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-- Asbjørn Finsnes
"The way in which this method is presented provided me with language that will suit me in a foreign country instead of a collection of unusable vocabulary words.
Those who have studied languages realize that looking-up individual words cannot convey a language in the correct manner. Becoming fluent means being able to verbalize ideas ; not learning technical rules and identifying the Past Predicate Indicative.
The audio part of this method has been my favorite portion of the learning process. Not only is the pronunciation slow and clear, but it is presented so that I remember the flow of sentences and concepts.
Thank you for the opportunity to work with this amazing program; it has been a blessing for me."
-- Destiny Yarbro, College Student
Should Your Language Teacher Be
a Native Speaker?
When you are looking for a teacher or tutor to help you learn a language,
is it important that he or she be a
Just because Mariana was born and raised in Guatemala doesn't make her a great
differentiates a Spanish teacher from someone who's merely a native Spanish
speaker is experience in getting someone up to speed in speaking
and understanding Spanish, and hopefully a few tricks that will make learning
Spanish easy and efficient for you. Needless to say, even trained educators can
be poor teachers.
If you have a choice, what should it be?
Here's how you should ideally spend your language study time:
practicing with exercises and listening passively
with a teacher, asking questions
speaking practice with real people.
In a way, whether you're studying with people "live" or listening to canned
conversations, all of these people are your teachers.
Of the time chunks described above, which ones should be spent with native
speakers? Let's look at them one by one:
Practicing with exercises and listening passively (35%)
Most of these materials should be recorded by native speakers. I do make an
exception here for audio courses such as Michel Thomas or Pimsleur, which prompt
you to answer questions and formulate sentences. I don't know that there's
another way for a beginner to understand the prompts if they're not in English.
What I'm adamant about is the passive listening part. (That's when you play a
track of your CD or MP3 file in the background on low volume while you
concentrate on something else. That track should be something you've studied and
that you understand when it's spoken slowly.)
ALL of these recordings should feature native speakers only. There should be no
English prompts, no English titles, not even one English word. It's the only way
to create a separate space in your brain for the new language. Also, you'll
easily pick up an understandable accent.
Asking your teacher questions (15%)
This will most likely be an "in-person" time, where you meet a teacher in a
classroom, virtually or on the phone.
There's something to be said for a Spanish teacher who's a native English
speaker. She has gone through the process of acquiring Spanish and is fluent,
meaning she has spent time living or working in a Spanish-speaking country.
Knowing that she has mastered the language and jumped all the same hurdles
you're facing is very motivating. Even better, she knows precisely what the
make-up of those hurdles are!
Learning Spanish will bring different challenges to an English speaker compared
with a Chinese speaker. Meanwhile, Ms. Native Speaker has no idea why a
particular aspect of Spanish is so hard for you to "get." She can't look at
Spanish with the eyes and ears of an English speaker. Most native speakers have
blind spots where non-native speakers see obvious trouble spots. This person
will answer the questions you've brought to the table. They'll mostly be grammar
questions, and some questions about expressions, idioms and cultural aspects of
For the grammar questions, it really doesn't matter if your teacher is native or
not. Someone who's spent a fair amount of time in a Spanish speaking country
should be able to answer your other questions as well.
You're very lucky if you get a native Spanish speaker who also knows English
well AND is trained in language pedagogy. It's the best of both worlds and it
has a price!
Speaking practice with real people (50%)
For speaking practice, I'd say that you'll be OK speaking to a fellow student at
first to get your patterns down. The great thing about a non-native speaker is
that usually their vocabulary is somewhat limited and you won't encounter all
the flowery words that a native speaker pulls out of nowhere. You'll actually
get to have a "basic conversation" with someone who understands what a "basic
I've witnessed some very amusing conversations between French language learners,
where--just like twins--they had developed their own island of the French
language, invented structures and started using odd words that no native speaker
would use. Does it matter? No! You're communicating. When communication is
happening, mistakes and weird grammar are completely irrelevant.
you master the most common structures and are able to use them without thinking
about them, find a native-speaker environment. The rough edges
of your spoken Spanish will get ironed out over time, and you'll add lots of
© 2009 Nathalie Fairbanks
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