<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Learning Spanish for RVers
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by David Eidell (07/05)

Over the years I have read a dizzying number of opinions regarding learning español and following obscure trails supposedly leading to mythical sources of "How To Speak Spanish Easily". Maybe CDs and tapes and "Spanish For the Stupid" books work for other people but for me it has been a steady uphill climb --- not uncomfortable but slow and steady. I should also state right here and now that you can get along just fine on perhaps a dozen words (Such as "Muchas Gracias, Adios, Por Favor, lleno (fill, gas tank, pronounced 'yenno' (cuanto cuesta (how much does it cost?), etc). But learning to speak basic phrases opens up lots of cultural doors and when doors open, ideas, opinions, and questions flood in from curious citizens. Your Mexico horizon expands enormously and level of enjoyment increases proporionately.
Here are a few tips that I picked up that really helped me trancend from novice speaker to adept speaker:
1 Because vowels can be pronounced differently, it is absolutely vital to speak out loud even when practicing the most basic words or phrases. You might find that your tongue wants to hang up when it tries to wrap around words like "estacionamiento (parking lot)" or "ferrocarriles (railroad). A is pronounced ah and not aye. A E I O U, practice with your book or tape and get those vowels down solid. Mustang is not pronounced MUST - Stang but Moo-Stang. Go ahead and stumble but do it out loud, and do it a hundred times until you memorize Spanish vowel pronounciation.
2 Phrase books have helped me a lot, and they will transform dreary recitation of simple words into basic phrases that made me feel like I was getting somewhere.
3 Translate your daily habits and chores into Spanish phrases. "Going to the store" can be translated to "Vamos a la tienda", Washing dishes to "lavado los trastos". You will continue doing much of your actions away from home so when you arise in the morning is simply "levanto a la mañana". Isn't it great when you learn that "going to" such as used in I am going to return next year" is the same two words also used in Spanish as "Going to continue taking an afternoon siesta". The words are "vamos a" in español. Walk into a market and say "Buscando a leche" and it means that you are looking for or "seeking" milk.
4 Unless you are from the planet Vulcan and can use a "Vulcan Mind Meld (Star Trek)" spanish vowels, verbs, and phrases need to be stored in your memory by whatever means it takes to make them permanent. My memory rejects trying to learn words by individually repeating them over-and-over . Instead learn a phrase using that word.
5 Taking a tourist course in spanish will help of course, but if you don't work on speaking spanish just about every day then it's going to take a very long time to feel comfortable with it.
6 The beauty is that not too long after you start learning spanish, things get a lot easier. A few years ago a neighbor squealed with delight when she started translating the gossip spoken to her by her part time maid "Did you know that Enrique ran off with Ofelia?". I imitated a classical exaggerated Mexican shrug and replied "Los Siento, señora pero no hablo Ingles" (I'm very sorry ma'am but I don't speak English").