By Diego Cuadros
As humans, we are always craving to get quick results for anything we do in our lives, we don’t want to make long lines to pay a bill, and we don’t want to spend much time cooking or moving from one place to another for a long time, that’s why we invented airplanes, to travel long distances faster.
When learning a language, sometimes we feel frustrated because we don’t see any improvements quickly; we are told to be patient and we are told that we must go step-by-step on our learning process, there’s even a trending among teachers to encourage students to memorize a couple of new words every day. We could think about these single words as small steps that you take on the path to Spanish fluency, but really, who wants to walk when you really can fly?
Let’s say you live in Canada and you want to travel to Chile, obviously, almost nobody wants to make this journey by walking; you just take an airplane and you get there in just a matter of hours! Listening can be the airplane that will take you from where you are now, on your Spanish learning, to fluency, and by saying this, I don’t mean that listening will give you instant results, I’m just saying that listening will speed things up, just like an airplane takes you faster to a destiny.
Think for a second about your main purpose to learn Spanish, do you want to learn just because you want to read Spanish? No! … You learn because you want to speak! Obviously, you want to learn how to read too, but the main objective here is to speak, to be able to talk and communicate ideas, feelings, opinions and so many other things.
If you listen to Spanish, you will not be learning just words or grammar rules, you’ll be learning from an authentic source, you’ll be listening to the real language; actually, listening is the foundation for your speaking because before you talk or share any thoughts, you need to understand what other people are telling you and this happens at a very high-speed.
When you listen to Spanish, you train your ears for real conversations because a normal conversation is very fast, there’s just no time to think about the subjunctive or the preterit tenses, no time to think about first or third person, real conversations just flow from thoughts to ideas at 400mph, you literally need to fly!
I know you are probably thinking: “Ok, sounds great to use listening to learn Spanish, but it’s really not fun when I listen to Spanish and I can’t understand a thing”. On this matter, let me tell you that I totally agree; it’s definitely disappointing to be extremely motivated to learn a language and then play “Narcos” on Netflix without catching a single word, this is why you need to start listening to very easy things.
If you have a friend who speaks Spanish, you could ask him to record a story very slowly, at a speed that you can understand, so you are able to listen to it many times and several days on the week. After a period of time, try something a little more difficult.
How about a TV show for children in Spanish? The vocabulary that these kinds of TV shows use, is usually clearer and easier to understand because it’s meant for children, and if you are serious about learning Spanish, I’m pretty sure that you won’t resist the temptation to move on to a TV Show or movie in Spanish that you really like and enjoy; and that right there, is the most important thing when listening to Spanish: whatever you listen to, whatever you watch, whatever podcast you find, you have to enjoy it, you need to like it in order to keep tuned with your Spanish learning.
You need to make Spanish attractive for yourself, so if you like cars, but you listen to a podcast that talks about Spanish literature, eventually you will get sick of that podcast because even though you get the idea of what they might be talking about, you’d be hearing a bunch of words and information that you will forget the next minute you pause your audio player.
Now, if you listen to things that are interesting to you, you will get an extra motivation to learn Spanish, just like when you put some barbecue sauce to those chicken wings, no doubt that BBQ makes you crave them even more. In this case, however, Spanish is the chicken wing and those things you like are the BBQ sauce.
Remember that there are many different means of transportation, and if you want to travel long distances, using your feet will take you too long, so you better take the airplane of listening to get to Spanish fluency faster, and let’s be honest, flying is way more fun than walking.
Diego Cuadros is a language learner, Spanish and English teacher. Based on his own experience, he strongly believes that the foundation to learn any language lies on listening; he is one of the founders of www.spanishtomind.com and is currently blogging to help people learn Spanish effectively.