Archive for Spanish

Learning Spanish: in Spain or at home?

Plaza Mayor

Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. Photo by Marc

Learning a language is difficult at the best of times, but the difficulties start way before the learning process begins. First of all, you need to decide how you want to learn it which, with so many options, is no mean feat. Do you self-teach with the help of textbooks and audiotapes? Do you join an intensive class, an evening class, or get a tutor?

Do you want to learn in the native speaking country or from the comfort of your own home?

No matter what language you are learning, the questions are the same. I recently had the chance to try experience both approaches while learning Spanish.

Time frame and budget obviously have a huge part to play in this but, with so many language learning opportunities abroad, many Spanish learners are heading to Spain and Latin America to immerse themselves first hand in the language and the culture that surrounds it.

So, what are the differences between learning a language in its native country and learning it from home?

Learning a Language in its Native Speaking Country

Last year I landed for a month-long stay in Madrid without knowing a single word of Spanish (bar the obvious ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, and ‘guapa’). I had two weeks of morning lessons planned but found that the most successful environments for learning Spanish in Spain were shops, restaurants, and out on the street amongst the locals. Madrid is notorious for being particularly harsh to English speakers so, on one level, it was necessary for me to practice at every conceivable opportunity in order to get myself heard. Plus, it’s difficult not to pick up any of the language when you are surrounded by it all day, every day.

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Spanish Film Festival in Singapore

I used to drop by the annual NUS film festival. Free screenings of less wellknown foreign movies. The fact that they were free wasn’t so important. It was especially great to have a change of the usual Hollywood staple.

The Spanish Film Festival promises just that! It kicks off on Monday next week. Should be a great opportunity to exercise your Spanish too & bring new inspiration to your learning effort.

The movies are free to attend and start at 7:30pm every day. Monday is by invitation only, the rest of the days are open to the public.

Check out the program below! You can click on the image to get a larger view.

Spanish Film Festival 2013



Because love indeed conquers all.

They say that the easiest and most natural way to learn a language is to fall in love. I am inclined to agree; having witnessed this phenomenon personally. My youngest sister married a man from another world and learned his language along the way. She was just a kid when she met him; 19 years old and breathtaking in her youth. He was a few years older and handsome enough to catch her eye.

They met at a wedding; which is quite possibly the best place for two single people to meet. It’s instant ready-made romance, free for the taking. They played the eye contact game from across the room until he got up the nerve to take that very long walk to her table. He held out his hand and pointed at the dance floor. They danced for hours and only stopped when the wedding planner dragged them off to the cake-cutting ceremony.

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Phrase book vs. Grammar book

Spanish Phrase book and grammar book

The books I have been using

In my entry last week, I mentioned that I discovered two ways of learning Spanish – by memorizing phrase books or by understanding grammar books. I guess it applies not only to learning Spanish but also to any language.

Now to explain it, let me make things clearer first. A phrase book will normally be divided into chapters for each occasion that needs a conversation – eating, shopping at the mall, taking the public transport, being sick, asking for directions, etc. Inside each chapter will be a list of commonly used phrases and expressions. It doesn’t include unexpected events or elaborate conversations. In a phrase book, you’d probably see translations of the line:

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How I learned Spanish Through the Bible

Old Spanish prayer book

In 2008, we went up north of the Philippines to visit my grandmother, whom I fondly call Grandma. One night, I decided to spend some loving time with her and lay down in bed beside her. Before we went to sleep, she invited me to pray. I grew up in a devout Catholic family, so I thought it would just be a normal prayer or maybe the rosary. I agreed, sat back up and waited for her to lead.

Listen to me, I’ll teach you. she said. And then she started praying:

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