Sunday, March 24, 2019

Escuchar: How to improve your active listening skills in Spanish, and how to draw a dog

Skill #1: Listening

There seems to be universal agreement ... listening, and actually understanding, spoken Spanish is the key to becoming conversational. That is why "Escuchar" is the first skill listed on the Aventura Español model.

Not long ago, I hit a wall on my Spanish journey. I had spent a year plowing through a Spanish grammar workbook series ... 600 pages of grammar, conjugations and endless, repetitive sentences. I was ready for immersion. I thought.

I knew I was in trouble when I decided to test myself, assuming I was about to break into that lovely territory of "intermediate" Spanish. I took the listening segment of an online test. And failed. Utterly and completely.

There was a moment of ... "Do I really want to do this? Maybe it's too hard. Maybe I'm too old." I was already booked for the immersion course ... two weeks. Maybe it will be a miracle, I thought. It wasn't. My inability to hear ... and speak ... the language overrode my reading and writing skills and I landed in the beginner section of the course, starting where I had been a year ago when I began the workbook series. 

While I had learned a lot of grammar and tenses, I still couldn't hear or speak them. It took a lot of chutzpah to tell my new instructors I was dropping out of the class part of the course and would just participate in the activities. They didn't understand and I wasn't sure I did either. However, I knew I either had to find my own way or quit trying to learn Spanish. 

It occurred to me to go home and give up entirely, however, I had paid a bunch of money for the course ... and I really did want to learn to speak Spanish. 

So, I set out with one fact in hand: I needed to know how to listen and hear the language. The search for how to do that prompted new directions and this blog. While I am making more progress than I ever expected, I am still learning how to listen ... actively listen.

This YouTube video helped and was fun: 
Learning Spanish: Why is it so Hard to Understand Spanish Speakers || Improve Listening Skills by WhyNotSpanish (YouTube channel). (Haz clic para vídeo)
Sometimes the comments on videos are priceless. If this one describes how you sometimes feel on your journey, don't miss watching the video. Below the comment are some review notes.
Nativo: Hola 
Gringo: Hola 
Nativo: Cómo está? 
Gringo: Bien y usted? 
Nativo: Ahnopuesvieraustedcomoestalaseñorafatalyelperroconchorrillolosmocososquenosecomportangentedelanguloesigualalcatetoopuestoentreelcatetoadyacenteacidodesoxirribonucleico. Pero bien. 
Gringo: Ok... 



Passive listening ... in the background or multi-tasking. Not very efficient learning process.
Active Listening ... actively looking for meaning in what you hear.
YouTube tool bar
YouTube gives you an option at the lower right of the screen to select subtitles. Click the little gear and set subtitles to Spanish. Warning: the subtitles vary in quality according to the clarity of the speaker. Most educational videos produce good subtitles. In-the-field interviews can be horrible.

"(Subtitles) are of course training wheels that you eventually will have to do without." Also, if you are listening to music, find the lyrics (in Spanish) so you can see the words as you listen. We are putting popular Mexican songs and lyrics in posts under the "Cultura" tab at the top of the blog.

You can reduce the speed on a YouTube video by also using the little settings gear on the bottom right. The .75 setting is usually helpful but below that there is too much distortion.

Write the words you have trouble with and see if you can decipher them using Google Translate. Then, when you listen at normal speed, you should be able to understand them.

Cómo Dibujar un Perro

Un ejercicio divertido con muchas palabras nuevas para mi ...

un marcador, la lapíz, la raza, específica, la dálmata, pastores alemanes, un rectángulo, un ovalo, los bigotes, un parche, curva, el revés, la colita, unas manchas.

Video quiz at:

More listening tips.

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