Weekly Tip – 1/30/15

Weekly Tip: Be curious!

How many times have you been listening to something in Spanish or reading something and come across a word you’ve never heard before? Often enough, I would imagine. So my question is, what do you do about it?

This happens to me quite a bit when I am watching or listening to something of Mexican origin. I usually jot down the word and look it up later. I especially do this with words I keep hearing over and over again (like ¡Guácala! last year which apparently means “gross” in Mexico).

Now when it comes to curiosity, your approach should be different depending on the skill you are working on.

  • For example, if you’re working on your reading comprehension, there is no need to write down or look up new vocabulary. Reading comprehension comes from figuring out the text by context, not by knowing exactly what each word means. If reading comprehension is your goal, looking up words will not allow you to develop this skill.
  • If you’re reading specifically to increase your vocabulary, then looking up words is important. I personally like to buy my books or print out articles, so that I can highlight new words and look them up later. I never stop mid sentence to look up a word, as I like to try and figure it out first. If I’ve read the paragraph 2x and still don’t understand through context, then I look it up and write it down directly in the book or article. (My poor husband cringes every time I write in a book 😦 He teaches literature and books are sacred to him, but it serves MY purpose!)

My favorite way to learn new vocabulary is by asking the person who uses the new word to explain it to me. Believe it or not, all of us teachers learn new vocabulary from each other every day. As of right now we represent 5 countries and many different regions…we all have different vocabulary and every day someone says something we have never heard before. It’s actually quite fun sharing our vocabulary 🙂

I also like to ask questions when I go to a Mexican market or if I’m traveling. I love to get the answers directly from people rather than a dictionary (but if you need one, we recommend Word Reference: http://www.wordreference.com/)

My personal favorite is looking up song lyrics and learning the songs. I have learned a tremendous amount of cultural tidbits that I never would have picked up otherwise (like 2 years ago when I learned from a song that Juan Luis Guerra, a favorite musician of mine, also plays with a band named 440).

Bottom line: Being curious is a very good thing when you’re learning a language! What are you curious about?