Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Gathering My Learning Resources: Self-Learning Through Listening With Pimsler and SpanishPod (My Diary on Learning Spanish #2)

It’s important when you learn a foreign language that you expose yourself to the best resources possible and through those resources develop the most successful learning method for yourself. Your ability to progress faster and more effectively depends on getting the right stuff in the right doses over a progressive timeline. I suppose that last point about memory and spaced repetive learning deserves its own post, but for now, let’s focus on finding the best learning resources for Spanish.

I’m not 100% sure what the most current and greatest language learning resources out there are for Spanish. Like I said in my initial post on “Big Goals Need Stepping Stones,” it’s important to do research and figure out what works for you. Unfortunately, today wasn’t that kind of day. So instead I gathered the best learning resources for listening I had experience with previously: Pimsleur Spanish and SpanishPod.

Pimsler: “Listen and Reaction” Learning

Pimsler is one of those breakthrough tools for language learners. Basically, Pimsleur is a 100% oral learning method for foreign languages. I’ve used it on German first, but it was really with Mandarin that I really used it most heavily. Pimsleur presents the listener with a 30-minute progressive study method of listening, learning, reacting and remembering. So, through a single lesson you should be able to understand and respond through various stages of daily dialogue. The recordings are extremely high quality so you get exposed to extremely correct pronuncation.

I also think the method of getting you inside of the dialogue is extremely effective as a way to play-act a foreign language without the embarrassement of a real class or realworld situation. Each lesson of Pimsleur builds progressively on the previous one so you also get a strong review foundation.

I can’t recommend Pimsleur more for the initial stages of learning a foreign language. I’m less convinced of the usefulness of Pimsleur as you progress into the details of a foreign language, since it’s difficult to fit in Pimsleur’s rather linear approach with the the chaotic and situation reality of how you need approach learning a language in the real world.

In any case, I was able to track down my old CDs and converted them to mp3s and added them to my iPhone.

SpanishPod: Short Situational Dialogues with Commentary

I’ve never really used SpanishPod, but I extensively used the same company’s program ChinesePod. I can honestly say that ChinesePod was one of the key resources in helping me learning everyday, spoken Mandarin while living in China. I loaded up my mp3 player with lessons and would listen to them on repeat while walking from place to place and when I was at home.

Through this experience, I’m a big believer of finding a resource that exposes you to very specific situation dialogues and vocabulary. I’m not 100% sure that SpanishPod will be as good as ChinesePod, since it appears to also be produced in Shanghai, but I figured it was worth a try.

Like ChinesePod, my goal is the same: find

Load Your World In That Language

Smartphones are a gamechanger for language learners. They provide you with so many tools it’s amazing. When I was learning Chinese, I was using a second-hand HP iPAQ with Windows mobile for my Chinese dictionary. It was basic but effective. Today with an iPhone or Android, you got tons of apps and tools for learning.

Before loading my iPhone with my initial harvest of mp3s from SpanishPod and Pimsleur, I decided to do something a bit more radical: remove as much English-language music as possible. I keep a few of my favorite songs and albums I listened to but removed nearly everything else. I then loaded on several Spanish-language albums I like, for example Soda Stereo’s and Mana’s Unplugged albums. I then added several meg worth of these pure learning resources.

Now, when I go to listen to music or whatever, my Spanish learning resources will be there to haunt me, bother me, or simple remind to keep on learning.

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