Why I’m learning Spanish?

Have you watched the UniVision on TV?  It’s a Spanish channel in US, and is carried by some cable providers.  I’m always fascinated and curious:  why the people in those programs are so happy?  What are they laughing about?  Why are they talking so fast?  Are they in a hurry?  This is the start point I decided to learn Spanish.

I started four years ago after leaving the engineering career.  My goal is to be able to understand UniVision so I can enjoy the channel.  I also want to read books, and communicate with people daily in Spanish.  It would be nice to explore the different and amazing culture to enrich my life.  One day if I travel to a country that speaks Spanish, knowing the language would help to enhance my travel experience.

Spanish is very popular in US.  Many people around here speak Spanish.  Many companies’ web sites and customer support phone lines have both English and Spanish versions.  Some retail stores show the bi-lingual signs, and you can select Spanish when doing the self-checkout.

One day I was watching the football on ESPN.  One team was the Green Bay, and I forgot the other team.  Interestingly, the same game was broadcasted on ESPN2 in Spanish.  I tuned in.  Most of the time, the only phrase I could catch was “Aaron Rogers” (the quarterback’s name).  I had to turn the Caption on in order to understand a little bit more.

Is it a fun to learn a language?

Knowing a language is wonderful, but learning is a long and tedious journey.  I’m sure many of you have similar experience.  My native language is Chinese Mandarin.  I was born and grew up in China (check my book on the right side bar:  “Dad’s Bicycle”).  I have been learning English for 38 years.  You can tell that, I’m still not as fluent as a native speaker.  You see some stumbles in my posts.  In the personal finance blogging community, some bloggers have mastered English much better.  Here are two examples:

The blogging helps me to get better in English.  Thank you for reading my articles, and keeping me improving.

Learning Spanish is not much fun.  I’m very excited about getting fluent one day.  It’s fun to see the final result.  But getting there takes a lot of efforts.

Memorizing tons of words is needed to expand the vocabulary.  Every word has to be repeated many times in order to be inked in my brain.  Then once a while, I have to come back and revisit the same word, as I keep forgetting them.

Learning the grammar helps to understand the language structure.  The sentences are making more sense after I’ve completed the grammar section.  To me, the most challenging part so far is the verb conjugations.  Different forms of tenses and moods for the same verb are hard to keep track of.  Regular verbs are not too bad, but the irregular ones drive me nuts.

What resources do I use?

I took Spanish learning as more a leisure activity.  It runs at my own pace.  I don’t like stress, and decided not to take any classes.  Probably that’s one of the reasons I have not made that much progress as I liked to.  Someday I want to learn a lot, sometimes I just say nah.  That’s the beauty of retirement life:  I do what I want, not what I should most of the times.

The online courses are great, and are free.  I’m frugal, and have not paid a penny on my Spanish learning.  This is how I feel.  If I paid on something, I got to use it often.  Otherwise I would feel guilty about the waste of money.

Here are the three web sites I have been using:

  • StudySpanish: I started here, with letters, simple words, grammar, sentences, etc.
  • SpanishDict: this is a bi-directional dictionary for English and Spanish
  • Forvo: this helps me more on pronunciations.  Each word has pronunciations recorded by different native speakers.  They could be from Mexico, Peru, Spain, Chile, on and on, with different accent.  You can choose the accent you like.  Spanish is just one of the languages for this web site.  If you want to learn other languages, this site helps as well.

What’s the next?

I’ve been reviewing my two notebooks lately.  Once the review is done, I’ll focus more on listening.  Hopefully I can make progress, and catch more phrases while watching UniVision.

Then I want to speak and use it.  That won’t be easy.  One of my friends made a great point:  it will be odd to see a Chinese American speaking Spanish.  Yeh.  How to speak General Tsao’s Chicken in Spanish?  I’m just kidding!

My long term goal is, after getting fluent on Spanish, I want to learn the 4th language, probably German.  I guess that’s enough for day dreaming.

Are you learning a different language?  If yes, do you like it?

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6 Responses

  1. Hahaha, your goal of being able to understand UniVision is a funny but good one also. You know you are fluent once you start understanding the nuances, the culture, the jokes,… Thus, a TV show is a good way to gauge your progress.

    99to1percent recently posted…Giving Thanks and The 6 Gifts That Keep On Giving…

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      You are right. It would be cool if I could understand what is going on in a TV show some day. A different culture is always a mystery to me, and I like to explore it.

  2. Gaby says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit, but having grown up with an Argentine mother, I sadly do not speak fluent Spanish (just fragments of it); my Chinese American father asked her to stop speaking to me in Spanish for fear I’d be confused growing up. I regret that sorely. Now that my mom has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, I feel IMMENSE pressure to learn Spanish as fast as possible as I would just love to be able to have had one conversation with her in her native language. I don’t know if this will happen since I am so busy with a toddler and another one on the way, though. I think it is wonderful and admirable that you are learning simply because!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      I’m very sorry to hear that. I fully understand the pressure you face. My thought and prayers for your mom and you. Sometimes life is very hard, and just not much option is there except we have to go through somehow. You take care.
      – Helen

  3. Hi Helen, thank you so much for the shout-out!

    I’m learning Chinese Mandarin to better communicate with my in-laws. I also love Chinese culture, music, art, and poetry. It is not easy, and the learning can get stressful sometimes. But it is such a rewarding process.

    Best of luck with your Spanish! 🙂

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Ms. FAF,
      Sure. That’s good you are learning Mandarin, and can use it daily. Learning a language is hard. But the benefit is great. We went through the process of learning English, and it gave us the chance to embrace the world.

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