:32 And lastly, as I mentioned before, another characteristic of the type of Spanish that you’re going to learn is grammar. So as I showed you in the example of “vos podés”, this grammar is even not quote unquote neutral Spanish. Now many Spanish learners already know that vosotros for example, is primarily used in Spain. And I talked about that in the last episode. So if you’re learning Spanish in Latin America, you might decide to remove this verb conjugation from your study altogether and save yourself a lot of time. And which I think is actually a useful way of using your study time because you don’t want to spend time memorizing every verb conjugation, every irregular verb form in vosotros. If you’re primarily going to be in Cuba for instance, cause it’s just not used there. Now, beyond subject pronouns, there’s also grammar usage that can different in different countries. So, for example, in Spain, the past participle, which would be, like in English, “he has come” or in Spanish, “ha venido”, is used much more commonly than the predicate past tense, which would be “vino”: “he came”. So, and that’s when you’re expressing any action that occurred in the past, regardless of how far in the past in Spain their go-to is just using that form “ha venido” en vez de “vino”. So that’s something to be aware of. Even grammar usage can be very peculiar to a certain type of Spanish.
    09:32- 10:43 So the bottom line is this, from listening comprehension to speaking Spanish and conversations to grammar, choosing what type of Spanish you are going to learn is critical to efficient and effective mastery of the language. So now if I have convinced you by now, which I hope I have, you might be wondering, well, how do I pick which type of Spanish that I am going to learn? Now, I think by now you realize that you need to be specific about your learning goals and decide which type of Spanish that you should learn. So to get started choosing the type of Spanish for you, think about some of these questions and this is just a get you started: One, think about who you will be speaking to. Are you talking to family members, friends, clients, coworkers? Think about who you plan to speak to in Spanish and how you’re going to use the language in your day to day life. If you live in the United States and you’re not living in a Spanish speaking country, you live somewhere else in the world. You might think about where are most of the Spanish speakers in my community from. And this might surprise you, you might find that there are places where there’s unexpected populations of Spanish speakers from a particular country.
    10:43- 11:29 I know for instance, one of the members of Spanish Con Salsa was telling me recently that she had spent some time living in Germany and there was a large population of Spanish speakers from the Dominican Republic and this certain town in Germany. And I was surprised to hear that because, you know, Germany is a little ways away from the Caribbean. So it just doesn’t seem like a common place to find a large Dominican population. But, there was there. So again, you might want to think about this. As you’re going through, look at what type of restaurants around in your neighborhood and different neighborhoods, see if you can find some stats on that. There are some websites that can give you some information about the people who live in your community, but it really my age, you and figuring out well who you might run into and who you want to build relationships with.
    11:29- 12:24 So, if your goal is to learn Spanish, where you are, think about where the majority of Spanish speakers are from that are in your community and that can help guide you on picking a type of Spanish. You also might want to think if you already have friends that speak Spanish, well, where the majority of your friends from or where are your best friends that speak Spanish from, or what’s the next Spanish speaking country that you would like to visit, right? So if you’d like spend some time in a country, a few weeks, or a few months, or if you want to relocate one day, you really might think about targeting a specific country or region for the type of Spanish that you’re learning. If you’re learning Spanish for your profession, think about what is your line of work, what is it that you need to be able to talk about? Because again, that context is very important. Are you speaking in formal settings? Are you speaking informally? And that’ll again dictate the type of grammar that you learn and the types of words and vocabulary that you learn as well.
    12:24- 13:15 You also might want to think about the subjects you’ll be most likely to talk about and topics that interest you. So anytime you find something that you’re passionate about, and this goes for anything in life, but in language learning as well. If there’s something that you’re passionate about, you’re going to want to learn about it and you’re going to want to talk about it. So, think about the things you already talk to your family and friends about. If your goal again, is to learn in a more informal setting and you want to have those one on one conversations with people, think about the things that you’re excited to talk about. These are the things that you will communicate your passion for and that you’ll find a lot more interest in when you’re trying to learn new vocabulary. So I would focus on those things. And again, that will help you begin to focus on a type of Spanish. Cause remember, it’s not just the region, it’s also the context, Okay? So think about some of those things that you’re passionate about. So those are some questions to ask yourself just to get started.
    13:15- 14:49 So, like I said earlier, there are several different examples. If you want to focus on a specific country, you can do that. You can focus on a region. So, for instance, you can be as specific as saying you want to learn Spanish from Guatemala and you want to learn for nurses, right? Cause you’re gonna work in a hospital setting, or you want to help people in Guatemala, you want to move there one day. Or let’s say you’re a nurse that serves a large population that’s from Guatemala in your day to day work already, right? That could be a type of Spanish to focus on. Because there are probably a lot of things about the culture in Guatemala that are different than other areas that you want to be familiar with, especially if you have to talk to families about medical issues, right? There’s a lot that you’re gonna wanna focus on in that. So that could be a target for your Spanish study. That could be your type of Spanish, right? Spanish for a medical professionals working with populations from Guatemala. That’s very specific, but it is also very useful. So you’ll find that the things that you’re learning or things you’ll actually use in your profession versus just kind of going through an app and, “Oh! okay, I’ve learned four new verb conjugations today”, but you have a patient in front of you that you can’t talk to, right? So again, it’s what’s going to be most useful to you. And this type of Spanish really helps you focus on that. So if after all this, you’re still stumped and you don’t know what type of Spanish you should learn, you say: -Okay, I’m not a nurse in a hospital working with people from Guatemala, I just want to learn Spanish. Think about some of those questions I asked earlier. If there’s a place that you want to visit or a culture that you’re interested in or a type of music that you like, right?
    14:49- 15:38 Find out where that music is from. Dive into that culture. Find out more about the people that make that music. If you have a certain number of countries on your bucket list, look at the country that you most want to go to because again, the more this is connected to something that naturally drives you, that you’re naturally interested in, it’ll be so much easier to learn the language. So if you want to retire in Costa Rica one day, focus on Costa Rican Spanish, Okay? Because, in the long run that will be much more useful to you. So again, if you can’t think of a type of Spanish to learn, try to identify a region if not a country. And also just look at conversational Spanish, informal Spanish. Look at being able to talk about some of the topics that you find interesting and that will get you started in.
    15:38- 17:00 As you get into it, you may find that your goals become more specific and you can actually narrow it down a bit more. But at minimum I would pick a region either, you know, like I said, Caribbean, Central America, South America. But again, if you’re going to go for Argentina, I would focus on Argentina cause their Spanish is very different. Spain, again, if you’re going to be in Europe, focus just on Spanish from Spain. Because if you go back and forth between these different resources and let’s say: Okay, you found a video of someone who is from Guatemala and you understood what they were saying and then you went and you found a video of someone from Puerto Rico and you go “Oh my God, I didn’t understand anything they said!” If your goal is that you’re focusing on Spanish from Guatemala, then you can almost not feel so bad about not understanding someone from Puerto Rico because you now know that they speak differently and they have a lot of different words; their accent is different; the way they pronounce certain letters or don’t pronounce certain letters is different (which have you been listening to this podcast for a while you already know these things) So think about that as you are in the day-to-day process of learning, of being exposed to the language, know what you’re listening to, who you’re talking to, and that’ll really help you focus and stay motivated. So it is critically important that you at least narrow down a region and find some topics, focus on conversational, informal Spanish if you don’t have a specific business need and that will get you very far.
    17:00- 19:28 Now that you’ve picked a type of Spanish: What do you do with this information? So there’s a couple of different things you can do to apply this to your learning and adjust your study plan and your Spanish practice time accordingly. The first and most obvious way to do this is in the conversation partners and tutors that you select. So you want to pick conversation partners and tutors that are from the country and the context that you have selected. So oftentimes when you’re looking for tutors, if you’re using a site like iTalkiand again you can get a credit if you sign up for I talkie using our special link and I’ll include that in the show notes as well: You can get a free $10 credit to use towards your first tutoring session on the website. But they do have a very good filter where you can look by country of origin, right? So you can pick tutors. In my “Costa Rica” example, you can pick tutors from Costa Rica. Now I did this, I was planning a trip there several years ago. I just exclusively focused on talking to people from Costa Rica. And I talked about this too in my Travel Preparation episode and I’ll include a link to that as well in the show notes. But essentially I use that as a way to get ready for my trip. But you can use those filters on the site like iTalki and you can go through and you can say, okay, I want to find every tutor from Costa Rica, Okay? And you can target talking to people that are just from that region. That’ll really make the best use of your conversation practice. And it will be immensely more useful if you do that targeting versus just randomly talking to anyone that you find on the website. You could also watch some of their intro videos and see if they have a specific interest in common or profession. So if you’re a lawyer, you might want to find another lawyer to talk to so they can help you with some of those legal terms. So look at things like that. Think about their interest and where they’re from, the context and the region, Okay? And let that help you choose your tutors and your conversation partners. And often if you’re doing the language exchange, you also will find a writeup of, you know, someone will tell you where they’re from and they’ll also tell you what their interests are, right? That’s usually the first thing on their profile. So that again, they’ll help you with your context. If you want to talk about the arts, you want to find someone else who’s interested in arts, that’ll be a very specific set of vocabulary that someone who’s not interested in the arts, no matter what language they speak, I will have no idea what you’re talking about. So the context is also very important. So use that as you are picking conversation partners and tutors so that you can really get some practice talking to someone that also speaks the type of Spanish that you are learning.
    19:28- 20:48 The second thing is the Spanish courses and apps that you choose. Now, although a general Spanish course will get you through the absolute beginner phase, you will want to find courses, websites, and apps that are specific to the type of Spanish that you’re learning. In these days that’s not really hard to do. At minimum, you will want to at least choose between Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish. And again, I find that to be very broad, but it is a good starting point, as you narrow down, I know Spanishpod101 has an awesome regional Spanish series, which again I use when I was prepping for my trip to Costa Rica, but they also have courses for Spain, Mexico and Perú. So you can find the courses that are specific to your region and as you’re familiar, a CaribbeanSpanish101.com we also have courses for Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. You’ll also find courses as you go, if you use an app like mango, they do have some specific courses that are on business Spanish or medical Spanish for example. So you have those different contexts as well. So when you’re looking for courses or any apps that are using, look for things that are specific to your type of Spanish. And if they don’t identify it, you can always ask, right? And they usually will have an answer, but pay attention to that as you’re looking for resources.
    20:48- 22:06 The third way you can begin to apply this to your study is audio and video content, right? So a lot of us are listening to podcasts. We’re listening to music or watching videos in Spanish, TV shows. So you’re going to want to target your exposure to content that is in the type of Spanish that you’ve selected from the beginning. And I say from the beginning because it’s again, really important to target the exposure that you have to the language. Now, if you just think about this in practical terms, let’s say you were a native Spanish speaker and you were growing up in Buenos Aires. The only Spanish you would hear would be Spanish from Buenos Aires for years. And not until you get older, right? Maybe you meet other people, maybe you travel. Then you start to hear these different accents and you go: “Oh, these people speak differently than I learned in the way I grew up”. So you kind of want to mimic, you know, being a native Spanish speaker. So pick a home country, right? And I’ve said this before, but just pretend that you are a child learning Spanish in a Spanish speaking country and pick your home base. As artificial as it might be, it’s also very helpful. To get you to a higher level of proficiency very quickly and to also get you more comfortable speaking to one type of person very, very well. And then that will help you as you start to meet people from different countries as well, okay? So look for content from the countries that you’re interested in.
    22:06- 23:21 Learning how people speak in real life is very important. So, using a service like Yabla and you can go to yabla.com/salsa to sign up for Yabla that again, they have a filter that allows you to select different countries and they also have a variety of topics and levels. So if you’re a beginner or if you’re an advanced learner, you can choose that in the filter on the site and have a few thousand videos. So I’m pretty sure you’ll find something that you are interested in. So this allows you to not only read the clips with authentic Spanish content, but there’s also transcripts and specific vocabulary for each video. And again, every video shows the country of origin. So you can filter if you want to just focus on Venezuela for example, you can filter by that and you can find music or you can find travel videos, you can find people just having informal interviews. There’s also lessons on there, but I really would steer away from those and go more towards the authentic content that is just native Spanish speakers talking or being interviewed. Those you’re gonna find a lot more useful to how people speak in real life. You can also find music genres, artists, and pick favorite songs from a particular region. This will increase your understanding of the culture, due the expressions and topics that come up very frequently in music.
    23:21- 24:03 Most cultures talk about love and romance, but you’ll, you’ll get a sense for how people feel and how they are in day to day life by listening to the music that they listen to. So again, this is Learn Spanish Con Salsa and I think that culture is, again, language is just a part of culture, so it’s integral to the learning process. And if you ignore culture, you really are ignoring who speaks the language, which is very unuseful, right? If you’ve got perfect grammar but you don’t know what sales on music is, I mean, you know it’s not going to be an interesting conversation. So just kind of think about that when you are selecting both audio and video content.
    24:03- 24:53 And lastly, reading materials. So exposure through reading is a good way to build your vocabulary. I do recommend that if you’re going to read in Spanish, the best way to do that, especially if you’re a beginner, is to find audio to listen to along with what you’re reading. But if you have newspapers that are from a specific country and you can go to a site called kiosko.net, so it’s K I O S K O.net. They actually have the front page of newspapers from all over the world. So, not just for Spanish, but any language, any country that you want, you can find some newspapers that you can follow. So if you are interested in Puerto Rico and you want to read the news from there, you can go right to the source instead of sort of getting at second and third hand from media in your country. There’s also Tunein, which is a radio app. I think also there’s, a website you can access it so you can listen to live streaming radio from around the world.
    24:53- 25:43 So again, if you want to know what’s going on in Puerto Rico, you can listen to the radio in San Juan. That’s how powerful that service is. So, anytime you’re thinking about materials that you’re reading or things that you’re listening to, definitely focus that on your region. And again, there’s a lot of different websites and blogs and magazines that’ll be about the type of Spanish you’re learning. So I’ll give you an example: Several years ago I found a newsletter that was actually for mothers of young children, which was very important to me at the time. And I was getting regular messages on that. It was one of those websites that updates mom’s like, “Oh, your baby’s one month old now, three months old now, five months old: Here’s what to expect”. So I was getting those emails in both English and Spanish. Again, think about those ways to incorporate those materials into your learning and just really be more focused about it.
    25:43- 26:37 And I hope by now you know, I’ve really convinced you that selecting a type of Spanish can speed up your path to fluency because it will give you the intentionality and focus that you need to be very specific and to make progress quickly, all right? So I’m curious to hear from you, what type of Spanish will you be learning? Leave a comment on Instagram @learnspanishconsalsa. I’m just curious to know if this has influenced you in any way or if you are thinking about what type of Spanish you should learn or if you still have questions for me, right? If you have a specific situation I didn’t really address here, send me a DM on Instagram @learnspanishconsalsa and hopefully I can provide you with some guidance on how to pick a type of Spanish. There’s so much content out there and it’s so easy to get lost in the sea of YouTube video after YouTube video playlists after playlists app after app that we really ended up spinning our wheels and not making progress.
    26:37- 27:44 But if we have a focus, if we have a type of Spanish not only can we learn faster, but we can also, be more effective in how we’re spending our time and how we’re communicating with others. And that is the goal, right? We want to be able to be fluent in Spanish so that we can communicate to people that also speak this beautiful language. So again, I hope that something you heard today is taking you just a little step closer from being a Spanish beginner to bilingual. And I hope that you’ll join us for the next episode. And again, if you have not subscribed to the podcast already and this is your first time listening, make sure you hit that subscribe button. And also we’d love to know what you thought about this episode. If you could click the button in the description. If you are listening to this on your podcast app, scroll down to the description section. There is a link where you can actually go straight to iTunes and leave us a rating and review. Let us know what you think of the show and you can also do that from our show notes page as well, Okay? So that is it for me. Que tengas un buen día y hasta luego!


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