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Learning Spanish? Immerse yourself

Question:Any recommendations on specific courses for learning conversational Spanish? I cannot take lengthy classroom sessions due to my schedule. There are many CD, book or tape programs advertised, but do you have any recommendations? Different methods are discussed (e.g., immersion), and I am wondering what you feel is the most effective method for learning.

Danny: Personally, I was born into it. I guess you can say it was like full immersion since the older generation of my family did not speak fluent English. Still, I took classes all through my educational career and continue to better my Spanish whenever possible. I love to read, so I try to improve my Spanish by reading the same book simultaneously in both languages.

Tapes and CD study guides will help. Catherine probably can give you the best tips on how she became fluent, but here are a couple suggestions from me: Try using note cards to identify in Spanish everything around your house and workplace.

Also, every day, write out an entire sentence in Spanish from daily conversations or routines. This will allow you to grasp the meaning of what you are learning as it relates to your daily life and happenings. Let's see what "las maestras" have to say.

Catherine: How did you learn to speak English as a child? By being surrounded by it all the time. Immersion is the most effective and efficient method for learning a language. Can you imagine not speaking to anyone in English and just learning it from a book? Yes, you could become somewhat functional but at a very limited level.

With that said, I do think books are a great place to start. I sat down with a wonderful book the other day called, "Learn Portuguese in 10 Minutes a Day." I know the same kind of guide exists for Spanish. If you are completely new to the language, this will give you a good starting point to learn greetings, basic phonetic sounds and language construction.

After that, TALK TO EVERYONE YOU CAN! We are surrounded by people who speak this wonderful language, so give it a whirl and see what you can learn. If you have the opportunity to spend time in a Spanish-speaking country, jump on it and look forward to learning the language. "!Buena suerte!"

Lily: Just to echo Catherine's words of wisdom, I would recommend that you try to pick up not only conversational Spanish, but learn correct grammar as well. This will help you use Spanish in social AND professional settings. You can also go to any used-book store and find high school Spanish textbooks to learn useful, everyday vocabulary.

If you don't have the time or the funds to visit a foreign country, spend some time in "Little Mexico" — you know, that little pocket in every city where you can find "barbacoa" and "piqatas." Whatever you do, don't get discouraged. Speaking more than one language is a wonderful tool that will enrich your life!


— las maestras: the (female) teachers.

— Buena suerte: Good luck.

— barbacoa: a dish, consisting of shredded beef for making tacos.

— piqatas: paper-mache figures stuffed with candies, broken at children's parties.

We want your questions! Consejos is a bilingual advice column focused on relationships, culture and identity. E- mail your questions or comments to Or send your letters to Consejos, c/o Texas Living, The Dallas Morning News, 508 Young St., Dallas, TX 75202. Visit Lily, Catherine and Danny online at © Dallas Morning News Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate