Beginners Spanish Podcast 30 – Test Your Listening Skills

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Learning grammar is so important for any student of the Spanish language. In fact, it’s a vital part of building up your listening skill.

However, there comes a time when the grammar needs to be put to one side and the real work of listening to a genuine conversation in Spanish needs to happen.

The Right and the Wrong way to listen to a Spanish podcast.

Yes, that’s right! There is a right and a wrong way to listen to Spanish being spoken. Over the years we have come across many people who do not know how to listen and have had to learn it as a skill.

You may say: Well, all you need do is listen. What can be so difficult about that?

The truth of the matter, however, is that it isn’t as simple as you might have imagined. Let us tell you about some of the ways NOT to listen first:

The Wrong Way

Rabbit in the Headlights.

This is probably the most common. Many students when faced with a Spanish speaker talking to them quite literally PANIC. They start a running dialogue in their head that normally goes like this:

Oh my God! They’re talking to me in Spanish! What if I don’t understand! What will they think of me! I’m not good enough to have them talking to me! They think I’m fluent! I don’t understand! etc. etc. etc.

Finally, the person puts them out of their misery by finishing what they were saying and the poor listener realises that they HAVEN’T HEARD A WORD THEY SAID.

I’m sure I know that word.

This is another common listening mistake. As someone speaks to you in Spanish,  you hear a word that’s familiar but you can’t quite recall what it means. You start to search your memory asking yourself where you heard it before, whilst all the time telling yourself that you should know it.

Finally, the speaker comes to a close and you realise that YOU HAVEN?T HEARD A WORD THEY HAVE SAID.

The Right Way

The Shower Technique.

This is fairly self explanatory.  When you listen to someone what you should do is to imagine that their words are like drops of water from a shower. You let them wash over you without any attempt to focus on one particular drop.  The idea of this is to capture the idea of the sentence and not the individual details of what is being said. If you hear an unfamiliar word, you just let it go by and trust that your mind will fill in the gaps for you. This works very well.

Pay attention to when you listen in your own language. If someone asked you to repeat word for word what someone has told you, you would find it very difficult. Our minds focus on the message rather than the details.

The Vacant Stare.

This combines nicely with the Shower technique in as much as when someone is talking to you in Spanish, you let the words wash over you whilst you adopt a blank kind of mentality. It’s almost like a state of meditation or trance. Let your breathing slow down, soften the focus of your eyes. Relax your mind. When the person has finished, wait for your mind to tell you what they just said. You’ll be amazed how often what your mind tells you they said is absolutely correct. (And now and again it get’s it absolutely wrong, too!)

The Power of Three.

When you are listening to something NEVER assume that if you cannot understand it the first time around you never will.  This is simply not the case. To know if you can understand something you must first listen to it THREE times as a minimum.

The first time you are just getting a very basic idea of what is being said. The second time around your mind begins to help you fill in the details.  The third time, you begin to focus on the words you missed beforehand.

There is no shame in listening to something TEN or TWENTY times. How many times must children hear a word before they can use it?

Be brave Enough to Ask for Clarity.

If you are in a live conversation, then the most valuable phrases you can learn are:

¿Qué significa eso? = What does that mean?


¿Cómo se dice? = How do you say?


¿Puedes repetir eso, por favor? = Can you repeat that, please?

Listen if you want to Speak.

Listening is the key to being able to speak. Many students try to talk all the time and never really move beyond the level they are at. This is because, to improve your Spanish you must listen well.

Remember: We have ONE MOUTH and TWO EARS and we should use them in that ratio when learning Spanish.


Gracias de Gordon y Cynthia. 🙂

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Beginners Spanish Podcast 29 – Learning Spanish Conversation with Opinions

meeting scale beg 29 opinonsLearning Spanish Conversation

In the past

One of the most frequent reasons we hear for people learning Spanish is so that they can have “a chat” with the locals in their favourite holiday resort.  Naturally, “a chat” can mean many things to many people and there are different levels of “chatting” that go from asking someone how they are to asking their opinion on the political climate.

During the 90’s in the U.K. there was a surge in the number of people learning Spanish. This was because 80% of people who went abroad for their holidays went to Spain. Not only that but a lot of people were making plans to retire to Spain and realised that they need to get the “lingo” if they were to survive out there.

The problem was that most people who wanted to learn Spanish were terrified of GRAMMAR. This was a throw back from their school days that they had never learnt to overcome and so many colleges that offered Spanish were getting requests for courses that focussed more on the spoken word than on grammatical structure.

Beginner’s Conversational Spanish. (the oxymoron)

Because of this obvious marketing opportunity, there suddenly appeared on the market a plethora of Spanish classes entitled, “Beginner’s Conversational Spanish.”

Now, for anyone who has learnt a language, you will know that no such thing exists.  Conversing in Spanish or in any other language for that matter is a skill that demands high levels of knowledge and vocabulary, not to speak of a  tremendous command of the tenses.

Yet, despite being mis-sold, the classes proved very popular and as a result an entire generation of Spanish speakers were spawned that without any concious awareness went about killing the language with every sentence they uttered and striking fear into every Spanish waiter this side of the costas.

The Turn Around.

Fortunately, the more serious people learning Spanish these days realise that grammar is a fundamental part of learning. And although it’s not easy at first, they are getting to grips with the fact that it must go hand in hand with with learning vocabulary and useful expressions.

So, it’s in this podcast that we aim to give you some useful ways of making conversation in Spanish. We show you how to give opinions and ask others for theirs.

We give you real life examples of how to respond if you agree with what someone says and what to do if you don’t.

Knowing how to ask these kinds of open questions is the key to instigating great conversations and will give you the opportunity to listen, a great skill that not many people are capable of and yet can be the making of your Spanish.

Join us as we talk you through some key ways to really converse in Spanish.

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How to Learn Spanish in 2014 from LightSpeed Spanish

school scale blog 2014How to Learn Spanish.

Those who massage the truth.

Firstly, for your own sakes, let us be the bearers of the bad news. Despite what you might see awash throughout the internet, the claims that some rather unscrupulous companies make about learning Spanish in three months are to be viewed with extreme caution.

Let us explain what we mean when we say that.

When you decide to embark on your learning journey, you have to be fairly clear about “WHY”  you are choosing to learn Spanish.  This will help you clarify just WHAT LEVEL of Spanish you want to achieve.

Some people believe that if they can order a meal, pass the time of day and buy a beer in Spanish then they are fluent.

Some people believe that if they can talk fluently in Spanish regardless of what it is they are saying (fluently crap) then they have arrived.

Some people believe that fluent means being able to speak in every tense available in Spanish without making a mistake.

And so it is for that reason that  the clear promises made to teach you to become “fluent” in three months, or overnight, or in a weekend, or with 500 words are ambiguous to say the least.

And so, the question for you is: “WHAT DOES FLUENT MEAN?”

Your perception of fluent may not be that of the person next to you and so, it is by knowing for what reason you want to use your Spanish that you will know which course is the right one for you.

How do I choose the right course for me?

These days, there is absolutely no need to shell out lots of cash to start learning Spanish. In fact, we would suggest to you that YOU SHOULD NOT pay large amounts of money to get started.


Because of one simple factor. In every beginners class that we have run, we have found that after ten weeks 75% of the class has given up!

Imagine investing 100’s of dollars, pounds, euros or whatever your currency is only to find after a few weeks that it just isn’t for you.

Far better to start off with the vast amount of free material out there.

But if I invest money won’t it make me more motivated?

If our experience is anything to go by, this is not the case at the beginning. We have seen many students who have invested a lot of money in books and more books and CD’s and anything else and after all that, they have given up without having even opened most of their material.

So what should I do to motivate myself?

This is easy. The biggest motivator for you is the time that you have invested in learning Spanish. The secret of how to learn Spanish is to invest as much time as you can in it. What happens is this: THE MORE TIME YOU INVEST; THE LESS LIKELY YOU ARE TO GIVE IT UP.

Time is our most precious asset and when we invest a lot of it in one area of our lives, we expect payback.

So, where should I start?

You start at the beginning. There are so many options but our suggestion is to choose the free ones. Here at LightSpeed Spanish we offer free video podcasts that help you through a step by step process of learning, from basics all the way through to Advanced. Our podcasts have been produced based on our years of teaching experience and follow a logical sequence using real Spanish in day to day situations.

Of course, we would never say that you should only use our materials. There is a wealth of material out there and we celebrate this fact as it helps us even more to help you. If you have an Android phone, there are some great Apps that help you work daily on your vocabulary and sentence construction.

When should I start?

There is no time like the present! To really get your Spanish moving, all you need do is to go to the very first beginner’s podcast of ours and start to work your way through. Repeat them, skip them, go back and watch again, if you have doubts, ask us. Study daily, become a little obsessed, get passionate and just do it!

We will be with you at every step of the way. Come and join us on our Facebook page and join an ever growing group of enthusiastic students who will show you how to learn Spanish in 2014.

Buena suerte, Gordon y Cynthia 🙂



Beginners Spanish Podcast 28 – Easy Spanish Tips and Suggestions

help button scaleEasy Spanish?

This may sound like a cliché and let’s be clear, what we are saying here is NOT the following:

Easy Spanish in one weekend!

Easy Spanish with 300 words!

Easy Spanish without verbs!

or even

Easy Spanish whilst you sleep!

and the best we’ve seen,

Easy Spanish without studying!


 Así no se hace.

No, no, no. Our suggestion is to steer clear of anything that claims to be magical.

When we say, Easy Spanish, what we are referring to are ways to make your Spanish easier to use. There are many great ways of learning Spanish and we certainly do not claim to offer you the only way to learn.

However, over time we have found that there are some things that really do make a difference. We already have talked in a previous podcast about ensuring that you READ, WRITE, LISTEN and SPEAK Spanish every day, even if it’s just a matter of a few minutes of each.

It seems that one of the best ways of learning a language is to chunk it down into small bites. When you look at the entire process involved in learning Spanish, you could easily become overwhelmed by the vastness of it all.

That’s why it’s better just to look at the next step, whilst being vaguely aware of what lies ahead without worrying overly about it.

Another important requirement is repetition. Just because you’ve seen one thing does not mean that it’s logged into your mind. It’s the dogged repetition that does that.

I’ve lost count of the times in which I have covered a particular subject or grammar point for the fourth or fifth time with a student and only then have they had that wonderful “lightbulb” moment in which it all fits together for them.

Quite often they say to me: “Ah, I get it now. Why didn’t you tell me that before!”

Of course, I had done, many times before, but they simply weren’t in the right place to understand it.

Learning language is like working on a giant 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and the problem is that you’ve lost the box top that had the whole picture on it. You can recall vaguely what it was, but the details aren’t available.

So, what happens is that you have to start forming the corners, the edges etc. and little by little you get pieces of the image, but not the whole picture.

Sometimes you manage to get a little cluster of pieces that fit together but you have no idea where they fit into the whole puzzle.

And so that’s why you can have lots of information and still feel confused about what it is you are doing. It’s only when one important piece links lots of others that you get that “KERJING” moment and you see the bigger picture.

Remember the 80/20 rule and you’ll be much calmer and more patient with yourself.

Learning Spanish is 80% frustration and confusion and 20% clarity. Expect it to be like that and you’ll find yourself enjoying the whole process. Welcome the confusion, because we’ve always found that just after confusion comes clarity.

Sometimes, you have to wait a while for it to arrive, however! 🙂

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Early Intermediate Spanish Podcast 27 – To Ask in Spanish. Pedir and Preguntar

pizza scale earl inter 27To ask in Spanish.

This may seem like a fairly straight forward subject for the more advanced student of the Spanish language, yet it should not be underestimated.

There are a number of issues that come along with these two verbs and because of that, we often hear our students committing errors when they formulate sentences with them.

Firstly, perhaps many of you know that PEDIR means TO ASK FOR. Whilst PREGUNTAR  simply means TO ASK in Spanish.


So when we want to make a sentence like:

I want to ask for a map. = Yo quiero pedir un mapa.

It’s very easy for us to choose PEDIR.


And when we want to say:

I’m going to ask. = Yo voy a preguntar.

It’s obvious that we should choose PREGUNTAR.


Test your Spanish.

But what about when we want to ask in Spanish the following question. Which verb should we use?

I wonder, should I ask the gentleman over in the corner with the brown jacket and black trousers for directions to the town centre?

Now, which verb should we use, PREGUNTAR or PEDIR?

Decide now before reading on.

Sometimes it’s not so clear due to the way we  structure our sentence. We are listening for a clear “ASK” or “ASK FOR”  and so we can be tricked into thinking that we should use PREGUNTAR when we really should be using PEDIR.

If you chose PEDIR…muy bien hecho.

If you chose PREGUNTAR, look at the sentence again.

I wonder if I should ask the gentleman over in the corner with the brown jacket and black trousers for directions to the town centre.

So, as you can see, sometimes the words “ask for” are separated by other information and yet we must be aware of them.


And then the redundant pronouns…

To add a little confusion into the pot, when we use these verbs we have to be concious of the need to use the pronouns in third person EVEN IF YOU MENTION THE PERSONS NAME.

Now, before you go cross eyed and close this page down, don’t worry too much about this. It sounds complicated but it really isn’t so difficult. We have already covered this in our previous podcasts.

If you are not sure about what we are talking about, take a look at these two podcasts: (Unfortunately they are in Spanish only)

Podcast 15 Adv Inter

Podcast 14 Adv Inter

Our best advice is to listen in to the podcast and take from it what you can get. There’s something for every level. Remember, Spanish is learnt through a process of little steps and not with one big leap. Some things you hear this time may not fit into the puzzle until much later. That’s very normal.

Pues, buena suerte chicos. Esperamos que os guste y que os valga.


Gordon y Cynthia 🙂

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