San Antonio Sabbatical

My Spanish

Posted on: July 15, 2010

I can speak some Spanish, but I’m not yet fluent.  Even after several years of study.  Speaking and understanding are the most difficult tasks for me; reading and writing are a bit easier.  My sabbatical courses will give me more practice and practical application with the Spanish language.

How much Spanish does it take to do a sabbatical project such as this?  For me, it took 7-1/2 years of intermittent language study to reach the required intermediate level for OLLU’s PSSSP courses.  Granted, if I had studied Spanish continuously and had spent a semester or year studying abroad while in college (which I really wanted to do but could not afford), then I would have reached this level a lot sooner and would probably be nearly fluent by now.  Despite my struggles with language — which are partly due to my relatively weak auditory sense (I’m a very visual person) — I enjoy learning Spanish.

To get a better idea of my experiences with Spanish and readiness for this sabbatical project, see the summary of my preparation below:

Preliminary study:   3 years of Spanish in high school plus 1 year of Intermediate Spanish in college

Recent study (after a break of almost twenty years):

Bloomsburg University courses: 

  •  12-209: Spanish for Social Services (Spring 2006)
  •  12-203: Spanish 3 (Fall 2006)
  •  12-207: Spanish Conversation and Composition 1 (Spring 2007)
  •  12-204: Spanish 4 (Fall 2007)
  •  12-206: Structure of the Spanish Language (Spring 2008)
  •  12-214: Hispanic Culture and Civilization (Fall 2008)
  •  12-402: Advanced Conversation (Spring 2010)

Study abroad (language immersion programs):

  • Summer 2005 – Sevilla and Barcelona, Spain (4 weeks) – CLIC and Enforex  [Transitions Abroad article]
  • Summer 2006 – Cuernavaca and Buenavista de Cuellar, Mexico (2 weeks) – Cemanahuac
  • Summer 2008 – Guanajuato, Mexico (2 weeks, “Medical Spanish” course) – don Quijote
  • Summer 2010 – Salamanca and Valencia, Spain (4 weeks) – don Quijote

Volunteer abroad:

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) rating:

  • Intermediate Mid-Spanish  (based on an Oral Proficiency Interview in 2008)

In my opinion, nothing beats face-to-face language learning (e.g., in a classroom, study group, etc.), but other materials — texts, audiotapes, videos, computer software — can be a good supplement to formal classroom study.  I purchased the Rosetta Stone computer software (Latin American Spanish, Version 3) and completed Levels 4 and 5, the two highest levels, this year which took about 50 hours of study time.  As a visual learner, I found Rosetta Stone to be an excellent match for my needs.  Since it’s based on immersion in the target language, there are no translations or explanations.  While this might frustrate a pure beginner, my prior knowledge of Spanish helped a lot in knowing what was going on with respect to various verb tenses, irregularities, and phrasings.  The Rosetta Stone software, though expensive, was easy to use.  I liked how the lessons were broken down into manageable chunks with time estimates for completion of each section provided.  And, there’s a lot of repetition to solidify the learning.  I also liked the picture quality.  For example, the food pictures were so crisp and mouth-watering that I wanted to eat them.  Rosetta Stone is a great program and I can recommend it with confidence.  It aims to make people conversational in their desired language and it does this through the use of many fun, interactive, and challenging activities.  It’s important to keep in mind that there are many different language programs available and while Rosetta Stone helped me, it may not be right for everyone.  You need to assess your own learning style and goals and do your research.  For the record, I received no payment or special privileges from Rosetta Stone for writing this review.

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