Six weeks ago, I wrote about my desire to learn a new language. I chose to learn Spanish and I discussed how I planned to do this. I initially planned on using a combination of Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, SpanishPod101.com podcasts, the HelloTalk app and conversation groups in my local library. I have whittled this down to Rosetta Stone, sporadic use of HelloTalk and a weekly Spanish conversation group in Raheny Library every Monday night from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.
While Duolingo was of some limited benefit, I decided against continuing with it due to the fact that it relied heavily on the translation method, which I don’t believe to be an effective method of language learning. As well as this, too much vocabulary was covered in what I would consider a short space of time.
The SpanishPod101.com podcasts weren’t great either. The majority of these podcasts cost money so I only downloaded and listened to the ones they were offering for free. I wasn’t convinced of the need to pay for more of what I was hearing, as the typical format for these podcasts consisted of two fluent Spanish speakers having a conversation in English about a few Spanish phrases or conversations that were a part of the ‘lesson’. The majority of what I was listening to was English, and this method of learning does not suit me.
What I have been relying on mostly to learn Spanish is Rosetta Stone. While it has its critics, if a learner can accept that Rosetta Stone alone will not result in fluency then he/she can happily progress through the various stages with increased confidence each time. I have just finished Level 1 (there are 5 levels in total) and this has taken me six weeks. I probably could have finished it in a month or less if I never missed a day using it but this was not the case. My goal is to have all levels completed by the end of July at the latest. My only concern with Rosetta Stone is that after completing one-fifth of the entire course, I haven’t learned how to say anything in any other tense apart from the present tense. I hope that this will be addressed somewhere within the rest of the course.
The HelloTalk app is interesting. It’s completely free and can be used whenever you want. There are always plenty of people online who are willing to take part in a conversation in your target language, in exchange for you helping them with their target langauge. What I like a lot about this is the feature where your conversation partner can correct what you have written with the mistake and the correction highlighted. If a learner can get over the initial fear of making mistakes, this will be fine. With HelloTalk, I use what I have learned with Rosetta Stone to put a few phrases together and I can add to my vocabulary by working out what my conversation partner is saying based on the context.
Finally, my weekly visits to Raheny library have been very interesting. I have only been to about four of these so far out of a possible six, but what I really like about these conversation exchanges is that I can listen to native speakers speak, I can speak to them in Spanish and I can develop my confidence. As I have already said, once you get over your fear of making mistakes, everything will be fine. The format for these particular conversation exchanges is 45 minutes in Spanish followed by 45 minutes of English, which seems only fair to me, as the native Spanish speakers need to practise their English! Many of them are learning English with a view to completing a formal exam in the not too distant future. At this point, I think that I can understand about 60% of what I hear in Spanish within these weekly meetings. I’m quite happy with that and it’s doing wonders for my confidence as a language learner.
The library group and the HelloTalk app both give me an outlet to practise and develop what I learn with Rosetta Stone. I think this is the formula for me. I’ll revisit this topic again in six weeks with an update on my progress. At that stage, it will have been three months since I started, and my goal was to be able to hold a normal conversation in Spanish by that stage. No pressure…