Why We Do

Why do we watch movies in Spanish?

It’s the closest thing you can get to being immersed in the language.

My high school Spanish teacher was from Chile. He learned English humor by watching English TV (like Saturday Night Live) and making himself laugh when the people laughed. Not all humor is cross cultural. Do you need to learn humor? No, but there are emotional responses you need to have—even at a seemingly undetectable level—in order to connect with the language emotionally. When we practice the phrases in advance, and try to add the emotion ourselves, we are preparing ourselves to experience the movie at a deeper level. Most often, I will pause the movie after 30 minutes because filmmakers tend to progress a story-line along in 30 minute acts—each act containing a story arc with emotional rooting—and because 30 minutes is long enough for you to experience some immersion without getting tired.

This immersion technique is something you can also practice on your own. Take a movie and switch the audio track. You’re welcome.

Why do we repeat out loud small written sections of book-work?

This is perhaps the fastest means of practice we have as a culture. When you read something, decode it, manipulate it, reproduce it with your own hand and then convey it in speech, you have used: sight, touch, muscle control, the left side of your brain for decoding, the right side of your brain for creative manipulation, everything you use to produce vocally in your native language, plus your audio ability to then hear and translate into understanding what your partner has said.

If we only wrote, we’d stop after decoding. You’d get less than half the input.

Why do we do verb conjugations?

To catch up and make the language usable. As a child, you spent two year listening to others pair up pronouns and verbs in their correct forms before you tried it yourself. And you got it wrong for another year while people corrected you. Without pronouns and verbs, without any people doing any action in your everyday speech, what option would you have for communicating the message: “I am hungry. Can you feed me?”

We need to do rapid work on catching up so you can have something to say.

Why do we do vocabulary as a list to be memorized?

Vocabulary lists help group vocabulary for quicker input. All our words are linked to other words and to experiences. The more impactful an experience, the more easily accessible the word. Hopefully on each list there is a word you have experienced in your first language in a strong enough way to be able to import other words that are related and which then become more easily accessible.

Why do we do physical motions to remember vocabulary?

By now your brain works many functions without you having to think about it. The ability to see, mirror, and copy is a function. When we access that function with physical motions, we are accessing a network. When we say a Spanish word while doing an action it is very much like tapping a second street sign onto a highway we already have in our brain. We’ve either already done that motion, or we’ve seen others do it enough that the association is quickly made and easily accessed.

Why do we speak in front of other people?

Because Spanish speakers are other people.

One day, you will meet some Spanish speakers and you’ll have to talk to them. When you introduce yourself, are you going to write a note?

If you can get over your fear of speaking in front of people now, if you can accept that you’re going to make mistakes now—you are, it’s guaranteed—and that you’ll most likely make mistakes then, you will be so much more comfortable, they will be so much more comfortable… It’s a win, win.