Learning Spanish - a beginning

17th January 2010


As part of my New year's resolutions, I'm starting to learn Spanish. I'm fairly modest in my aim s; by the end of 2010, I simply want to be at "basic conversational level". For me, the main goals of this project is to hopefully help me develop a deeper understanding of Tango, from a study of the language, and also to prepare for a potential BsAs trip at some point.

Since I drive to work, and as my other time is short, I've decided to start with some CD-based courses; this gives me a window of about 1 hour per day to learn and practice, which would otherwise be "dead time".

I will then see how I've progressed, and look at more interactive learning - evening classes, private lessons and practice sessions.

But for now, I'm stocking up on the CDs, and I'll provide some reviews of these CDs, in the hope that these are useful for others in similar situations.

Instant recall

I started out on my journey with Instant recall: Spanish vocabulary.

This one is a 2-CD package, which focusses almost exclusively on learning vocabulary via mnemonic association. For example, the Spanish for Rice is "arros", so the association is to imagine arrows shooting into a bowl of rice.

There's a fairly cheap-looking booklet provided also. In fact, the whole thing was quite cheap - less than £5 on Amazon - so I thought it was worth a go.

The Good bits

  • For me, the association works. I learnt the words, and I retained them, both using the revision sections of the CD, and by being tested in real life. Hopefully these will be retained for more than a few days, but so far it's done what it promised to do. I've learnt what was being taught.
    (That said, sometimes you need to make up your own images for your own personal associations. But this should be fairly easy if you understand the basic principle of these things.)
  • I also had time to work on pronounciations, and hopefully this will also be retained.
  • The course was enjoyable - I got a real sense of progress, and it didn't feel like a chore having to turn the CD player on.

The Bad bits

  • "Bullfighter image": having said that the associations worked, the one area in which it didn't, for me, was where the Spanish and English terms were similar - we were told to imagine a "bullfighter" for those words as a shorthand for "similar". To me, that image didn't work.
  • No non-vocab work. Yes, I know, I know, the course is a vocabulary course, but I occasionally felt a need to use this vocabulary in a sentence. So that's probably just me wanting the course to do something it wasn't supposed to be doing.
  • Revision should be more random: all revision was done in the same order as it's taught; rather than testing us in a more random way. To take an extreme example, it's pointless when revising the words for numbers, being asked what is the meaning for "nueve" and then "ocho" and so on; it's pretty easy to anticipate what "Siete" means after that.

The end (of the beginning)

A good starter - I learnt 200 words in less than one week, which I'm very happy with.

Of course, it's early days. But I liked the approach, and it worked well for me.

And on the basis of this, I've now also ordered the full Spanish recall course. Which no doubt will be the subject of future reviews...

~ David Bailey, 17th January 2010