I’ve always had an interest in other languages although, since high school, I’ve never buckled down and gotten to the point where I could communicate in them. I took a couple years each of French and Spanish and then a half year of Latin. I retained just enough of the languages to keep me in the habit of analyzing words to consider where they came from and how they relate to each other.
With portable and online translators becoming more advanced, it’s tempting to question the need to actually learn another language but it’s about more than necessity. Learning at least the basics of another language is one way to appreciate another culture a little better and also helps you to appreciate your own language more. It’s also an excellent mental exercise at any age.
Also, online translators will never give you spontaneous access to conversations as they’re happening. When I was watching The Americans, I often wished I’d learned Russian, beyond the alphabet and a few phrases that I’d picked up, to get the deeper meaning in the dialogue or just to see how good the subtitles actually were.
When the pandemic started, my lockdown project was to learn some Spanish to help with some work that I was doing. I turned to Udemy which has supplied some good tech courses in the past and found El Método, a highly rated course by Peter Hanley and his daughter, Jessica.
El Método is based on continuous repetition of the material and each video builds on the previous videos. The unique thing about the course is that, with a couple of exceptions, the instructor discourages students from writing things down. The idea is to just follow along with the videos and rely on the spoken and on-screen prompts and the repeated practice to help memorize the vocabulary and grammar.
Each video probably averages 8 – 10 minutes, introduces two or three new words and concepts and then integrates them into previously learned material. Some of the videos end with rhythmic practice chants using the learned phrases and set to music. Each video includes practice excercises and a PDF transcript that can be used for review. The videos also note the differences between European and Latin American Spanish. Given my location, I’m focusing on the Latin American pronunciations.
Overall, I’ve found this to be a great course. I’ve only purchased the first beginner course at this point; there are several for beginner and intermediate students divided into four parts each. I will admit to finding some of the rhythmic chants at the end of the videos a little off-putting and turning off the sound or skipping over them but, otherwise, Peter Hanley’s approach provides a great way to ease into the language and works well in combination with other repetition resources like Duolingo.
Ultimately, it turned out I didn’t really need to learn Spanish back in 2020 but I’m glad to have studied it and I’m coming back to it now to finish what I started. I’m finding that I remember a lot of the material from the course even though I haven’t used it which is probably a testament to its effectiveness.