WADE'S WORLD: It's good to talk (some of) the lingo

First published in Wade's world South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

A SURE fire way to get more out of your holiday is to be able to talk to the locals.

I’m not saying you need to be fluent, but if you learn the basics, maybe 50-100 words, your efforts will be repaid many times over. Your few faltering steps will charm and open doors.

But you hate sitting down with books – couldn’t stand languages at school?

Don’t despair. There are two language courses I’ve come to rely on over the years that are effective and rather fun. They work by listening only with no writing, no memorising or verb tables.

One is called the Michel Thomas method, the other is called Pimsleur.

With Michel Thomas, you are immediately put at ease. In the Spanish course, he starts by explaining the common ground between the languages. English words ending in ‘ible’ or ‘able’ are the same in Spanish, only the pronunciation is different. So ‘able’ is ‘ablay’; probable becomes prob-ABLAY – so your Spanish vocabulary is suddenly is awash with words and you’ve barely started.

This course is recorded as a ‘live’ lesson with Michel and two pupils.

Having discovered the words ending in ‘ible’ and ‘able’, he tells you the word for ‘is’ – ‘es’. Then we get ‘no’ for ‘not’ and later we get ‘me’ for ‘me’ and we learn ‘para’ means ‘for’, so within a few minutes, we can say ‘no es posible para me’ – ‘it is not possible for me’.

Pronunciation is key to the course, with emphasis on getting the stress on each syllable right.

Pimsleur too focuses on saying things right, but it has two native speakers repeating phrases from a teacher/narrator.

They start with a very short conversation like ‘Excuse me, do you speak English?’ with the answer ‘Yes, I speak a little’.

This is broken into parts, and you repeat each part, in turn broken into syllables, after one of the speakers.

Then you are asked how to say the whole word.

This relies on a concept called Graduated Interval Recall. Sounds complex, but it just means when you learn a new word, after five minutes, you’d struggle to recall it. If you’re reminded of it after five seconds, you’ll remember it for a minute. Then you’re reminded of it after longer intervals until it sticks without reminders.

This is combined with interaction where you are asked to remember words and construct phrases. The repetition then isn’t monotonous, but a challenging way to quickly build your word-power.

I’m not being paid to plug either of these courses. I’ve just found following them is immensely rewarding. It doesn’t just make your holiday better – a month or two before you go, each time you put the headphones on and peer at the drizzle through your window, it reminds you of your hard-earned holiday looming ever-closer.

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