Spanish language learning resources and motivation

Speak Spanish and they will come.


Speak Spanish and they will come.

Let’s imagine,

You just encountered a native speaker and the circumstances were right so you tried out some phrase you had learned along the way and it went off pretty well.

Now, if you are like most of us you want that phrase and that experience to carry you through to the next time and the time after that.

Well, maybe. 

But remember, things change and so do the circumstances.

You might try and repeat that event the next time you have the chance but even if that works, it will not feel the same.

There is no growth in repeating what you already know.

You might feel good that you can replicate some part of a preplanned conversation but. . .

It’s just like most things: you do it once and then you keep on improving.

There are 2 distinct reasons for this.

  1. You enjoy the event.
  2. If you stop, it won’t have a chance to repeat itself.

That’s the way it is with your language adventure.

You must appreciate the successful moments and then learn some more and go out and try it again.

It’s not always going to have the same outcome, but wisdom and experience assure that if you persevere, you will improve.

The great thing about this process is that the rewards and self satisfaction gain traction and become more rewarding at each new stage.

You can become over whelmed quite easily if you bite off more than you can chew. 

For example, try for minute to recall the last time you set out to engage a Spanish speaker as if you were a native (or at least knew more than you did) with the hopes of pulling it off.

How did that go?

Frustration and some embarrassment are probably the memories that come to mind.

Now, think about the time that you engaged a waiter at a local Mexican restaurant in some small talk over the dinner menu.

If you’ve had some Spanish in school or where ever, you might have had significant success in both getting the food you ordered as well as a feeling of confidence that lasted through the meal.

That is what I mean by “doing it and keep on improving”.

That’s something you own and of which you can be proud.

If you are further advanced than just ordering food and you want to talk to a person you meet while standing in line waiting for tickets to your favorite show or maybe a movie, you might sense a similar satisfaction and even make a friend.

That’s something you own and of which you can be proud.

But regardless of where your are on the language learning spectrum, given the opportunity, you can always attempt to try out what you know and if you are humble enough not to overstate your language prowess, you will succeed in as far as bridging the imaginary language barrier to the extent that you are able in that moment.

The greatest reward is that you will be that much more confident and hopefully motivated to try again when the next speaking opportunity presents itself.

If you take it to the next level and practice a bit more you will be that much more prepared and ready to advance accordingly.

That’s the process.

The pyramids weren’t built in a day and neither will you become fluent in any language in a day much less in one conversation.

You will however start building a stronger and stronger foundation that will get you further along your language learning goals.

Each stone counts like each attempt.

You have the choice of how fast or slow the stones get placed and how firmly they are laid.

Don’t rush it but don’t waste time either.

Make your efforts worth while.

Study and speak.

They work together in concert. 

One without the other is like planning without building or building without a plan.

Plan and execute.  Study and speak.

Try it and see.

You may just like what you create.

Why have you failed to learn to speak Spanish?


Why have you failed to learn to speak Spanish?

The main reason most people fail to speak Spanish is very simple.

Most Spanish instruction is based on a grammar approach and not geared towards conversational Spanish.

Let’s look at the facts.Se habla español speak Spanish

The vast majority of people that have studied Spanish only a small fraction actually feel confident speaking Spanish with native speakers.

If you are one of those in the majority of failed language learns, it is not your fault.

This doesn’t have to be you!

You can learn to speak Spanish!

However, a word of philosophical caution:  If you attempt to go about something again and again the same way expecting different results, it just won’t happen as that is the definition of insanity.

Yes, it is unfortunate, but it can be overcome.

You can break through the Spanish speaking language barrier if you know what your goal is and if you know how to find the appropriate materials that will allow you to reach that goal.

As always, establishing what your goal is will be the first step in determining what course of action you’ll need to take.

Since we are all unique, the only one to answer this question is you.

Take a minute and think about why you want to speak Spanish.

  1. Do you want to travel to a Spanish speaking country?
  2. Maybe you have a significant other that speaks Spanish and you want to communicate with that person and or their family.
  3. You want to check off learning a foreign language from your bucket list.
  4. Maybe you hope to finally get a realistic return on your investment for all the hours that you spent studying Spanish years ago.

What ever your reason may be, evaluate how much fulfilling that desire means to you.

You might also want to articulate (at least to yourself) what you are willing to do in order to attain that goal.

Chances are that you have, at some point, studied Spanish with the hopes of communicating with native speakers.

Also, chances are that you have never felt confident doing it.

It’s quite possible that you feel that although you want it to become a reality, it just isn’t possible.

Fortunately, that is a misconception.

Speaking Spanish at any age is attainable.

This statement bears repeating, Speaking Spanish at any age is attainable.

It’s the “Sí Se Puede” attitude.

It won’t happen overnight, but if you persist, you can do it!

For starters, you’ve more than likely had so many failed attempts at feeling inadequate when you’ve tried to speak Spanish and either gotten so tongue tied or frustrated that you’ve given up all hope that you will ever speak Spanish.

You are not alone.

The good news is that even though you may not believe it, you probably know more Spanish than you think.

And, that knowledge will help you progress faster than you might expect.

The theory of Recall of Memory states that you will begin to remember what you have previously learned once you reinitiate your studies.

So, if you determine what your goal is, commit to what will be necessary to accomplish it, and access the right materials that meet your needs, you will have the action plan that will get you to where you want to go.

The Best 3 Ways To Learn Spanish


The Best 3 Ways To Learn Spanish

  1. The first way to learn Spanish is to live in a Spanish speaking country.

2.   The second best way is to find a partner that speaks the language you want to learn.

3.   The third way is . . .  to do what most of us have to do in the beginning.  Go to some kind of school.

The problem with the third way is that we most likely thought it would be “cool” to learn another language but in reality it didn’t work out quite as we would have hoped.

Just like almost everything, we think at the on set of the endeavor: we are going to start something and in no time at all we will finish what we set out to do and go on to the next thing.

Well, that’s about half of what happens.

We do move on to the next thing. 

Say exactly what you mean Spanish lesson and motivationThe problem is that, we didn’t always accomplish what we started out to accomplish before we moved on to the next “thing”.

That said,  it just doesn’t matter.

We can always pick up from where we left off.

I will state it once more, Recall of Memory.

Let’s say that after numerous attempts at creating the light bulb, we fail at each attempt.

Does that mean that it cannot be done?


It means that we are in the process of finding the path that will lead us to the light. (so to speak)

What we can do on a daily basis is continue to strive to be a bit more than we were yesterday.

That is not to be taken lightly.  There is something noble to not only wishing upon a star, but actually holding that vision long enough to reach out and touch it.

Can you remember the last time you wanted to express yourself in a conversation but just could not find the words.

Let’s face it, that happens in any language we might be fluent in speaking.

Now the issue becomes, What do we say in either language that communicates what we feel?

The answer is simple.  It’s not the language of words that we speak.  It is the language of the heart and mind that carries us through.

As my most trusted Spanish resource through out the years has boldly typed on its cover:

“Say it in Spanish

Say it in English, but . . .

Say exactly what you mean.”

Verb Conjugation 102

intermediate Spanish verb conversationA2B2

Spanish Verb Conjugation: 102

Understanding verb conjugation can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

Verb conjugation is the process of taking the base form of a verb which is the simplest form of a verb, without a special ending (or suffix). It’s the form that appears in dictionary entries. Also known as the plain form, simple form, or stem.

Conjugated verbs are verbs which have been changed from their base form to communicate one or more of the following: person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood,  or voice.

So now what?

Do you need to drill “to death” every conjugation of every verb or is there another way?

Well, if you want to speed up your mental processing speed and free up some working memory, the brain has to ensure that each lexical (grammatical) item is arranged in the correct syntactic (well-formed) order and that the rules of tense and agreement (in relation to the subject) are applied correctly.

This requires a number of cognitive (mental) operations some of which involve sub-operations (an operation that forms a specific phase of a larger operation or process.)

So the answer is . . . if you want to enhance your target language output, then there is a benefit to practicing your verb conjugations.

First, let’s break down a verb into its essential components.

1. According to Merriam’s Dictionary simple definition of a verb: (grammar) a word (such as jump, think, happen, or exist ) that is usually one of the main parts of a sentence and that expresses an action, an occurrence, or a state of being.

2. “To” is a function word (or an infinitive marker) and when used before a verb its function is to show that the verb is an infinitive, meaning it has no tense nor subject.

When you combine a subject with an infinitive, you drop the “to” and conjugate the verb. 

In Spanish the -ar, -er, and -ir attached to the back of the root or stem of the verb is the equivalent to the English infinitive marker word “to”.

So when you combine a subject with a Spanish infinitive verb, you drop the “-ar, -er, and -ir” and conjugate the verb by replacing the -ar, -er, and -ir with the representation of the corresponding subject or subject pronoun which also indicates the tense/mood of the verb.

(Note: One syllable Spanish verbs like, ir, ser, and ver are exceptions and are considered to be irregular verbs and do not follow the standard conjugation procedure described here but will be addressed in future posts.)

What is crucial to conjugating Spanish verbs is to remember that every Spanish verb has 2 parts:

  1. The root or stem of the verb
  2. The English function word (infinitive marker) equivalent (-ar, -er, and -ir).

Here are some examples: (stem in brown, infinitive marker in red)

hablar/to speak

comer/to eat

vivir/to live

Once you understand these basic components of a Spanish verb, you will get a clearer picture of what happens when its time to conjugate it.

The next step is to learn about the endings that will replace the infinitive marker that will indicate both the subject and the tense.

In order to demonstrate the basic concept here are a few subject pronouns (English/Spanish) and their equivalent endings for present tense -ar verbs with an example of the fully conjugated Spanish verb: (stem in brown, subject and tense indicator in red)

To speak / Hablar

I/yo – o, I speak / (Yo) hablo

You/tú – as, You speak / (Tú) hablas

He/él – a,  He speaks / (Él) habla

She/ella – a,  She speaks / (Ella) habla

We/nosotros – amos, We speak / (Nosotros) hablamos

You guys/ustedes – an, You guys speak / (Uds.) hablan

They/ellos – an, They speak / (Ellos) hablan

If you consider both the stem of the verb and how the ending that is attached to the back of the verb and how they work in concert, you will understand what the process of conjugation is and how to apply it depending on the contextual requirement.

This takes English speakers learning Spanish some getting used to because in Spanish, one word, the Spanish conjugated verb, contains both the subject and the verb (in its appropriate tense.)

There is no need to include the subject separately once said subject has been established.

This is not the case in English as the subject must always be expressly written or spoken in addition to the verb.

Again, it is worth restating that every Spanish verb has two parts:  The root or stem of the verb and the infinitive marker or the representation of the corresponding subject or subject pronoun which also indicates the tense/mood of the verb which is attached to the back of the stem.

Once this difference is thoroughly understood and practiced, language output will be increased both in speed and accuracy.

Is learning to conjugate really necessary?

Understanding how conjugation works is beneficial to language production in terms of determining which verb ending is contextually appropriate for both the subject and tense.

An in depth study of verb conjugation may or may not be essential for gaining fluency, but it will assist the learner nonetheless.

Once obtained, it can be applied through out the learning input and output language spectrum because you will have the base knowledge to understand what you are hearing and how it relates to the context.

Making sense of verb conjugation will allow you to effectively use your vocabulary and get the most out of your communications in Spanish.

If you are ready and willing, put your verbs to use.

It will make a world of difference when you start to understand and speak Spanish!

Language Learning: Return on Investment

A2B2 (Fluency Fox Adv. Beginner through Intermediate Conversational Spanish)


Get A Return On Your Spanish Language Investment

12 years (or however long) ago you received a B+ ( or an A or maybe even a C-) in high school Spanish 2.

You met your graduation requirements and that was it.  No more Spanish vocabulary lists to memorize nor verb conjugation charts to trudge through. 

Great, right?

But, what do have to show for the roughly 360 hours of classroom Spanish instruction?

What is the return on your investment?

Even at minimum wage if you converted the amount of time you spent sitting in Spanish class adding accent marks and upside-down question marks to words and sentences you didn’t understand all that well, you would have earned well over $3,000.

But even if you are not going to be financially reimbursed for your time in class, (which of course is a pipe dream but would be cool) there should be some standard relating to your language gains based on your time spent learning said language.

Some facts

According to  the ASCD’s  estimate of where a student’s language “characteristics” would be after approximately 2 years of formal Spanish (or any formal language) instruction are straight forward.

The student would:

*have good comprehension

*produce simple sentences

*make grammar and pronunciation errors

*frequently misunderstand jokes

Also, the language learner at the end of year 2 would be able to answer “Why and How” questions and explain answers with a phrase or short sentence answers.

This sounds fairly simple, right?

The problem is . . . that even though this assessment is on the more forgiving side of what should be attained after 2 years of formal study, most people don’t get this far.

In part, it is because most programs offer grammar based instruction and do not provide the Comprehensible Input nor the needed number of repetitions for students to acquire this “Speech Emergence” level of fluency in the target  language.

Are you satisfied with having wasted your time in high school Spanish with little to nothing to show for it?

Or, would you like to take the Spanish you’ve learned and make it the Spanish you hoped it was going to be when you first walked in to your Spanish class?

If you choose the ladder, keep reading!  If you choose the first, have a nice day. (You can always change your mind in the future 😉

Fortunately, there is such a theory know as Recall of Memory.

The basic idea is that when you reinitiate the study of a subject you previously studied, you will remember some of the previously learned information.

The great thing about “Recall of Memory” is that you will be able to capitalize on what you have learned in the past that was lying dormant and just waiting for the wake up call.

Get the pay out

So, if you want to get back that return on your 360 hours or more (or less if you were sick or ditched your Spanish class a lot) find the resources that will get you on your way.

It’s doubtful that you will need to return to the absolute beginning of the language learning process.  Depending on your memory and how much Spanish has played a role in your life since your last Spanish Exam, the best idea would be to start with resources at the advanced beginner level.

As you begin, your “Recall of Memory” will kick in and you should be making noticeable gains rather quickly.  You can always work backwards to fill in the gaps about concepts and information that you just cannot recall but at least you will be challenging yourself and allowing the process to run its course.

Try it for a week.

With the appropriate materials, you should not only be making a return on your invested hours of Spanish instruction but also earning interest in becoming bilingual.

Now that’s a win win!

Learning a Foreign Language and Using Social Media

Learning a foreign language and using social media to help streamline conversation

With so many resources available online to connect and share in the language of your choice, where should you begin?

Well, that depends.

Normally the goal of your communication would be Priority One. 

That said, to get the most out of any communication, you will want to have something of interest to share.

From there you only have to communicate it well enough to be understood.

Spanish online and social mediaHowever, if you cannot depend on your foreign language ability to confidently communicate your message, you might want to hone your skills a bit first and then take it from there.

The good news is that there are available resources for both:

  1. To connect with the appropriate audience
  2. Utilize resources that will quickly get you up to speed so that you cannot only push your ideas but also to respond to the inevitable queries that will come back to you.

Before going into the social media outlets you might choose, it would be of benefit to get familiar with the language in which you want to use to communicate.  Your message may come easily enough but if you cannot articulate that message in the language of your audience, then you will have “issues.”

Again, and fortunately, there are many.

It is not necessary to become a Rhodes scholar in linguistics to share either your language experience/aspirations or to make connections on social media.  What you will need is the foundation to draft an introduction of your intent to which others can meaningfully respond to you.  Keep in mind,  without a common language, communication is (to put it mildly) tough.

One of the great things is that social media allows for mistakes.  We all might want to be perfect but that kind of lofty goal is for the ivory tower and not the real world. 

People want to help via social media, its all about the connections, and if they see you making an effort they will be there to assist.  That in turn builds relationships.  And that is the beauty of social media.

Presumably you have some interest in language if you are wanting to use social media on a multi language platform.  That said, you probably have at least a basic beginner level proficiency.  If this is indeed the case, then you are in luck. 

If you want to start from where you currently are now, try typing your missive and translate it using Google Translate.  It will give you a starting point and you can add what you think are required changes.  But beware, software translations are not perfect.  They do a good job for the most part but cannot be completely trusted and most often require additional editing.

If you are not confident assessing the results from the software translation nor do you want to have to depend entirely on translations for every back and forth communication, there is a solution.

Do a search for online resources in the target language that compliment your level of fluency and dedicate some time to enhancing your basic skills in that language.  You will be promoted to a space that will have you yearning for access to others that can relate to you in that language.  The real benefit of this is to refresh your base knowledge so that you will get the most out of the experience you will have with your audience.

Think of this in terms of your intended audience.

Your target is your audience and your message is your goal. 

If you show that you have made an effort, they will undoubtably want to recognize you for said effort and in that you will gain access, albeit preliminarily, in to their world.  That is the start of cross cultural communication.  Persistence and practice will follow.  From there, there are no bounds!

Now, let’s look at some social media outlets at your disposal.

  1. Blogging
  2. Twitter
  3. Instagram
  4. Facebook
  5. Video
  6. SlideShare
  7. LiveMocha
  8. Duolingo

These are but starting points.  There are so many more but start with the big audiences and the road to adventure will open before you.

Every journey starts with the first step.  Take it!

What The Heck is Word Derivation and How To Use It To Your Advantage

So You Want To Be Fluent In Spanish


What is fluency?

Well, it depends.

On What?

What is your goal?

“I want to speak with native speakers with ease for both parties and have in-depth conversations covering a broad range of topics.”

That is a lofty goal and I commend you.  You will!

However, depending on from where your starting point is, you may have some linguistic ground to cover.

That said, it can be done.

The trick is to start from where you are and celebrate the wins.  Each and every one of them, because there will be many.  Language learning is a life long practice. If you pick up one word you can use, that is a win.  If you take that word and learn all its derivations, that is a win plus.  If you do that 5 out of seven times in a week,  you will have won that week in a big way.

Think of what you will learn in one month. 

20 useful words that you can apply to situations that interest you.

For example, learn, learned, learning.   If you take what you learn in a week and combine it with what you learned in high school or where ever, you are learning the language.

Do that consistently and you will be speaking with native speakers as soon as you want to venture into the conversation fray.

Make no mistake, It requires effort.   I know because I’ve done it.  But, the rewards are worth it.

So what is the definition of derivation?

Definition of derivation:

In morphology, derivation is the process of creating a new word out of an old word, usually by adding a prefix or a suffix. (Or as shown below, conjugating the infinitive verb.)

Here’s a quick start so that all you have to do is carry on from here. (Pick one or find one that most interests you and learn some of its derivations)

  1. Estudiar – To study, Yo estudio – I study, Tú estudias – You study, (etc.),  Estudiado (past participle) – Studied, Estudiando (gerund) – Studying, Estudiante – Student, Estudios – Studies
  2. Querer –  to want/desire, Yo quiero – I want/desire, Tú quieres – You want/desire, (etc.), Querido (past participle) – Wanted/Desired, Querido (noun) – Loved one (male), Querida (noun) – Loved one (female),  Queriendo (gerund) – Wanting/Desiring
  3. Dar – to give, Yo doy – I give, Tú das – You give, (etc.), Dado (past participle/adjective) – Given,  Dando (gerund) – Giving, Dado (noun masculine) – Dice/Die
  4. Chico (noun masculine singular) – boy, Chico/a/os/as (adjective) – Small, Chica (noun feminine singular) – Girl,  Chicos (noun masculine plural) – Boys, Chicas Chico (noun feminine plural) – girls

If you combine this technique of learning a word and its derivations with Fluency Fox, you’ll get a jump start to the fastest way possible to reinvigorate your Spanish and take it to the next level.

If you have some background in Spanish you will begin to refresh what you have already learned and start to apply it to the newly acquired words and their derivations.

It sounds basic, but if you try it for a week you may find it to be the most useful tool that is in your immediate arsenal.  One way to look at it is to consider language learning as waging an enlightening war with the unknown.  You are going after something that you know you can attain.  You know this because there are countless others that have done it.

It will take time and effort to achieve.

Strategize and you will succeed.

Do It!!!

Stay tuned to the Fluency Fox Weekly Tricks and make your bilingual dream a reality.

Base Knowledge: Language Learning Essentials

Foreign Language at a glance: Just start speaking or study first?

I just read a blog about a course designed for the”shy/introvert” personality and how that relates and helps to approaching using a new language (if that’s your personality type). 

Obviously, there is a spectrum between introvert and extrovert.  That said, the most important starting point is defining where you are both in terms of personality and language knowledge base.

Where you are is perfect.

Spanish language learning and conversation ideasIt’s the starting point and its always good to know where you stand. 

Trying to be something you are not will not help in the long run anyway, as it will soon become apparent that you are fooling yourself and if you use a method that is designed for someone else (personality type, level, learning style, etc.), you won’t maximize the success with that approach like you would with one that fits your needs.

However,  there is one more thing to take into consideration.  Should you get a refresher course or just start speaking the target language with native speakers and go for broke?

Since there are no absolutes, I cannot say that just a “going for broke” method will not work. 

What I can say is that if you want to verbally engage native speakers in the target language, having some base knowledge will most always help.

Its sort of like trying to find an object in a dark room.  Unless you have night vision googles, its most likely going to take longer to achieve the goal.  Therefor, the more light the better.

That’s base knowledge.  You do not have to be perfect and/or attain complete native like fluency before you start to speak.  However, if you want to both make gains and not bore the person you have chosen to speak with to death as well as become frustrated yourself, base knowledge is the way to start.

So, it begs the question.  What is the goal?

If you want to speak the target language (and we are assuming that you do) brushing up on the basics is good general practice.

If you want to read a book, stay at your desk and have at it.

Again, if you desire to converse in the target language with another person who also speaks that language, start with something that will effectively make that a possibility.

By this I mean, review some vocabulary if that’s your thing.  Nothing wrong with that.

However, to make the most of your future conversational attempts, find material that simulates real conversation.

Words and phrases are fine and necessary but putting them together into comprehension and  speech is what is going to be required if you intend to have a meaningful conversation.

So, I suggest that you find some audio material that is at your current level and make sure that it is comprehensible.  If you don’t understand what you are hearing then you will not be able to make sense of it and it will have little to no value.

The concept of comprehensible input is the first key that you want to consider immediately after you decide what your goal is.

If you are not familiar with Comprehensible Input, it is nothing more than understanding and being able to make sense of what you hear.

For example, 10 hours listening to the radio in a target language or watching the news for that matter will have little effect on learning unless you understand what you hear.

Listening to information that you do understand and then being asked questions about that understood information will confirm that you are engaged correctly in the exchange of information.

Its hard to overstate this point.  You will gain so much more from understanding what you hear than just listening to the target language that you don’t.

It is best to pick a few common words (high frequency nouns, verbs, etc.) and become proficient with them.  In most cases 100 of the high frequency words account for 80% of the spoken language so start there.

If they are used in multiple contexts with a bunch of repetitions, you’ll have the base knowledge to venture into a conversation and have a good shot of being an active participant in the conversation.

If you have ever not prepared before trying to converse with a native speaker in the target language, you’ll know what I mean.  You will still experience moments when you “get lost”, but if you have the right base knowledge the rewards will be far more rewarding.

So solidify your base and speak your truth, even if your voice trembles.