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More Unconventional Spanish Hacking Tips from Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months

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    As I mentioned last week, I had the awesome opportunity to hangout with Benny the Irish Polyglot of Fluent In 3 Months.  I asked him a few questions about some roadblock I experienced learning Spanish.  Here are a few more tips from our chat…

    Listen Slowly

    In my last post I talked about my struggles with understanding the pace of spoken Spanish (i.e. it’s ridiculously fast).  Benny recommended using Yabla to slow down the speed of audio/video.  You can find a video in your target language on YouTube and use the slow play back option.  He also said to get a tutor and watch telenovelas with Spanish speakers that are known to speak more slowly–for example from Colombia or Mexico.

    Use Pictures Instead of Translations

    I asked Benny about a problem I’ve heard from other bilinguals, and that I’ve experienced when listening to Spanish audio or in a conversation.  I generally find myself translating back into English which slows me down quite a bit and makes me miss half (or more) of what’s being said.

    Benny’s advice? Think in your target language.  He forces himself to think in a language and uses images instead of words for vocabulary.  For example, instead of thinking coche means car, he associates coche with a picture.  I’ve experimented with adding images, or mems, to my memrise course vocabulary to help me learn new words.  My italki tutor also recommended this, even for verbs and more complex vocabulary.

    I was skeptical of this idea, because it’s hard for me to think of an image for every word.  I also thought it was limited to verbs.  Being an auditory learner, using visuals didn’t seem like a natural idea to me.  But so far it’s been working (for example, I still remember entablar means “to establish” by visualizing tablas or tables stacked on top of one another).  It’s a technique I will definitely use more in the future.

    How often do you get to talk one-on-one with someone who has successfully done what you’re trying to do?  Luckily with technology, I was able to have this entire chat via Google Hangout.

    In case you’re curious, the whole talk is here: http://www.fluentin3months.com/burning-questions/ (my question is answered around minute 28:30 of the video)

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