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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hola!!

If our plans come to fruition and we do move to Spain in the coming years to retire, I would love to learn not just the basics of the language, but more conversational and some technical language too (for example conversing with a mechanic at the garage, asking for stuff in the DIY shop)

As my knowledge of Spanish is currently limited to saying "hello", asking for beer and the bill, and shouting slowly but loudly in English when conversing with anyone not born in England :p (that last bit was a joke, I can speak quite a bit of French thanks to a 1970's grammar school education!!) what are members experiences and advice for learning Spanish? especially keen to hear from anyone who moved out there with a very basic knowledge.

I am mid 50's and haven't been to school or college since my apprentice electrician days, however I was thinking of enrolling in a starter course in February next year, run at my local college...

Gracias!
 

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Hola!!

If our plans come to fruition and we do move to Spain in the coming years to retire, I would love to learn not just the basics of the language, but more conversational and some technical language too (for example conversing with a mechanic at the garage, asking for stuff in the DIY shop)

As my knowledge of Spanish is currently limited to saying "hello", asking for beer and the bill, and shouting slowly but loudly in English when conversing with anyone not born in England :p (that last bit was a joke, I can speak quite a bit of French thanks to a 1970's grammar school education!!) what are members experiences and advice for learning Spanish? especially keen to hear from anyone who moved out there with a very basic knowledge.

I am mid 50's and haven't been to school or college since my apprentice electrician days, however I was thinking of enrolling in a starter course in February next year, run at my local college...

Gracias!
Duolingo app is free and while not Castilian, it isn't a bad place to start. I'm using Duo along with Rosetta Stone and enjoying the two very different styles. Good luck!
 

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Everyone has their own learning needs and requirements, so the best advice is really to try everything and go with what seems to be most productive for you. But that said, I went from zero Spanish to business negotiation and legal understanding level in around 10 years:

Year 1: (UK) GCSE Spanish evening course
Year 2: (UK) AS level Spanish evening course
Year 3: (Spain) 1 month intensive language course in the centre of Madrid, followed by 11 months of job hunting, English teaching to Spanish students, socialising with Spanish people (almosty became depressed because despite the studying "bar Spanish" was totally unintelligible to me) and watching lots of Spanish TV.
Year 4: 1st job in a Spanish company (but speaking English most of the time), more socialising, more TV. Started trying to read Spanish literature.
Year 5: Started working for a company where I had to speak and write in Spanish. Realised that reading literature which was originally English and had been translated into Spanish was easier. Watched more TV, drank more beer in bars, started laughing at Spanish jokes.
Year 6: Started working in a totally Spanish environment, had a 1000 page public works contract dumped on my desk in the first week to review. Read a bit more, drank even more beer, started watching less TV. Joined a classic car club and started to go to track days with my motorbike, i.e. less beer based socialising!
Years 7 -10: More of year 6.

I'm now in year 17 (had three years break from Spain along the way) and am still not bilingual and never will be, but I would say that I am fully fluent (and as good as I will ever get).

If I'm honest I am still more comfortable reading a technical article or contract than I am with Spanish native literature (although I suspect that I just haven't found any authors I get on with).

Also some regional accents are tough to pick up when they catch me by surprise, but the same can be said in the UK with English!
 

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To learn a language to a degree of competence takes a number of years as opposed to months
Think of it as a degree course. You need to accept that you will be undertaking an endeavour that will be ongoing for a number of years
Secondly your success will be linked to your need. Individuals who isolate themselves from their own language will be put themselves in a position where they are confronted with new language constantly. This provides them with a good learning environment which actually becomes their everyday life experience so it is in someway something that they cant switch off and just have to live with.
So the most effective way of learning Spanish is to live in a Spanish area where English is not used automatically. Commit to learning and give yourself a minimum of 3 years where it will become your chief involvement.
To get controlled input start your classes in UK and then when in Spain there is a state program available for foreign residents which is cheap and very good.
Dont think that just watching programs on TV in Spanish or trying to read is going to help. You need to first get a grounding in the basics before any of that will be effective.
Forget about age. People use that as an excuse for not learning a language but seem perfectly capable of learning new technology. I didn't start until I was over 50 . Finally it is a great thing to undertake and you get alot from it. Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Everyone has their own learning needs and requirements, so the best advice is really to try everything and go with what seems to be most productive for you. But that said, I went from zero Spanish to business negotiation and legal understanding level in around 10 years:

Year 1: (UK) GCSE Spanish evening course
Year 2: (UK) AS level Spanish evening course
Year 3: (Spain) 1 month intensive language course in the centre of Madrid, followed by 11 months of job hunting, English teaching to Spanish students, socialising with Spanish people (almosty became depressed because despite the studying "bar Spanish" was totally unintelligible to me) and watching lots of Spanish TV.
Year 4: 1st job in a Spanish company (but speaking English most of the time), more socialising, more TV. Started trying to read Spanish literature.
Year 5: Started working for a company where I had to speak and write in Spanish. Realised that reading literature which was originally English and had been translated into Spanish was easier. Watched more TV, drank more beer in bars, started laughing at Spanish jokes.
Year 6: Started working in a totally Spanish environment, had a 1000 page public works contract dumped on my desk in the first week to review. Read a bit more, drank even more beer, started watching less TV. Joined a classic car club and started to go to track days with my motorbike, i.e. less beer based socialising!
Years 7 -10: More of year 6.

I'm now in year 17 (had three years break from Spain along the way) and am still not bilingual and never will be, but I would say that I am fully fluent (and as good as I will ever get).

If I'm honest I am still more comfortable reading a technical article or contract than I am with Spanish native literature (although I suspect that I just haven't found any authors I get on with).

Also some regional accents are tough to pick up when they catch me by surprise, but the same can be said in the UK with English!
So basically I just need to hang around in bars and drink lots of beer.... OK, I'm up for the challenge :D

Seriously, thanks for the reply... I guess it's just a case of trying my best and forget all my school reports with "Must try harder" on them.... Thankfully I'm not looking to learn because of a job, but hope to interact as much as I can with the locals wherever we end up...

One of the things I found when we used to stay in France a lot, especially in the South, is that when you go into a shop or bar, and try to speak French, the person serving picks up you are English and starts speaking in English...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
To learn a language to a degree of competence takes a number of years as opposed to months
Think of it as a degree course. You need to accept that you will be undertaking an endeavour that will be ongoing for a number of years
Secondly your success will be linked to your need. Individuals who isolate themselves from their own language will be put themselves in a position where they are confronted with new language constantly. This provides them with a good learning environment which actually becomes their everyday life experience so it is in someway something that they cant switch off and just have to live with.
So the most effective way of learning Spanish is to live in a Spanish area where English is not used automatically. Commit to learning and give yourself a minimum of 3 years where it will become your chief involvement.
To get controlled input start your classes in UK and then when in Spain there is a state program available for foreign residents which is cheap and very good.
Dont think that just watching programs on TV in Spanish or trying to read is going to help. You need to first get a grounding in the basics before any of that will be effective.
Forget about age. People use that as an excuse for not learning a language but seem perfectly capable of learning new technology. I didn't start until I was over 50 . Finally it is a great thing to undertake and you get alot from it. Good luck
Thanks...
 

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I was watching a youtube video of a guy who moved to Barcelona from US.He said he took spanish classes 3 times a week and was fluent in 4-6 months...🙄 I stopped watching at that point. You will find many people and many sites making such claims and it is all complete lies. It annoys me that people will sign up and after 6 months when they realise they are nowhere near fluent they give up assuming the are not suited /clever enough for it. It takes years of hard work to reach a conversational level of fluency.If you intend living there for the rest of your life it is worth the time required.
 

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Hola!!

If our plans come to fruition and we do move to Spain in the coming years to retire, I would love to learn not just the basics of the language, but more conversational and some technical language too (for example conversing with a mechanic at the garage, asking for stuff in the DIY shop)

As my knowledge of Spanish is currently limited to saying "hello", asking for beer and the bill, and shouting slowly but loudly in English when conversing with anyone not born in England :p (that last bit was a joke, I can speak quite a bit of French thanks to a 1970's grammar school education!!) what are members experiences and advice for learning Spanish? especially keen to hear from anyone who moved out there with a very basic knowledge.

I am mid 50's and haven't been to school or college since my apprentice electrician days, however I was thinking of enrolling in a starter course in February next year, run at my local college...

Gracias!
I use a few different online resources but being here is really the only thing that helps. Although saying that, we have been here a year now and while I can have a very basic conversation and of course will never go hungry.
We moved over with next to no skills at all (and I would say we are still struggling) I have to ask people to slow down and repeat, which then makes lots of them go into English.

I am finding that most Spanish people in our area (mainly the young ones) guess very quickly you are English and start to talk to you in English. Ive tried to stop some from doing it but most seem to think they are doing you a favour.
Also here (inland of Albir) we have multiple nationalities and surprisingly English is the common one. We have Danish friends who speak no Spanish but they do speak German and English. The German lady round the corner has been here 30 years and struggles with Spanish, but also speaks English (badly).

Because we don't work, its a bit of a struggle to learn and keep on top of it. I also have a minor hearing issue (from working in noisy factories for most of my working life) and I find it hard to understand some accents (the same was true in the Uk but I got away with it most times).
I doubt I will ever be at an acceptable level because, in normal life we don't interact with that many people.

How many people actively look to talk to other people, unless they need too? (and during these covid times its been even harder to spend and time with others). People rarely go out of their way to speak to others in their own country in their own language except when they need or have too.

So I use the following, Babel because the games are helping me with reading (this for me is weird as I can read more Spanish than I can talk, a lot more), Duolingo for some stuff, there is also the BBC language videos on Youtube and I quite like Butterfly Spanish (although she is S.American).
At home I listen to children stories in video form with subtitles which has helped with my pronunciation.

And I like music and as far as I can see, very few of my favourite groups from the 60's recorded in Spanish, so that helps to keep English at the front of my rather thick head. :)

One of our friends has been here nearly 20 years and worked for the first 10 in a fully Spanish language environment and even they find it hard sometimes.
 

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We moved here 15 years ago after having owned a holiday home in Spain for 3.5 years, had very little Spanish despite having tried various courses based around CDs, tapes, etc. After we arrived we initially did a 4-week semi-intensive course with lessons every weekday morning, just to get started. I continued after that with group lessons (small groups of 6 people maximum) twice a week plus lots of homework, supplemented by some one to one sessions with the teacher whenever she moved me up to a more advanced group as I didn't want to feel I might have skipped some things. After 18 months the language school asked me if I'd be interested in an intercambio with one of their Spanish students who was learning English, and I jumped at the chance. The school gave us a room to meet in two evenings a week and we did that for 6 months, I found it so useful in improving my fluency in conversation.

After having got to a stage which I would never describe as fluent, but functionally competent ie I can deal with things like appointments at the Ayuntamiento or other public offices, medical appointments or hospital stays without needing an interpreter, deal with builders and other tradespeople and converse with my neighbours (I am in an area where most Spanish people don't speak English, or at most a few words) I got lazy and didn't carry on with my lessons. It is harder as other posters have said, if you don't work here or have children at school and need to talk to teachers or other parents, because the opportunities to interact on more than a superficial level are more limited. Although I do use public transport as I don't drive and it is surprising how often people will strike up a conversation either when waiting at a bus stop if if they sit down next to me.

But good for you for wanting to learn, if you are prepared to put the effort in I am sure you will find it very rewarding and the people you meet in Spain will appreciate it.
 

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My advice to people who want to get started may seem mundane but (a) master the past, present and future conjugations of a handful of infinitives through good old memorization and (b) get out and start talking. My suggested infinitives are

estar-to be temporary
ser-to be permanent
tener-to have
venir-to come
comprar-to buy
ir-to go
hablar-to speak
andar-to walk
dar-to give
poder-to be able to
saber-to know
poner-to put

I am sure other people will suggest other verbs. However, once you feel comfortable in the simple conjugations of 10-15 infinitives, it is amazing how easy it is to converse. Then once you start conversing, it will be very positive feedback and it will spur you to learn more but you got to learn the verbs.
 

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My advice to people who want to get started may seem mundane but (a) master the past, present and future conjugations of a handful of infinitives through good old memorization and (b) get out and start talking. My suggested infinitives are

estar-to be temporary
ser-to be permanent
tener-to have
venir-to come
comprar-to buy
ir-to go
hablar-to speak
andar-to walk
dar-to give
poder-to be able to
saber-to know
poner-to put

I am sure other people will suggest other verbs. However, once you feel comfortable in the simple conjugations of 10-15 infinitives, it is amazing how easy it is to converse. Then once you start conversing, it will be very positive feedback and it will spur you to learn more but you got to learn the verbs.
Good advice. I still consult my Big Red Book of Spanish verbs sometimes, it was well worth the investment!

 

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Good advice. I still consult my Big Red Book of Spanish verbs sometimes, it was well worth the investment!

I really believe the biggest stumbling block to communicating in Spanish by foreigners is the fear of verb conjugations.
 

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I really believe the biggest stumbling block to communicating in Spanish by foreigners is the fear of verb conjugations.
I'm sure you are right. I have lost count of the number of times people have said to me "I want to learn Spanish but I don't want to be bothered with all the grammar, I just want to be able to have a conversation". Some have even said "can't you just teach me some phrases?". Well no, I can't because you would still not be able to understand the replies to those phrases so what good would that do you? If you don't know the grammar (at least the basics) you will never be able to speak the language. Sorry, there is just no getting around that.
 

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I'm sure you are right. I have lost count of the number of times people have said to me "I want to learn Spanish but I don't want to be bothered with all the grammar, I just want to be able to have a conversation". Some have even said "can't you just teach me some phrases?". Well no, I can't because you would still not be able to understand the replies to those phrases so what good would that do you? If you don't know the grammar (at least the basics) you will never be able to speak the language. Sorry, there is just no getting around that.
The importance of understanding the grammar can not be understated. Next to Portuguese, Spanish is the major romance language most similar to the base Latin. As a result, the Spanish language is very regular. There are irregularities but less than say French or Italian. In order to have a good reference for grammar, just buy a used first year high school textbook. Master that and you have a very good basis.
 

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In my experience, the more you learn, the more you want to learn. When you lock your gate and go out, speak Spanish as much as possible even if they insist on speaking English back to you. Pass the time of day at the checkout in the supermarket, talk to people at the bus stop etc.
The advice about learning by rote, a sprinkling of verbs, is a good one especially if they include some irregular verbs like ser, estar, hacer, and some from each of the 3 groups -er, -ar, and -ir.
Do not be afraid to get it wrong but do try to get the pronunciations and stresses right as sometimes the word sounds completely wrong. For example, I had an appointment for a hearing aid checkup with a technicion who spoke a little English and he said he would delertay the settings, when I looked at him quizzically he typed the word onto the computer screen, the word was DELETE. So imagine how the Spanish percieve some of our fractured pronunciation of Spanish words.
I have had no formal Spanish education but having been speaking some Spanish for 9 years now, I feel up to taking a course with an examination at the end.
I can understand Spanish in most social interactions, shops, restaurants, hotels, complaints, small conversations, and also make myself understood, but I do not consider myself to be a good Spanish speaker, however I try, and that is the important thing.
I regularly get the gender and plural adjective wrong and also use the wrong past tense sometimes. I feel, though, that the more I am corrected by Spanish speakers, the more I am heartened that I am slowly getting there, as they would not correct an absolute beginner as long as they understand the gist of the conversation.
 

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"Fluent" has a multitude of meanings!!
Well, it shouldn't really. Fluent comes from the same root as fluid and refers to the speed, or rather rythm of your speach, writing or reading. I have considered myself "fluent" since I stopped having to translate in my head as I went. It is this translation process which interupts the fluidity, when that goes away becasue you devise the phrases and speech directly in the language, you are fluent.
It dos not however describe your accent, or lack of, nor does it guarantee an absence of grammatical error!
 

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I hang around in a lot of bars and drink beer and my Spanish is rudimentary at best. I get by and google translate is a godsend but its a tough language to learn for my poor old brain. Especially here in Jerez where they speak the Spanish version of Glaswegian!! I have a private tutor now and do a 2 sessions a week with her but I doubt at my age I will ever speak much more than basic conversation. Whatever you're capabilities its polite to at least attempt to use the language of your hosts even if it's not a great level and they do appreciate the effort.
 

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Duolingo app is free and while not Castilian, it isn't a bad place to start. I'm using Duo along with Rosetta Stone and enjoying the two very different styles. Good luck!
Another vote for Duolingo, especially if you aren't living in a Spanish speaking environment. It's not going to get you fluent, but it helps you practice a little bit each day with minimal effort, and that really counts for a lot. It won't cover everything, but it will help build up a solid base. However I would clarify that while it uses South American Spanish, it is still fundamentally Castillian Spanish.

My other advice would be to avoid group classes unless you know the teacher is good. In my experience group classes can be very inefficient since the students usually have different levels and learn at a different pace. They can be good for socialising, and getting to know an area, but generally you don't get enough personal attention and feedback in order to really improve. I think a much better option is one-to-one classes. These days there a some quite good apps like iTalki that let you organise one-to-one classes online (e.g. using skype) and connect to teachers anywhere in the world, and they can be quite reasonably priced.

Finally you have to understand that it will take a lot longer than you expect, you will never be as comfortable as you are in your native language, and you will need to use different learning resources.
 
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