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Old 08-31-2019, 11:26 AM   #1
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language immersion

Hello all,

For many years, especially during the long commutes to jobs which eventually helped me FIRE, I have studied Spanish as a hobby. I started with all audio programs like Pimsleur, but basically used everything I could get my hands on. I also worked with colleagues from Latin America who always helped me some.

Now that I am fully retired, I would like to get better at the speaking and comprehension part, which my method did not really help with.

Since it seems like some people here have similar interests, I thought I would ask a few questions about ways to proceed from here.

My first question is: has anyone used language sharing programs such as Italki, FluentU, or HelloTalk? Did you pay a tutor, or try to find someone just to converse with?

Secondly, DW tells me that if I really want to take 6 months and spend it in a language immersion project, that I should go ahead... This would be my first choice, but she probably would not want to go with me, although I am sure I could get her to visit me... I would probably do this in Costa Rica as I am also a bird-watcher and photographer... and I have been there for both of those hobbies.

Should I go for option #2? It would be a pretty big step, to think about getting around and health care, etc.

The 3rd and final option would be to simply try and find a way to get “immersion” close to home, and with Spanish, it seems like it should be easy, but it hasn’t been.... most adults simply will not take the time and energy to speak to you like a child in their language...

Anyway, thanks in advance for any ideas..... I love these forums and all of my fellow FIRE-ees, as I am pretty sure most of us share a lot in terms of education and interests.

Bood
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Old 08-31-2019, 11:44 AM   #2
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Hello all,

For many years, especially during the long commutes to jobs which eventually helped me FIRE, I have studied Spanish as a hobby. I started with all audio programs like Pimsleur, but basically used everything I could get my hands on. I also worked with colleagues from Latin America who always helped me some.

Now that I am fully retired, I would like to get better at the speaking and comprehension part, which my method did not really help with.

Since it seems like some people here have similar interests, I thought I would ask a few questions about ways to proceed from here.

My first question is: has anyone used language sharing programs such as Italki, FluentU, or HelloTalk? Did you pay a tutor, or try to find someone just to converse with?

Secondly, DW tells me that if I really want to take 6 months and spend it in a language immersion project, that I should go ahead... This would be my first choice, but she probably would not want to go with me, although I am sure I could get her to visit me... I would probably do this in Costa Rica as I am also a bird-watcher and photographer... and I have been there for both of those hobbies.

Should I go for option #2? It would be a pretty big step, to think about getting around and health care, etc.

The 3rd and final option would be to simply try and find a way to get “immersion” close to home, and with Spanish, it seems like it should be easy, but it hasn’t been.... most adults simply will not take the time and energy to speak to you like a child in their language...

Anyway, thanks in advance for any ideas..... I love these forums and all of my fellow FIRE-ees, as I am pretty sure most of us share a lot in terms of education and interests.

Bood
Rather than you leave, you could being in a Spanish student for semester abroad. Of course, they are trying to learn English, so it may not work...
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Old 08-31-2019, 02:11 PM   #3
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If you want full immersion and are willing to travel to Vermont, Middlebury College's Summer Language programs have an excellent reputation. If I recall, they are something like 6 weeks in length and Vermont is beautiful in the summer.
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Old 08-31-2019, 02:36 PM   #4
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I have been studying Italian pretty seriously for around 6 years and I feel like I have tried everything! Here are few suggestions based on what works for me.

You might want to look at the resources at your local community college and you might be able to audit courses at your local state university. Ours are great in this area. It's kind of rare for Italian, but I bet these resources are more common for Spanish. Now that I have gone through most of the courses offered in the local colleges, I attend a local language school that is associated with the Italian Cultural Center. There might be similar programs where you live. For me, having a live class with a set commitment is important and I enjoy the social aspects of the classes.

If you are disciplined enough to follow on line courses (I'm not), look at something like edX. Wellesley has a really good program for Italian and I bet there are ones for Spanish. I use italki a lot and recommend it. You might need to look a bit to find someone who works for you, but I have used only native speakers who are professional teachers mainly to improve my conversation skills (which, frankly, stink). It is very reasonably priced and I try to schedule a 30 minute lesson at least once a week. I also try to read Italian and listen to spoken Italian regularly. I listen to the radio, podcasts and try to watch movies and TV shows in Italian. You're probably are already doing this and am jealously thinking about how relatively easy it is to find this stuff in Spanish in the US!


Finally, immersion is great and I try to go to a language school in Italy for at least a month or so every year. I have used this as a way to explore different parts of Italy as well as using the school as my "base." The schools are fairly inexpensive as compared to any program in the US, offer total immersion if you want it, are tailored to second language learners, and always taught by native speakers. I often wonder if I should just go for 5 months (I won't go for 6 months since I don't want to deal with taxes). Just for me, and YMMV, piling on more language training doesn't always mean that I learn more. My brain just turns on the "no vacancy" sign. There is some element of letting it sink in over time for me and my attempts to go faster have often been counterproductive.


I hope your language learning will be as much fun for you as it has been for me!


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Old 08-31-2019, 02:50 PM   #5
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Hire a spanish house keeper and tell her a couple hours a day will be spent speaking spanish.

I learned french at the Defense Language School. Total immersion!! We were six hours a day with a class size of 6 and one instructor. French was the only language spoken. Well almost. It as also two to four hours a day with a tape recorder.

I think the most valuable part was the student talking to each other, following a script sometimes, and free form at others, with the instructors also asking questions and guiding the conversation.
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Old 08-31-2019, 02:53 PM   #6
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DH has always been working on learning japanese. Over the years he's taught himself quite a bit, enough to be helpful when we traveled there, but not enough for anything beyond a quick halting simple conversation. He's used Hellotalk.

About a year ago he saw an ad for a tutor, and started taking weekly lessons. They meet for an hour at Starbucks, he has books and homework, etc., and is taking tests. His spoken japanese (i hear him practicing) improved dramatically very quickly, and he's now leaps and bounds ahead of where he was, like, this past year he overtook the past 20 diy-learning in terms of amount of progress.

And you don't have to just pick one. Maybe try your college/tutor approach for a few months or a year, then go immersion/vacation after that?
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Old 08-31-2019, 03:12 PM   #7
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I learned french at the Defense Language School. Total immersion!! We were six hours a day with a class size of 6 and one instructor. French was the only language spoken. Well almost. It as also two to four hours a day with a tape recorder.

I think the most valuable part was the student talking to each other, following a script sometimes, and free form at others, with the instructors also asking questions and guiding the conversation.
Did the same for Russian (47 weeks). Very intense. Over the years (almost 50) my ability has seriously deteriorated. But about 5 years ago we took a 2-week river cruise in Russia. I spent about 6 months prior brushing up on vocabulary and held my own with the all-Russian wait staff on the ship. They were more than willing to talk to me in Russian and to correct me when I made mistakes. They thought my pronunciation was good which I attribute to daily contact with the White Russian native speaker instructors at DLI.
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Old 08-31-2019, 03:27 PM   #8
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Hire a spanish house keeper and tell her a couple hours a day will be spent speaking spanish.

I learned french at the Defense Language School. Total immersion!! We were six hours a day with a class size of 6 and one instructor. French was the only language spoken. Well almost. It as also two to four hours a day with a tape recorder.

I think the most valuable part was the student talking to each other, following a script sometimes, and free form at others, with the instructors also asking questions and guiding the conversation.
IMO that will not work. You want a Spanish speaker with a good education, and a housekeeper would simply be overwhelmed at how to help educate you.

I’ve considered using a Skype tutor. At some point I will travel to a location to give me a school supported immersion experience.
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Old 08-31-2019, 03:58 PM   #9
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My plan is going to a language school. That plus my interaction with real World experience in speaking the target language I hope will lead me to speaking on an acceptable level. Based on my own experience learning a foreign language when an Adult is very difficult.

I have found that for myself at least that online learning helps, but by itself just isn't enough. Books are not enough. You will probably need every advantage you can get to be successful. That will mean a language class or teacher along with practical experience speaking the target language everyday with native speakers for as much time as you can spare.

One of the big things I have learned is that a good language school can give you a base {building blocks} for learning. You then use that base to build on for further success. It's so important to have that. I believe without that most people will fail . IMO.
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Old 08-31-2019, 04:11 PM   #10
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I often wonder if I should just go for 5 months (I won't go for 6 months since I don't want to deal with taxes).
br
br,

You may wish to familiarize yourself with Shengen rules. FWIW, if you are a US citizen traveling on a US passport, you cannot stay in a Shengen country (Italy is one) for more than 90 days within a 180-day period. If you need to stay longer, an application for a residency permit must be filed. https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/us-citizens/

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Old 08-31-2019, 04:39 PM   #11
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Hello all,

For many years, especially during the long commutes to jobs which eventually helped me FIRE, I have studied Spanish as a hobby. I started with all audio programs like Pimsleur, but basically used everything I could get my hands on. I also worked with colleagues from Latin America who always helped me some.

Now that I am fully retired, I would like to get better at the speaking and comprehension part, which my method did not really help with.

Since it seems like some people here have similar interests, I thought I would ask a few questions about ways to proceed from here.

My first question is: has anyone used language sharing programs such as Italki, FluentU, or HelloTalk? Did you pay a tutor, or try to find someone just to converse with?

Secondly, DW tells me that if I really want to take 6 months and spend it in a language immersion project, that I should go ahead... This would be my first choice, but she probably would not want to go with me, although I am sure I could get her to visit me... I would probably do this in Costa Rica as I am also a bird-watcher and photographer... and I have been there for both of those hobbies.

Should I go for option #2? It would be a pretty big step, to think about getting around and health care, etc.

The 3rd and final option would be to simply try and find a way to get “immersion” close to home, and with Spanish, it seems like it should be easy, but it hasn’t been.... most adults simply will not take the time and energy to speak to you like a child in their language...

Anyway, thanks in advance for any ideas..... I love these forums and all of my fellow FIRE-ees, as I am pretty sure most of us share a lot in terms of education and interests.

Bood
IMO, immersion is the preferable course to take. Language sharing programs and books do not provide the full context of culture in which language is used. Immersing oneself by living among local language speakers in their country while experiencing their culture, eating their food, shopping in their markets, etc. will allow you to learn about their identities, help tune your ears, along with learning local idioms and "slang".

You mentioned Costa Rica. DW & I lived in Costa Rica for the entirety of last year. Should you decide to give it a try there for 6 months, I would advise avoiding traditional "expat" locales. Otherwise, you may end up finding, as we did, that local Ticos have adapted themselves and will typically default to speaking with gringos in a version of Spanglish. If you can, immerse yourself in an area that is predominately Tico with few, if any gringos at all. Over the course of 6 months in CR, you will also need to do at least 1 border run to Panama to renew your passport.

For a 6 month stint, a better choice IMO would be Mexico. A U.S. passport gives you a full 6 months. Consider a small town/city in the highlands of somewhere like Puebla or Oaxaca. DW & I are currently living in a small city in southern Oaxaca. We've been here for a month, and as far as we can tell, are the only gringos here. Considering that we haven't come across any locals that speak English, this forces us to rely on speaking Spanish.

Just my dos centavos worth...YMMV
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Old 08-31-2019, 05:15 PM   #12
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I attended Spanish Immersion School in Oaxaca. It was one on one instruction which I found very helpful. Oaxaca is a beautiful city.
I didn’t attend long enough to develop proficiency in Spanish but I loved my time there
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Old 08-31-2019, 05:23 PM   #13
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br,

You may wish to familiarize yourself with Shengen rules. FWIW, if you are a US citizen traveling on a US passport, you cannot stay in a Shengen country (Italy is one) for more than 90 days within a 180-day period. If you need to stay longer, an application for a residency permit must be filed. https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/us-citizens/

omni
A student visa to attend a language school is an option.
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Old 08-31-2019, 06:50 PM   #14
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I use Duolingo for German daily, for maintenance. I lived there for several years, but that was 40 years ago, though I recently tested at B2 level. And there are few german-speakers around here. Online training is helpful, but the real test is when you speak and find out if you're understandable, which is hard to do online.

If I were to start again, I think I would first take in-person classes from a native speaker for a while, to get the pronunciation correct, and the basics of grammar. It's much better to learn it right, than to unlearn and relearn. There's an enormous amount of grammar and vocabulary to learn, before you get beyond the "hello my name is" level. I was in immersion, and I recall it took me a very long time to become reasonably conversational (maybe 6 months to a year?). It would probably take me longer now.

I don't know that immediate immersion would be that helpful, unless you are taught the basics first. You won't understand much, nor will you be understandable, for a long time. At least that was my experience with German.

The payoff came last summer, when we stayed at non-tourist hotels in the German/Austria countryside, and I was able to have some great conversation with non-english speaking locals. I enjoyed that much more than any of the tourist sites.
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Old 08-31-2019, 07:06 PM   #15
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I agree. Study at home get good enough to understand spanish TV shows and radio and then plunk yourself down for as long as you like.
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Old 08-31-2019, 07:08 PM   #16
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When I was younger, I studied Chinese for years with private tutors and taking college courses. It was all worth about two weeks of living in Taiwan. If you want to learn a language, in my experience, there is no better way than moving to a country where the language is spoken. There are several excellent schools in Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Columbia, Argentina and other countries. By all means, go travel and have an adventure. You won’t regret it.
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Old 08-31-2019, 07:12 PM   #17
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br,

You may wish to familiarize yourself with Shengen rules. FWIW, if you are a US citizen traveling on a US passport, you cannot stay in a Shengen country (Italy is one) for more than 90 days within a 180-day period. If you need to stay longer, an application for a residency permit must be filed. https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/us-citizens/

omni



Thanks, Omni550. I actually am pretty familiar with the Schengen rules. You're right that they apply to US citizens living abroad in one of the signatory countries for longer than 90 days in a 180 day period. But I am a dual citizen of the US and Italy and am entitled to residency anywhere in the EU, at least for now! So my issue with a longer stay revolves more around taxes, not residency.

I'd would also say that most language schools, at least in Italy, are ready to help you get a visa for the length of your course and they seem pretty available in Italy if you are coming from the US. Although I am sure that there are some limits, I have studied with students from many countries who have student visas for a six month or longer language course. Again, if anyone from the US was studying anywhere outside the US for 6 months or more, it's probably a good idea to look at the tax issues, keeping in mind that some countries tax wealth.

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Old 08-31-2019, 08:09 PM   #18
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I attended a language school in Costa Rica for 3 weeks about 20 years ago. About 10 years ago, I attended another language school in Chiapas, Mexico, for 3 more weeks. At both schools, I had 1-on-1 instruction for 4 hours a day, and I lived with a local family each time. I highly recommend it. I wish I had stayed longer, especially in CR when my brain was younger. I definitely improved more at the first school when my brain was 45 years old instead of 55 years old. (I feel that the age when I've studied different languages has had a major effect on how effectively I learned the language for the effort expended.) I thought that the teachers were excellent at both schools. I already knew some Spanish (probably the equivalent of about 2 university semesters) before I went to CR. I also already spoke another Romance language fluently, which may have helped me learn more quickly.

For the past 4+ years, I've been Skyping weekly with a language partner who happens to live in CR. We met through a free website. We had each spoken with other partners contacted through the website, but he & I somehow hit it off despite my being much older. It was mentally exhausting for me during at least the first year, but we both persisted and have both benefited. We typically speak for an hour in Spanish and an hour in English. His English has improved dramatically. At age 65, I find it much harder to retain new vocabulary now.

I recently had a couple of visitors from South America staying with me for 3 days. One of them spoke English well but the other didn't. So we all spoke together in Spanish and I did fine. I've been in Mexico and Colombia during the past year and I spoke almost no English on either trip.
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Old 09-01-2019, 05:02 AM   #19
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Thanks to all who have replied. Clearly some type of travel and immersion is what I need. I may bite the bullet and go back to CR, but perhaps I will do it for 3 months.. I can probably get DW to come down for a few weeks, at least....

Hasta pronto!
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Old 09-01-2019, 08:27 AM   #20
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Language is definitely a use it or lose it skill. Not sure what your goal is but unless you're willing and able to continue using and learning from now until you're 6' under it might be a waste of time. From someone who spent 8 years in grammar school learning french and can't speak a lick of it.
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