I’ve lately been emphasising to my Leaving Cert Spanish classes the importance of personal study in a modern language. It’s not that this is an alien concept to any student, but it can be hard sometimes to realise just how much personal study and revision must be done in a language compared to other subjects.
YOU CAN’T CRAM A LANGUAGE!
My classes are sick of hearing this. But if you can’t cram a language, what do you do?
It’s a common question and issue: I don’t know how to study Spanish. When I ask students what they’re doing, all too often, they’re going back to their lists of vocab and writing them out over and over again or looking at them and testing themselves. This is useful, but if it’s giving you the same results over and over again, and they’re not the results you want…maybe it’s time to adapt your approach.
That’s what’s prompted this post. There are SO many ways to support your classroom learning by using the internet. Here are just a few.
Quizlet. What can I say? This flashcard app is amazing for any subject but especially a language. Join my Form 6 class here. If you’re not yet in one of my classes, get the link/name for me. My students – use a name I can recognise or I won’t approve you. (if I have a lot of requests from outside school, I’ll set up a separate group, I think). But don’t just use what’s there: create your own sets and share them with the class. The sharing of knowledge is one of the most amazing things about the internet – let’s share the wealth instead of trying to get one up on each other.
Since then, I’ve also come across Gianfranco Conti’s Language Gym, which gives you lots of ways of coming at vocabulary and grammar. It takes a little time to explore, and is worth that time, so play around with it, go in and out of a few different activities, and then choose one in which to invest your time.
This site, Conjuguemos.com does have vocab as well, but my explorations into it have been limited to the grammar section. Be proactive – choose a tense that is causing you trouble, read the explanation, then do the activities. Sure, it takes some clicking around, but once you become familiar with the site, you have a range of explanations and activities at your fingertips – perfect for when you have 15 minutes, your phone, and want to do something productive.
Again: time to explore. Conjuguemos.com also has a listening section, with some activities created by teachers. Given that we’ll mostly be listening to Spanish accents in the Spanish Listening Exam, it’s a good idea to focus on the texts with Spaniards speaking. The Listening Quiz is a good option, because you can choose how many words to remove, and you have to fill in as you go along – like a gapfill. This means that all the other language is there for you to read along with – really good if you’re struggling with your listening skills. I didn’t think the texts were too challenging, but they’re good practice. Definitely dip into the South American accents to up the ante!
The University of Texas at Austin has this site, which brings together Spanish speakers from a range of Spanish-speaking countries, talking about a variety of topics, all of which are linked to grammar/vocab on the index to which I’ve linked. The great thing about this site is that when you click on your chosen topic and the video comes up, you have the option of following the speaker in Spanish, or English, or with no text. Again, really useful. Listen with a notebook handy, and take down phrases which might be useful.
The Essay – the Opinion Piece (Senior Cycle)