Tips for Students

  • by Mary Frances Lovelace

    1.  Zero in on the key words in each phrase or sentence.  Peg your understanding on the words you know.  Use these as a springboard to figuring out the rest of the words.

    2.  Never automatically assume that because SOME of the words escape you, you are therefore barred from making sense out of any of them.  This is the mental block that, more than any other, holds back so many students needlessly.

    3.  Think of the foreign language communication as a combination word puzzle, a game of intelligent guessing, a charade -- all in all, not as an insoluble mystery, but a puzzle with a possible solution that YOU CAN FIND.

    4.  90% of your success at carrying the conversational ball in Spanish will depend on your willingness to LISTEN.  LISTEN HARD -- with the best concentration you can bring to the task.  (It does take effort, you know, to learn a foreign language.)  Most people tend to do just the opposite.  They are so busy concentrating on their own nervousness and inadequacies that they tune out what the other person is saying and doing.

    5.  Get all mileage you can out of cognates --words that look like words in another language.  Don't be fooled or stymied just because those words are pronounced in a "funny" manner.  Cognates can be your best friends.  Keep an open mind.  You'll be surprised how many words you've never seen or heard are really familiar.

    6.  Take a deep breath, plunge right in and let what words will come out.  Some persons are such perfectionists that unless they have an advance guarantee that what they say is perferctly correct and certified by the Spanish Academy they are not about to say anything.  Result:  zero communication.

    7.  Approach every conversation positively --not negatively.  Some people are much more successful at communicating than others.  This is because they practice intensive concentrating -- listening and observation.  Others may actually possess more vocabulary and grammatical background than they do.

    8.  Don't decide that you won't open your mouth until you can say every word and line perfectly.  That's like never getting into the water until you know how to swim.  Learning a foreign language is like continual shaping -- always a process of perfecting -- never perfect.  But you can do some beautiful communicating by just plunging in, using what you know, and being willing to use gestures.

    9.  Finally, remember that everybody makes mistakes -- plenty of them -- including native speakers.  (Don't we all -- in our own language?)  So what?  Say what you have to say -- in whatever words you possess at this point.  Give the other fellow credit for some intelligence.  Maybe he is pretty good at guessing too.