It has often been said that total immersion in a foreign language is the best way to learn, and while this is definitely true, lessons certainly help. But with such a huge learning curve, the biggest question is, where to start?
We have tried all kinds of different lessons, Rosetta Stone, audio lessons, podcasts, books, and real live teacher student face to face lessons, but by far the best thing we’ve found is an audio course by Pimsleur. (Get a free Pimsleur lesson from Audible. Audible is the cheapest place.)
When we moved here friends told us to wait at least a year before taking lessons from a teacher, but we were anxious so we signed up about five months after we arrived. Well turns out our friends were right. The teacher was excellent, she even spoke English really well, but it was too much too fast. Our heads were spinning, and we really didn’t retain much.
The problem with Rosetta Stone, and the other courses was that they only teach words, or phrases consisting of a few words each. We were trying to learn but were unable to speak in intelligent polite sentences, we have found that this ability is essential to communication (sarcastic smile inserted here). With Rosetta Stone in particular, one of their selling points is about total immersion, which works well in real life. But Rosetta Stone uses pictures, and does not use any English to explain them. The absence of English is not help, it’s a hindrances, for example when the program was trying to teach me the word for “I have” I thought they were teaching “I touch,” the absence of English makes the course confusing, and they only teach present tense.
It was only after we started the Pimsleur course that we began to get a handle on the normal flow of polite conversation. I found it very frustrating that the other courses were teaching me to say things that I would never use at this stage in the learning process. Things like: “Do you drive to the library everyday?” Am I really going to walk up to a stranger and say that? With Pimsleur I started off learning how to say “Pardon me Sir, good afternoon, I speak English, do you speak English? I speak a little Spanish, and I only understand a little, thank you, good bye.” This I could begin to work with. Each lesson builds on the one before and they are only 30 minutes each, you are recommended to only do one a day. We have found that this really is the best way to learn because it sinks in, and it’s not overwhelming.
The school we took our classes at is called Simon Bolivar, it’s right here in Cuenca and I would recommend them, after about a year of immersion, and Pimsleur. Get a free Pimsleur lesson from Audible.