Many Spanish students hate Spanish. You might be one of these students. I have spoken with Spanish students who had previously received A's in all of their classes and now they are failing Spanish. Their confidence has been crushed and because of a bad experience in Spanish class, they will probably live the rest of their life hating the Spanish language. Such an attitude is a travesty especially since the problems with Spanish class could have been avoided had these students decided at the beginning of the semester how they were going to study for the class.
As a Spanish tutor at a university and a Spanish teacher in grade school, I have found that the biggest problem facing Spanish students is how to memorize words and verb conjugations. Developing a good memory is key to doing well in Spanish class. Unfortunately, I do not have a magic to give you, but here are some suggestions that may help you develop better memory techniques.
The best method that I have found to help with memory is the use of flash cards. Do not use just any kind of flashcards, however. You need to buy multi- colored cards. Research shows that the brain responds very well to colors. In fact, your brain may associate colors with words, making it easier for you to retrieve those words on a test. Any variety of colors will do, but I suggest that the brighter the cards, the more you will remember. Neon cards work very well. You might pay a little more for the color, but the results are worth it. Do not use the entire card. Cut the cards in half and you will not have to buy so many.
Another way to help yourself with memorization is to prepare your own sample test. Most Spanish teachers will tell you exactly what is going to be on a test. You should go through the information and write it up as a sample test and then force yourself to take it as many times as you need until you are confident that you have mastered the material. When you take the real test, you will feel more comfortable because you have already been practicing the test on your own. While it is certain that this method is more time consuming, the results are remarkable.
Hopefully, your teacher has talked to you about cognates. These are words that sound like English words. For example, the word "computadora" is a cognate because it sounds very much like the word "computer." Usually, in any given chapter of vocabulary words, there will be some cognates. If you can pick out the cognates, you will learn these words faster and be able to concentrate on the other words in your chapter (s).
Conjugations can be difficult to remember because there are six forms of each tense. However, as you have hopefully noticed, most verb endings follow a pattern. If you can memorize the pattern for "ar", "er", and "ir" verbs then you will be able to conjugate the majority of the verbs without trouble. We have a lesson on conjugations that you can access on the Spanish Help Net. As far as irregular verb conjugations are concerned, it is best to keep testing yourself on them until you think you have them down.
Finally, inventing word associations can be a tremendous help in the memorization process. Take a look at this example. In Spanish the word for "money" is "dinero." You could remember this word by telling yourself "Okay, I order to have "dinner" and in order to do that, I have to have "dinero". The words "dinero" and "dinner" are somewhat similar. This may be a silly example, but silly is often very helpful to aid in remembering some of these words.
Whether you are taking Spanish because it is a requirement for an unrelated field or you are majoring in the language, try to understand the benefits of learning the language. Do not take Spanish just because you have to pick up some extra credits. See your Spanish course as a chance to expand your horizons. People who speak Spanish and English are often more marketable in their fields.
Patience is the key to learning a foreign language. At times, it may seem like you can not memorize anything. Just be patient and keep trying. Hopefully, as you develop a memorization method that fits you best, you will find learning Spanish easier and easier.
Nathan Ryan is webmaster at the Spanish Help Net. He has taught English and Spanish around the world. For more information, visit Nathan Ryan's Website . This blog can also be found on The Spanish Help Net Website Blog.