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How to Start Thinking in Spanish

Learn 4 tools and techniques to stop translating in your head and start thinking in Spanish

Going through Spanish lessons is enough to get by and learn the basics of Spanish, but to truly become fluent you need to be able to think in Spanish. This will allow you to have conversations with ease, read smoothly, and comprehensively understand natives. To do this, you need to go beyond just completing daily or weekly lessons.

We naturally translate in our heads because it’s viewed as the easiest way to learn the definitions needed when learning a language. This way of learning can actually hinder your skills and fluency later on. If your brain has to make neural connections between the word you’re learning, what it means in your native tongue, and the physical object the connection will not be nearly as strong. When you bypass the original translation between Spanish and your native language then there is a more basic and strong connection between just the Spanish vocabulary word and the tangible object.

start thinking in Spanish

In this blog post, you will learn the 4 important techniques to easily and naturally begin to speculate about the daily occurrences in your life. The best part is all of these techniques are supported and can be achieved through SpanishPod101.com.

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1. Surround yourself with Spanish

Surround Yourself

By surrounding yourself with Spanish constantly you will completely immerse yourself in the language. Without realizing it you’ll be learning pronunciation, sentence structures, grammar, and new vocabulary. You can play music in the background while you’re cooking or have a Spanish radio station on while you study. Immersion is a key factor with this learning process because it is one of the easiest things to do, but very effective. Even if you are not giving the program your full attention you will be learning.

One great feature of SpanishPod101.com is the endless podcasts that are available to you. You can even download and listen to them on the go. These podcasts are interesting and are perfect for the intention of immersion, they are easy to listen to as background noise and are interesting enough to give your full attention. Many of them contain stories that you follow as you go through the lessons which push you to keep going.

2. Learn through observation
learn through observation

Learning through observation is the most natural way to learn. Observation is how we all learned our native languages as infants and it’s a wonder why we stop learning this way. If you have patience and learn through observation then Spanish words will have their own meanings rather than meanings in reference to your native language. Ideally, you should skip the bilingual dictionary and just buy a dictionary in Spanish.

SpanishPod101.com also offers the materials to learn this way. We have numerous video lessons which present situational usage of each word or phrase instead of just a direct translation. This holds true for many of our videos and how we teach Spanish.

3. Speak out loud to yourself
talk to yourself

Speaking to yourself in Spanish not only gets you in the mindset of Spanish, but also makes you listen to how you speak. It forces you to correct any errors with pronunciation and makes it easy to spot grammar mistakes. When you speak out loud talk about what you did that day and what you plan to do the next day. Your goal is to be the most comfortable speaking out loud and to easily create sentences. Once you feel comfortable talking to yourself start consciously thinking in your head about your daily activities and what is going on around you throughout the day.

With SpanishPod101.com you start speaking right away, not only this, but they have you repeat words and conversations after a native Spanish speaker. This makes your pronunciation very accurate! With this help, you are on the fast path to making clear and complex sentences and then actively thinking about your day.

4. Practice daily

If you don’t practice daily then your progress will be greatly slowed. Many people are tempted to take the 20-30 minutes they should be practicing a day and practice 120 in one day and skip the other days. This isn’t nearly as effective because everyday you practice you are reinforcing the skills and knowledge you have learned. If you practice all in one day you don’t retain the information because the brain can realistically only focus for 30 minutes at most. If you’re studying for 120 minutes on the same subject little of the information will be absorbed. Studying everyday allows you to review material that you went over previous days and absorb a small amount of information at a time.

It’s tough to find motivation to study everyday, but SpanishPod101.com can help. It’s easy to stay motivated with SpanishPod101.com because we give you a set learning path, with this path we show how much progress you’ve made. This makes you stick to your goals and keep going!

Conclusion

Following the steps and having patience is the hardest part to achieving your goals, it’s not easy learning a new language. You are essentially teaching your brain to categorize the world in a completely new way. Stick with it and you can do it just remember the 4 tools I taught you today! With them, conversations, reading, and understanding will become much easier. The most important thing to remember is to use the tools that SpanishPod101.com provides and you will be on your way to being fluent!

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Happy Holidays and Happy New Year From SpanishPod101.com!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from everyone here at SpanishPod101.com! We’re grateful to have listeners just like you, and we’re eagerly waiting for the upcoming year to learn Spanish together!

And when the New Year comes around, be sure to make a resolution to study Spanish with SpanishPod101.com!

Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

From the SpanishPod101.com Team!

Yucatequismos

Now that we’re getting ready to head back to Xalapa, we’re reflecting on “Yucatám” (pronounced with an “m” here in Mérida). Many of these differences come from the heavy Mayan influence in the region. Other linguistic differences originate in the Caribbean. Here are a few more “yucatequismos” to practice before heading down to the República de Yucatám.

Lo busco y no lo busco: This phrase (I look for it and I don’t look for it) means “lo busco y no lo encuentro” (I look for it and I can’t find it). My “cuñado” tells me that one day a friend was looking for his lost USB. He turned to Rafa and exclaimed, “¡No lo busco!” To which Rafa replied, “¡Pues, búscalo!” That’s when he realized that “buscar” here is also used as “encontrar”.

¿Masi no?: This expression means, ¿verdad? (right?)

Tuch: ombligo or belly button

Lóoch: To cradle someone in one arm

Chito: beso, kiss

Ma: no, a negation

Puchis: an interjection that denotes surprise. A man came by looking for his dog named puchis. Because “–is” is like saying “–ito”, I thought he’d named his dog “poochis” (from pooch in English). “Más bien” (rather), he was using a yucatequismo.

Lo dices y no lo sabes: (You say it and you don’t know it.) It’s a friendly way to say “You have no idea” or “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Once you think you’ve learned Spanish, a good way to test your linguistic skills is by heading to a region as unique as Yucatán.

False Friends: Watch Your Back

The other day, se me fue el avión and I said to my husband that I would take a bath eventualmente. That is a perfect example of a false cognate. That means that it sounds like an English word. It looks like an English word… but it’s not.

“Eventualmente” doesn’t mean “eventually”. It means “every now and then”. There are a lot more words that aren’t what they seem. “Actualmente” is similar to “eventualmente”. It doesn’t mean “actually”, but rather “currently”. “Actually” could be said as “realmente” or “de hecho”. For example, “Actually, I do like pozole” would be “De hecho, sí me gusta el pozole.”

“Asistir” is another tricky word. This verb does not always mean “to assist”, but rather “to attend”. Usually, if you want “to assist” someone, “lo ayudas”.

One word that confused me for awhile was “complexión”. It looks like “complexion”; but it’s not. It refers to a person’s build. So, “él es de complexion fuerte” means “he is well-built”.

The word “compromiso” is a classic blunder. It does not mean “to compromise”. It means “to commit one’s self to something or someone”. For example, “estoy comprometida” means that I am committed, maybe to my job, maybe to my marriage, anything goes. There is no obvious way to say compromise. “Let’s compromise” could be “lleguemos a un acuerdo”, for example.

I remember the first time I heard someone say in the middle of a meal, “estoy constipado.” ¿Qué? Then I learned that “constipado” is like saying “stuffed up”, referring to a cold. Constipated is “estreñido”.

Many a foreigner has said at some point in time, “estoy embarazada” when she is “embarrassed”. She’s even more embarrassed to realize that she just said, “I’m pregnant.” If you are embarrassed and wish to say so, say instead something like, “¡qué vergüenza!” or “me siento avergonzada” o “me siento apenada.”

We’ll take a look at other slippery false cognates next time.

Spanish Basics - tu, usted, ustedes, vosotros

In Spanish, there are 4 different ways to say “you.” Once you know the rules for them, you’ll always know which one to use. First, tu [with an accent mark] is for when you’re talking to one person who is a close friend, member of your family, or kids. It is the familiar form. Usted is the form you choose when you’re speaking to one person who does not fit into the categories for the familiar form. For example, you would use Usted for a person you don’t know well, someone much older than you, or for teachers. If you would address a person in English using Mr. or Ms., then you would choose Usted if speaking with them in Spanish. When you’re talking to more than one person, you use Ustedes. Ud. Is the abbreviation for Usted, and Uds. Is the abbreviation for Ustedes. If you’re not sure whether to use tu [with an accent] or Usted, then you should use Usted. The person you’re talking to may invite you to use the familiar form. In Spain, there’s yet another way to say “you,” which is vosotros. You use vosotros if you’re in Spain speaking to more than one person, and you could call those people tu [with an accent] if speaking to them individually. It’s the plural form of tu [with an accent]. “You all” or “you guys” would be the equivalent in English. Vosotros is not used in Latin America, so many Spanish courses consider learning vosotros as optional. If you know you’ll be going to Spain, however, you should learn it.

Learning Spanish - Where to Start?

Once you’ve reached the point where you’ve decided you want to learn Spanish, you need to decide what way of learning Spanish will work best for you. Some people need a classroom because they know they will not do it themselves unless they have an organized group of students committed to learning Spanish and a teacher there to show them how to learn Spanish. That’s the traditional way of beginning to learn a language, and it works very well for some people. That’s not the only way to learn a language, however. With the Internet, students don’t need to be enrolled in a class or in school to learn a language. You can learn Spanish from a variety of websites. There are explanations of how the language works, lesson plans, and sample practice exercises. Those have always been available in book form. What makes the Internet great for language learning, however, is the ability to hear the language launches language learning to another level. Short written explanations, hearing how it sounds, and being able to practice what you’ve learned are all integral parts of learning another language.

To find the right language learning website, think about why you want to learn the language. Do you want to travel, read, speak, understand when you hear it? Look at whatever your reason is, then go online to find a website to teach you the Spanish grammar and vocabulary that would be most appropriate. For example, if you’re learning Spanish because you have a trip planned to visit a Spanish-speaking country, then lessons on asking directions, making reservations, and reading road signs will be most useful to you. When looking at websites that have Spanish lessons, choose a website where you like the navigation, one that loads quickly, and one that you will enjoy using. You can learn a lot with what’s online right now.

Learn Spanish with Music

One of the ways to use long term memory to help you to learn Spanish is to learn words in ways that rhyme or have rhythm to them, such as learning a poem in Spanish or learning a song in Spanish. You can remember some poems easily because the rhyming helps you to remember what comes next. Songs are even better because they have a melody that gets repeated. Repetition is one of the tools to learning another language. You can increase your ability to learn, pronounce, and figure out the grammar of Spanish by learning songs in Spanish. The first step is to go online, perhaps to a site that has Spanish lessons, and find a song you like. If you find it from a website that teaches Spanish online, then the words or speed of the song won’t be as challenging as a Spanish song you find at random.

If you find a popular song, you’ll be able to Google the title of the song and find the lyrics. If you find a song on a Spanish language learning site, there may also be a link to the written lyrics. Being able to read the lyrics while hearing the song is a great way to learn another language because using two senses at once, seeing and hearing, allows you to learn more in a shorter period of time. It also reinforces what you learn, so you have a better chance of being able to remember those words or lessons for an indefinite period of time. As you read the lyrics and learn the melody, you’ll be learning vocabulary, sentence structure, and other aspects of language learning, all while singing a song. Learning Spanish through songs is a great way to have a great time learning the language.

Pronouncing rr

Of all the sounds in Spanish, the “rr” sound is probably the most difficult for native English speakers to make. However, it is easier than many sounds in other languages. If you can learn to make this sound, you will sound more like native Spanish speakers. The “rr” sound is made when a Spanish word starts with an r or when there is an rr in a Spanish word. The “rr” sound is similar to a single r sound, but you put your tongue at the ridge behind your top teeth, and you push a lot more air past your tongue. Here’s the easy way to learn it. Say “pot of tea” over and over, going faster and faster. You’re saying the Spanish words “para ti” which means “for you.” As you say the words over and over, notice where your tongue is when you say the r in “para.” That’s the same location where you want your tongue when you say the rr. The difference between the sounds r and rr is that with the double rr, you need to do two extra things. First, don’t let your tongue drop away once you’re done with the “r” sound, like it does when you say “para ti.” Second, push much more air past your tongue as you say the “rr” sound. Combining both of those actions will make the “rr” sound, which is like an “r” sound, but it flutters. Go online and listen to several online Spanish audio lessons or Spanish podcasts so that you can hear the “rr” sound. The more you hear it, the more you’ll know what sound to aim for. The more you practice trying it yourself, the easier making the sound will become.

Pronunciation Patterns

Unlike English, Spanish follows pronunciation rules. Pronunciation in Spanish is one of the reasons why Spanish is a relatively easy language for English speakers to learn. First, pronounce each syllable with an even amount of stress or volume. Don’t vary the pitch like we do in English. The next step is that either the last syllable or the second to last syllable of each word will have a little more volume. For an example, think of the English word “coconut.” We’ve learned to say the first syllable, “co” a little louder than the other syllables. There aren’t any pronunciation rules in English to tell us how to say “coconut,” and there’s no logical reason why it shouldn’t be pronounced “co CO nut” or “co co NUT.” We just know that if we heard it pronounced those ways, we know it’s wrong. In English, you almost need to learn the pronunciation of each word individually, which is one of the reasons that English is a difficult language. Spelling is another reason. In Spanish, on the other hand, you just learn a few rules. If you don’t like learning rules, you can probably learn pronunciation by ear if you listen to Spanish podcasts or online Spanish lessons.

Here are the rules for pronouncing Spanish. If the Spanish word has an accent mark over a vowel, then you say that syllable with the accented letter a little louder. If the Spanish word ends in a vowel, an n, or an s, then you say the second to last syllable a little louder. If it ends in any other letter, then you say the last syllable a little louder.

Spanish Pronunciation

Spanish pronunciation is relatively straightforward. There are 28-30 letters, depending on who you ask. There are definitely at least 28. The additional letters are w and rr. W is used in foreign words that have been added into Spanish, and some people don’t differentiate between r and rr as separate letters. Letters that are in the Spanish alphabet but not in the Roman alphabet (the alphabet that English uses) are ch, ll, n (with a tilde), and rr. Ch is pronounced the same as in English. Ll makes the same sound as Y. N with a tilde makes a “ny” sound as in the English word “canyon.” Rr makes a similar sound to r, but with more air behind it, and you flutter your tongue. There will be a separate lesson on tricks to learn how to practice rr. Until you’ve mastered that sound, using an r sound is fine. In general, each letter of the Spanish alphabet makes only one sound. So, if you learn the sound each letter makes, then you know how to read in Spanish, even if you don’t know what the words mean. There are 2 letters that have more than one sound: c & g. The c follows the same rules as in English. When a c comes before a hard sound, like an a, o, u, or a consonant, then it makes a “k” sound. You’ve probably heard the words taco and casa. The c’s in those words make a “k” sound because they have an a after them. When a c comes before an e or i, however, it makes an s sound. Listen to a few free online Spanish audio lessons, thinking about the letters and the sounds they make. With practice, you’ll be able to spell any word you hear.