So I have made it to lesson eight but lately in the last few lessons I feel as if for some phrases I am straight up just having to memorize things and not completely understanding why some words are strung together the way they are. Since there is very little explanation for anything I am having trouble remembering some of these things quickly because I don’t understand them. I can just straight up memorize but is this really effective to understanding the language in a general sense?? I just want to make sure I am not wasting my time with these lessons if there are some other resources I could be using that might help me more. Any thoughts? Does anyone else feel the same way about this.
Probably not very useful for me to comment on this (as the methodology author) - slight case of bias - but I’ll ask some of our Welsh learners (we do much more in Welsh than in Spanish at the moment, although that may be changing soon) for their thoughts - although of course they’re self-selecting, too, because if they didn’t find it useful they wouldn’t still be here…
It definitely can feel like just memorizing at first - and I guess technically that’s what it is, at first- but one of the many things SSi does differently is the spaced repetition and the way new stuff is introduced constantly.
You never get to the point where you are just reciting what they tell you, since there is always something new you’re trying desperately to memorize. And while that’s happening, you’re still asked to use the old stuff every now and then, at which point you’re not consciously trying to memorize it anymore and it (slowly) starts to feel so natural you don’t notice it anymore. It’s kind of sneaky like that.
You’ll always feel out of control and like you’re just memorizing the new words and how they work in sentences. You won’t notice how much you know until you actually start using your Spanish or try going through an old challenge again.
Hi Tim … what @Novem said but just to add my twopenneth.
I haven’t learnt Welsh any other way than with SSiW (by that I mean officially, I’ve listened to the radio, watched TV, read books and magazines, etc.) and I can now speak Welsh to a pretty decent level. I would just say to trust the method and carry on. If the Spanish course yields the same results as the Welsh you won’t be disappointed.
Yes I can definitely say this course is effective.
It can feel really frustrating and ourt of control at times, but I promise it does work. I’ve only dabbled a bit with Spanish (and Manx) when I’ve been waiting for new welsh lessons to be released, but it is recent enough to remind me how difficult those early days can seem. But having done the Welsh I know that it will come together in the end.
The lessons are very intense, but I have come to enjoy that. When I did a little studying outside of SSIW I found I really missed that feeling of having had a workout.
In the early days I did wonder if I would ever have enough vocab to actually talk to anyone about anything. Whilst I could see I was learning some useful structures, my conversational ability seemed a bit limited compared with what I’d learned in French and German at school. But magically it did all come together. It gave me the skills and confidence to explore tv and books on my own, and that has expanded my vocabulary.
It is kind of like doing a jigsaw and to start with you are just putting pieces together and you have no idea what the finished picture is. It looks like random splodges of colour until you suddenly begin to see something recognisable starting to form and before you know it bigger and bigger chunks are making sense.
What I like is the self-contained nature of the course, in that you just do the lesson and then let it settle in your brain and then move onto the next one. You don’t need boring flash cards or to memorise verb ending lists or any of that dull stuff. The grammar stuff just gets absorbed and the right way just sounds right. I don’t know how this magic happens, but I like it because I am lazy!
Obviously we are all different and not everything suits everyone, but this method is well worth trying. I will be honest and say for my comfort I did do some Spanish lessons twice before moving on.
I rambling now, so I will stop!
Thank’s for the support and I am glad people are getting something out of this method and it starts to sink in at some point. I will keep pressing on. Thanks again!
I have learnt spanish traditionally and welsh with ssiw so I can say honestly that this method is really effective. Try and trust the process, try not to memorize sentences ( counter-intuitive, I know ) try to listen to as much spanish as you can – it doesn’t matter whether you can understand it or not and bit by bit you will be able to recognise, understand and speak more and more spanish.
Hi Tim – I like learning languages, and tend to be quite good at it. For me, I think Welsh and Modern Greek presented a similar level of difficulty – most of the vocabulary not easily recognizable, grammar a bit of a stretch, etc. – and I was suspicious of the SSi approach because it seemed to completely ignore ‘proper’ grammatical knowledge. To be honest, there are still times when I sometimes think “I should know that, but I don’t,” about some fairly basic-seeming point of grammar. BUT I reckon I reached roughly the same conversational ability in about two months of SSi Welsh as I had after literally about 7 years of Greek evening classes. I can’t swear to the effectiveness of the Spanish course, because I haven’t done it, but I can say that I just wish the same approach were available in a lot more languages.
Unlike @RichardBuck, I am not a great learner of languages. However, SSiW has enabled me to have conversations with Richard in Welsh and actually understand what he is saying. The method works. I can’t comment on the Spanish, but I have to assume that the structure is similar to the Welsh challenges. I just went with the flow, not attempting to learn by heart, but gradually picking up the words and patterns. Sometimes I thought “Why is it like that?”. Then I went to the forum, but I don’t think that I ever needed to ask the question because someone else had got in first and the answer was already there.
The traditional method of language teaching seems to be “This is a grammatical point and here are some examples.” I quickly came to prefer “We say it like this”, so that questions about grammar could occur to me if and when I was ready. It’s all in there really. The only part of SSiW that I really failed to cope with was in the old material, which probably doesn’t exist in Spanish. It was in Level 3, an intensive drilling on the short forms of verbs in the future tense, and probably the most traditional thing in the whole course. It took me right back to French at school with Miss Henderson waiting to pounce. It was a relief to get back to the current material.
I suppose that Spanish has speeded up listening practices? Incomprehensible at first, but with understanding gradually coming in, and surprisingly helpful.
In short - I just did it, and it worked.
I am just coming to the end of the second level of the Spanish course and I have learnt enough Spanish to be able to read pretty well and to have a weekly conversation by Skype with a Spanish speaker. I can pretty much always understand her but I do get a bit stuck still sometimes with talking. When I do it is the Spanish phrases I did on this course which help me out. I do understand totally the sense that you would like more explanation and context as you learn because I felt very much the same when I started (about six months ago). I think that is because I learnt French and Latin in the traditional way with lots of grammar and that felt to me like the way to do it. I just pushed on with the Spanish, trying to find bits of listening to do (spanishpodcat.net is good) and trying to do my weekly chat. I went to Spain when I had been going a couple of months and found I could communicate in a basic sort of way so that was encouraging. I am going back in May and hope that I will really notice the progress I have made. So yes, it does work! Stick with it and good luck!
Thank you very much to everyone for coming in to share your experiences with Tim…
Hi Tim and welcome to the forum and the fantastic SSi family. I have recently finished the 6 month Welsh course and am really buzzing with excitement and the sense of achievement. And I then went on to try the Spanish one and learnt enough in just 6 weeks to be able to cope with a holiday in Spain. OK, only the basics, but I’m now starting seriously. You’ll love it, but don’t expect an easy ride - learning a new language is always a challenge, as I’m sure you know - and SSi is like no other learning pattern - but the system works. My only advice would be “just trust in the system” and do what is asked of you - however unusual, crazy or bizarre it may seem. And believe me, it will! But that’s all part of the fun. And most importantly - don’t worry about anything. They are not so much lessons as games. And you have started doing exactly the right thing by coming on to the Forum - it is invaluable. To share your ups and downs your highs and lows, your fears and worries and questions, questions, questions. I wish you all the luck in the world and look forward to hearing how you enjoy your wonderful new adventure. Bienvenido y buena suerte!
Like others have already said, trust the system, keep going until you reach the end of each level, and you will notice that, thanks to the constant sentence drills and reviewing of previous material as you progress through the challenges while learning more and more, your brain will gradually and naturally sort everything out and make sense of the grammatical structure of the language without you being consciously aware of it. You’ll develop a sort of ‘intuitive feel’ for the word order and so on.
If you want a more detailed explanation of the methodology being the ‘SSI’ method, may I suggest reading Aran’s book ‘High Intensity Language Training’. It’s a short, inexpensive and concise ebook that discusses the key principles behind the ‘SSI’ method:
What you’re essenitally doing with the ‘SSI’ method is learning the building blocks of a language (which Aran refers to as ‘formulaic blocks’), which you can then chop and change to create your own unique sentences that are relevant to your own life in order to to express whatever you want to in the language. There’s a bit more to the method than that, but this is one of the key principles of this method. You’ll find some other very useful suggestions for other courses to study in the ebook too.
You’re currently on challenge 8. Stick with it until you reach lesson 25, don’t worry about anything, just go through each challenge then see how you feel after lesson 25. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective the ‘SSI’ method is. You can always get a grammar book after that. I guarantee that if you go through the ‘SSI’ challenges first, THEN refer to a grammar book at a later stage, it’ll make more sense and be far more effective than if you started with a grammar book at the beginning.
Of course it’s equally true that different people have different preferences when it comes to language learning methods, but in order to truly judge how effective the ‘SSI’ method is for you, you really do need to stick with it and complete the levels, then you can decide for yourself.
Best of luck!
I’m doing the Welsh course, and I assume the Spanish one is structured similarly. I agree completely with the “Trust the system” advice that has been given here already, so won’t harp on that point. I’ll just add one more suggestion…
If the lack of formal grammatical explanations is bothering you, because SSi is so different from any language course you’ve done before, and you really, really feel you need the grammar, then my suggestion is: make up your own explanations. Ask yourself: what’s going on here? Why does this word or phrase take Form A when it appears in sentences with this meaning, and Form B when it appears in those sentences with that meaning? Why, for instance, in Welsh, do we sometimes say “dw i’n”, and sometimes say “dw i”?
Now, obviously, you’re not an expert in Spanish grammar. A lot of the time, the grammatical explanation you come up with will be wrong. Or it will be right 95% of the time, and wrong for the rest. Know what? It doesn’t matter. Even a wrong guess can indicate progress. It shows that your brain is trying to make sense of what it’s hearing, trying to come up with a plausible reason why the language is the way it is - basically, trying to work out what the rules are - and that’s a good thing, even when you get the rules wrong. You’re learning, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Here’s a story about language acquisition that I often tell. When a child in my family was about three years old, he told me a long and involved story about what he had done the day before, and it included the words “comed” and “goed”. Now, as we all know, these aren’t real English words. He should have said “came” and “went”. So technically, he got it wrong. But in fact, his use of these words signalled real progress in his acquisition of English. He had figured out, without anybody telling him, that to talk about the past in English, you add a “d” sound to your verbs. He had never heard the words “comed” and “goed” before - no one had ever said them out loud to him - but his brain had subconsciously worked out the rule, and that’s what he figured the words should be. Eventually, in time, he learned what we all learn - that English has irregular past tense verbs - lots of them! - and so he adjusted his mental grammar accordingly. Eventually, he understood that “comed” and “goed” just sound wrong, even if he didn’t have the grammatical terminology to explain why. But it’s the fact that he came up with this grammatical rule all by himself that is important. It’s how young children learn language without having the grammar explained to them: they create it themselves.
That, to me, is how the SSi method works, at least in the Welsh course. The grammar is drip-fed to us. We’re given just the amount of grammatical explanation we need to know, and no more, and sometimes less than we think we should be told. That doesn’t bother me. If I think an explanation is lacking, I come up with my own. If, a few lessons down the track, I see that the rule in my head only works for maybe 80% of cases, then I mentally tweak it a bit. Now I have two grammatical rules. If, a few lessons further on, I discover my two rules only cater for 95% of cases, I tweak my mental grammar still further. And so on.
I’m not a native Welsh speaker. I’m not even a fluent Welsh speaker yet. I’m a long way off that. So the grammar in my head isn’t perfect and complete, and will never be so. But that’s fine. Perfect and complete isn’t the goal. All I care about is that it allows me to say something that a Welsh speaker will understand, and over time, as I keep adjusting my mental grammar of Welsh and get more of a feel for what just sounds right and what doesn’t, I will get closer and closer to how they would say it themselves.
Thanks for the words of encouragement everyone. If there is one positive it’s that this forum has been very supportive over the short amount of time I have been on here so thanks again!
Your story about the small child saying, “comed” and “goed” reminded me of the time our daughter, who was very small at the time, invented a singular for “cheese”. She came up to me one day saying, “Can I have a chee?”
It showed that she had absorbed the rule about making plurals by adding an “s”.
Of course what she didn’t know was that “cheese” isn’t a plural, it just happens to be a word ending in an “s” sound, but at the time she only ate cheese in the form of those Dairy Lea triangles, so to her cheese came in individual pieces and thus asking for “a chee” made total sense.
…And thus were ‘peas’ invented (pys, pois, ‘pease’) - as well as ‘sherry’ (< sherries < Jerez). But I like the idea of a ‘chee’
Margaret, that’s a lovely example, and it perfectly illustrates my point! - namely, that it doesn’t matter that your daughter happened to be incorrect in that particular case. What’s important is that her error demonstrated she’d worked out something far more valuable: how to form plurals in English. She wasn’t just learning plurals parrot-fashion; she’d worked out the rule all by herself, and was now trying it out by forming words she’d never heard anyone say before. That’s a big step forward in language acquisition.
It’s a difficult concept to wrap our minds around, isn’t it? - the idea that a mistake can be a good thing, that it can signify progress being made. I’m struggling to think of any other area of learning where that’s the case.
I know this is technically a thread about Spanish, but the idea of “singularising” cheese is not actually all that crazy. In Welsh, we have words for things that are typically plural like trees = coed and can make them singular by adding a special ending, so (a single) tree = coeden.
So, as cheese is sort-of-plural (well, more like continuous, but we eat bits of it), maybe there should be a word for a “piece of cheese”. So (again in Welsh, not Spanish) cheese = caws so maybe a piece-of-cheese should be something like cawsen ? Not in the dictionary but sounds good to me. Ga i gawsen, plis?
Not crazy at all, Bob, and I’m in favour of anything that encourages playfulness around learning languages. After all, these SSi lessons are meant to be enjoyable, are they not? If not, why are we even here?
Playing around with language is fun, and not just for learners. I bet native speakers would enjoy hearing what we can come up with. Slogging through grammatical explanations is not fun. I vote for playing.