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Is Classroom Spanish Useful?


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A lot of language learners recommend learning by immersion as it's the more natural way of picking up the language.  It is, after all, how we learned our native language!  However, most of us still get our first taste of language learning from the classroom. 

I have several years of classroom experience, and it gets me through basic conversations OK.  But classes spent a lot of time on verb conjugation and grammar instead of providing vocabulary.  I really wish that hadn't been the case; I can get around conjugations in a lot of cases with creative phrasing, but I don't know nearly enough useful words to get by in daily conversation!

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Anything is useful if you can practice the target language. Of course it's better if you can do that every single moment in a native environement. Unfortunately that's not an option for many learners; for them only the classroom practice is the only alternative. however, it doesn't have to be about grammar only.

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With the internet you can always find communities of things you like in the target language, get some skype and facebook friends and dare to use microphone sessions with them. That helped me heaps. If you need help with Spanish I am available most of the time. :)

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Here's the thing... When people say, "Immersion is more natural because it's how we learned our first language!", what they're failing to consider is the fact that, when we learned our first language, our brain was radically different from how it is now.  A baby can learn a language solely through immersion; an adult cannot.

For adults, you just have to do what works for you.  Everyone will learn differently.  Some people might not find value in classroom language education, but most will.  Before you can practice grammar and vocabulary, you have to learn them.  The ideal mix, in my opinion, is classroom learning coupled with a lot of practice and a lot of time spent practicing outside of the classroom.

For example, first you learn the vocabulary words in the classroom associated with personal care and taking a shower, in addition to the grammatical structures associated with such acts (reflexive verbs, washing oneself, etc.).  Then, that night, as you're taking a shower, you repeat to yourself, "I'm washing myself.  I'm shampooing my hair.  Robert is using the soap." etc. in Spanish.  This will help you learn.

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For adults, you just have to do what works for you.  Everyone will learn differently.  Some people might not find value in classroom language education, but most will.  Before you can practice grammar and vocabulary, you have to learn them.  The ideal mix, in my opinion, is classroom learning coupled with a lot of practice and a lot of time spent practicing outside of the classroom.

For example, first you learn the vocabulary words in the classroom associated with personal care and taking a shower, in addition to the grammatical structures associated with such acts (reflexive verbs, washing oneself, etc.).  Then, that night, as you're taking a shower, you repeat to yourself, "I'm washing myself.  I'm shampooing my hair.  Robert is using the soap." etc. in Spanish.  This will help you learn.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I think classroom Spanish can be a starting point.  How far one excels I believe is based upon motivation and willingness to do the work to learn the language.  The motivated person will certainly seek out some kind of opportunity that may involve immersion. 

I had a strong interest in Spanish when I took classes in high school.  For me that was just the starting point.  I did an immersion to the extent that I could in those days, as I was not able to travel to or spend any extended time in a Spanish speaking country.  I did listen to Spanish language radio and television constantly.  I also did a lot of reading, both newspapers and literature. 

Later, in college, I spent my first year living in the Spanish language dorm.  While we were supposed to speak Spanish at all times, admittedly we did cheat at times and lapse back to English.  But it was quite helpful that among the students there were several native speakers from a variety of countries. 

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I'm a big advocate of immersion-over-classroom learning. The thing is though, that the two don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. Even int he classroom environment, I think it would be exponentially more productive to contextualize the use of the language rather than run arbitrary drills. It is true that we need to accommodate for the differences in our brain and knowledge acquisition faculties between learning our first and second languages, but the fact of that mater is that understanding the proper use of the predicate versus the subjunctive is only as helpful in Spanish as it is in English. That is, it can take you only as far as you are comfortable with the casual use of the language.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think that nothing beats experience and talking with a native speaker. Classroom Spanish lacks the depth and understanding required to master Spanish, or any language really. I feel it is important to develop a study system that enforces not memorization (which they shove down your throat), and instead understanding.

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I don't know if classroom Spanish is really useful.  I had 4 years of Spanish in high school and never did pick up enough of it to hold a conversation with anyone.  I think the best way to learn Spanish is actually interacting with someone who speaks the language.

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I took two years of Spanish classes at my high school. My Spanish classes didn't really focus on actually being able to speak fluently, we just buzzed through the material since we had deadlines to maintain.  I don't remember much since it was so long ago for me.  I think it's because I stopped learning and practicing after my second year.  If I just kept to it for all four years, i'm pretty sure I would have become fluent.

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