No pic Inglich!


Today we will continue with the 4th of 10 tips for new language learners.


An incredibly important habit to form as quickly as possible when you are learning a new language, is to not revert back to English when you do not know how to say something. This will be challenging at the beginning, but get in the habit of trying.

For example, maybe you do not know how to say the number “1789”, but you know how to say 17 and 89, or you know how to say one, seven, eight, and nine.

Perhaps you do not know how to say “to drive” but you know how to use your hands to show that you are driving.

Or maybe you do not know the word for “pillow” but you do know how to say “it’s the soft thing under your head when you are in bed.”

And of course you need to know the very important phrase “¿Cómo se dice xxx?” / How do you say xxx?

The quicker you can get into the habit of not mixing English in with your Spanish, the more quickly you’ll reach fluency. It’s really that simple.




PS When anyone spoke to my grandmother in English, she always used to tell them that she did not speak English, which came out as “no pic inglich.” Years ago we adopted this saying as a motto here at Pura Buena Onda :)  

Acceptance, gratitude & learning Spanish!


It’s very easy to get caught up in the “why” something is said a certain way when you’re learning a foreign language. It’s natural for us to question something we do not understand or agree with, but the reality is that it does not serve us well in the language learning process.


For example, when students are taught that in Spanish WE do not LIKE things, but THINGS are PLEASING to US, it tends to blow their minds, which often results in an almost angry “why???” or “that doesn’t make any sense!” When students are taught the subjunctive mood, many react in a very negative way, thinking they will never understand it and complaining that they don’t want to work on it.  


Maybe at one time or another you have wanted to rebel against the differences in the foreign language you are learning, but the reality is that it is what it is, and accepting it instead of fighting it will serve you much better. If you spend a lot of time complaining or questioning, you are wasting precious learning time. I suggest not only to accept, but to be grateful for those interesting nuances that make other languages and cultures so very different and interesting!  


This is not to say that you shouldn’t ask questions in class. This simply means that if you find yourself becoming negative, “complainy” or constantly asking “why,” you may consider turning that around by asking for more examples to better understand the topic. Becoming curious or even fascinated by the differences is also a positive approach to take. The language you are learning is not going to change; the only thing that will make it easier to learn it is a good attitude (like everything else in life).



Please Spanish students, make mistakes!


As I mentioned last week, I started teaching a new conversation class for beginners to Spanish, which has inspired me to share a series of tips related to language learning.  These tips will be geared towards students that are new to the language learning process, but could also be beneficial to the veterans.


Tip #2 – Please, make mistakes!

Generally speaking, the last thing we want as human beings is to make mistakes.  We feel embarrassed, dumb, unprepared, etc. But when it comes to learning a language through conversation, mistakes are an important part of the process.  

If you’re putting yourself out there and trying to communicate, you’re going to make mistakes.  No one that is learning a language speaks it perfectly. No one. And if you actually want to learn to speak, you need to put yourself out there, therefore you will make mistakes.  

In addition to that, scientific research shows that we are more likely to learn from a previous mistake that we personally made, than from just being handed the correct information.  

So the next time that you think to yourself “I better not say anything because I’m not sure it’s right,” remember that perfection is not the goal in the language learning process; communication is.


Cognates are your friend!

Last night I started teaching a conversation class for beginners to Spanish, which has inspired me to share a series of tips related to language learning. These tips will be geared towards students that are new to the language learning process, but could also be beneficial to the veterans.

Tip #1 – Cognates are your friend!

Cognates are words that are similar in 2 languages, usually because they come from the same root or language (such as Greek or Latin).

For example:
Poem & poema
Climate & clima
Check & cheque
Salary & salario
Authentic & auténtico

When you are new to a language, cognates are your best friends. They’re easy to learn to use when you speak and to understand when you’re listening. Here is a list of 1000+ English/Spanish cognates:

One thing to be aware of is that there are false cognates (commonly referred to as “false friends”).

For example:
To be embarazada does not mean to be embarrassed, it means to be pregnant!
To molestar someone means to annoy them, not to molest them!
A fábrica is a factory, not fabric.
Recordar means to remember, not to record.
To be exitado means to be sexually aroused, not excited!

If you’re the type to study vocabulary, a list of cognates is an excellent place to start!


Spanish language milestones


Every day I listen to a chapter of an audiobook in Italian. The short stories that I read are usually 3 chapters, so it usually takes me 3 days to listen to an entire story. Then I usually listen to the story 2 to 5 times, before I completely understand it (and by “completely understanding it” I do not mean every word, I mean all of the important aspects of the story), so usually it takes me between 1 – 3 weeks to get through one short story.

A few days ago I listened to my first story all the way through. I was so captivated by the story from the first chapter that I had to listen to another one and then the third one. When I was finished I realized that I had listened to the entire story and understood everything (and again, with “everything” I don’t mean every single word, I mean all of the important concepts of the story) in just one shot! I was SO excited that I immediately shared my news with everyone I ran into that day!  

So why am I telling you this?  Because throughout my personal language learning journey I always think about our Spanish students and what they must go through. On this particular occasion I realized how important it is to celebrate the milestones. We often spend so much time worrying about vocabulary that we don’t know yet, mistakes that we make when we speak, tenses we don’t yet understand, etc., What we should be doing instead is celebrating the milestones, remembering how much joy learning a language can bring into our lives, thinking about the doors learning a language opens up for us, how much fun it is to learn a new funny or useful phrase, how interesting it is to learn the way another language expresses something, etc.

Today my request is that you take a moment to celebrate your Spanish language learning accomplishments. What have you experienced recently that made YOU giddy?


No time to practice your Spanish?

Are you one of the many students that feels they do not have time to work on their Spanish outside of class, but want to practice? If that is you, here are 5 ways to practice your Spanish in five minutes or less per day:

1 – Listen to a podcast or an audiobook while you are getting ready, cleaning the house, driving, etc.
Time required = 0 minutes/day

2 – Answer Pura Buena Onda’s “Conversación del día on Facebook every day:
Time required = 5 minutes/day

3 – Write out your to do list or grocery lists in Spanish.
Time required = approximately one minute every time you add an item

4 – Keep an audio journal. Talk about your day every day.
Time required = 5 minutes/day

5 – Learn a song. Sing it once a day, with the lyrics in front of you, every day until you can sing it without looking. Then spend five minutes a day translating it until you understand the whole thing. Then pick a new song.
Time required = 4-5 minutes/day

So next time you say that you do not have time to practice your Spanish, remember that you are full of caca.


What is your attitude towards learning Spanish?

¿Qué tal chicos?  ¿Listos para el fin de semana?

This week I want to talk about the role that attitude plays in learning a language.


The reality is that attitude plays a huge part in everything that we do.

If you walk into a situation with a bad attitude, you probably won’t be surprised when everything turns out crappy.

When you go into a situation with a positive attitude, you will most likely feel thankful afterwards that everything went so well.

This is how it plays out in life, and this is how it plays out with language learning.


So here are a few alternatives for those days when you are feeling negative about the language learning journey:


Instead of: The conjugations are so hard in Spanish!  I’m never going to learn them!

How about: There are so many conjugations in Spanish that I’m going to focus on learning one at a time.


Instead of:  I’m never going to understand native Spanish speakers, they talk way too fast!

How about:  My goal is to someday understand native Spanish speakers, so I’m going to dedicate 5 minutes to comprehension practice every day.


Instead of:  My pronunciation in Spanish sucks!  I can’t make those sounds!

How about:  I’m going to work on my pronunciation by reading out loud, listening to native Spanish speakers, trying to mimic sounds, by looking in a mirror at the positioning of my tongue when I speak, etc..  I’m bound to get better!


Instead of:  I feel like I don’t know anything!  I’m never going to be fluent in Spanish!

How about:  I can’t believe how much Spanish I have learned already!  X years/months ago I couldn’t even X and now I can X!  


So the moral of the story is that attitude counts.  Learning a language is a lifelong process, and having a bad attitude is just going to make everything take longer, seem worse than it is, and take away the joy of learning. What is your attitude towards the language learning process?