Geezers Learning Spanish

One of the reasons I hear to move to the Chapala/lakeside area of Mexico is that you don’t have to learn the language to get by here.

This is true. You don’t have to.

However, doing so limits you to mainly interaction with other gringos and constantly feeling like a stranger in a strange land (how about that for a book title???).

Spanish really is not all that hard to learn. It’s quite rule-based and there are not all that many exceptions to the rules. And, I’ve found as I’ve studied more and more, that many English words were derived from Spanish, so there’s really lots of crossover. And yes, I do know that Spanish evolved out of Latin. Somehow, though, it seems a lot easier to learn than Latin and sounds a lot more pleasant, at least to these ears.

Before making the move to Mexico, I started trying to learn Spanish. There were and are lots of choices out there and I started with a classic: Pimsleur.

Pimsleur’s been around for a long time. You can subscribe to their service for about $15 US a month. You get 20 minute lessons, a nice length. And, they’re focused on practical learning. Mostly, however, for tourists. Which is not a bad thing. It’s always good to know how to say, where’s the bathroom? (donde esta el bano?).

However, when I got to Mexico I discovered that the natives here don’t follow the scripts. And even though I’d learned some phrases (a good thing!) and a number of Spanish words, I needed more.

Enter Duolingo. Duo’s an app for both iPhone and Android. It’s free. There’s a paid version which strips out the ads and fluff. I love it. The lessons are short, between 5 and 10 minutes each. And you can repeat them as often as you like. They’re subject focused. And they’re designed to teach Spanish as used in Latin America.

Somehow too I got introduced to Babbel, another phone app. I tried it for free and then ended up buying a subscription (there is no free version). Frankly, Babbel is disappointing. You’ll be learning Iberian Spanish, which is similar to, but different from Latin American Spanish in both conjugations and in pronunciation and in word usage.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the length of the lessons in Babbel. When the app speaks Spanish to you, it’s done at the same high speed you encounter on the street (a good thing?) but there’s no way to slow it down to really hear what’s being said. Duo has both street speed and a gringo speed.

I will not be renewing my subscription when it expires.

Some expats here have taken the Warren Hardy lessons that are promoted by International Living magazine. I don’t get a warm and fuzzy from their reactions.  It seems to work well for some; not for others.

So I’ve been bouncing along with Duo, making progress yet very slowly and hesitantly.

Then I found Manu.

Manu offered his services teaching Spanish on the Facebook group for expats here. Now I’d considered taking private lessons before but had not found the motivation to get off my butt and find a teacher. For some reason, I wrote him, he responded, and we ended up as teacher and student.

And I am so glad I did. There’s nothing like one-on-one learning. I can dig deep with questions. I learn nuances. I am learning Spanish as it’s spoken here in Mexico.

So, our experience is: study on your own AND find a local teacher. I think you’ll be quite pleased. And if you want to contact Manu, you can reach him at manudiza at gmail.com. Tell him Roberto sent you!

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