If you successfully completed at least The Learnables and The Pimsleur Spanish courses then you are ready for the formal study of Spanish—grammar. I cannot emphasize enough that if at all possible you also complete the course work that the company Bilingual America offers as well.
I know that this is very costly. I know because I've paid the price myself for these courses. But what do you want? Do you want to become proficient in the language or do you want to start with formal courses that do not teach you spoken fluency? With the former your investment pays off, with the latter you are pouring money down the drain.
Now, at this point the very logical question may come to mind that after paying all that money for The Learnables, The Pimsleur Spanish, and The Bilingual America courses why should you take on more course work, for more money, at the college level? And, you may be right.
If what you want is spoken fluency and you do not care if you learn to read and write in the Spanish then formal grammar course may not be for you. I get that. It makes sense. But if you want to now go after the ability to read and write in the target language NOW is the time for formal study in the classroom.
After completing The Learnables and Pimsleur Spanish, I attended four months of Total Immersion course work in Guanajuato. This was nothing more than the same identical course work available at any U. S. college or university only it was taught completely in Spanish. Same method, same grammar, same everything only totally in Spanish.
I am convinced that had I NOT had the preparation of at least The Learnables and Pimsleur Spanish that I would not have made it in the formal coursework. What I learned in the formal classes—the grammatical structures—made sense to me instantly because I had developed a high degree of spoken fluency BEFORE I entered the formal grammar sequence of study.
So what you can do is now that you have some fluency in spoken Spanish is to simply enroll in Spanish I at your local college or university. You will, as I wrote earlier, receive a textbook, workbook, CD or cassettes, and a class syllabus for the class. It will seem painfully simply because of your previous preparation but will be an easy “A". In fact, I believe you will be able to “cruise" through the Spanish courses with ease, or at least much easier, because of your study with the methods I outlined in the previous chapters.
This formal coursework will prepare you for the study of Spanish literature if you so desire. It will also enable you to read other works in Spanish from the newspaper to novels—if that is what you so desire.
What about the Total Immersion courses in Mexico?
Going to the host country of the targeted language has always taken on a sort of mythical quality. It has been believed since, well, since I was in college believed that you could not learn a foreign language unless you went to the country associated with the target language and engage in Total Immersion.
What is not commonly known is that most of these programs require that you have at least 4 semester of the target language before going abroad. This was true more than 32 years ago. I do not know what they now require if anything.
Here is the myth. It is believed that if you come to the country of the language of your choice that some sort of linguistic hocus-pocus will one day swoop down on you, possess you, and you will one day know the language. I mean, really, come on! Let me set you straight right now: There is NO magic in spending a small fortune in coming to live and study a foreign language in its host country! The Spanish fairy is not going to show up some night, while you sleep, and do the “now-you-know-Spanish" spell over you. It is NOT going to happen.
The only difference in you coming to Mexico to study Spanish is that all the classes are going to be taught in Spanish and it will using the same method used in the United States. You will get a textbook—sometimes—and attend a conversation class. You will have to still study your buttocks off. The only difference is that in the host country there are more opportunities for practice.
But here is what we see—all the time. These American kids come here and hang out with other American kids. They spend what precious time they have in Mexico speaking English with their companions instead of hanging out with the locals and speaking Spanish.
This is one reason why the so-called Total Immersion experience is a waste of time and money! If what you are going to do is spend all your out-of-class time hanging out and speaking English with your fellow Americans then what is the point? We see this too in adult students who come to the private language schools.
No wonder America is only 9% bilingual!
Here is another problem with the Total Immersion experience. There is the false expectation that if you haven't one word of Spanish under your belt that you can come and enroll in a beginner's class and start learning. Nothing can be further from the truth. First there is the myth that there is some sort of magic in coming to the host country to learn the targeted language and second is that these schools will take you at the absolute beginning level—WRONG.
All of the schools in Guanajuato, and most of the others I have contacted in research for this article confirm what my experience already taught me.
When you come to the country of the language you are trying to learn and enroll in one of the private schools, you will be coming into the beginning, or the middle, or at the end of a sequence. What I mean is this:
When I first came to language school in Guanajuato, I came into an intermediate class that was already into the 4th week of the sequence. They did not start a new intermediate class just for me. I was stuck in a class where 4 students had already been going through intermediate instruction for 3 week before I got there. I came into the 4th week of instruction.
If you are a rank beginner and do not even know the Spanish alphabet much less the difference between the verbs ESTAR and SER, you will not necessarily come into the beginning session of a beginner's class. Do you get what I mean here? You will be sandwiched into the level at which you test but you will be put into the instruction where everyone else is presently at!
We heard of a lady from America who had absolutely no Spanish—none! She paid for three months of a very expensive private language school at the beginning level. To her unsuspecting shock and surprise, she was put into a class of beginners who had been there for a while in the cycle of the beginning class.
You have to see the school's logistics in all of this. They could not start a class at all the different levels all the different enrolled students would test at. Just think of it. You could have 100 students all at different levels so you would have to have 100 different classes and teachers for these classes. You have to have “cycles" of levels of instruction in which to insert the students.
Most Americans do not know this when they enroll in Total Immersion classes in foreign countries.
At the University of Guanajuato, they do have classes that start at each semester. So, you could be a rank beginner and begin a rank beginner's class with the rest of the rank beginners at the start of the rank beginner's cycle. This operates just like classes in the United States. The private schools, however, cannot do this. You might “luck out" in one of the private schools and happen to time your study vacation when the beginning of a beginning, intermediate, or advance level cycle is starting but don't bet the farm on it!
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