Many grape growers would like to learn to speak Spanish in order to communicate more effectively with farmworkers who are more comfortable communicating in that language. However, the task of learning a foreign language just seems to be too difficult. This conclusion is often arrived at after several years of studying a foreign language in high school or college without good results.
Because I have studied 8 different languages over the course of the past 40 years people often ask me for advice regarding how to learn a language quickly, effectively and with the least effort. For example, I receive many questions regarding the Rosetta Stone language-learning tool. I own the Greek, Italian and French Rosetta Stone courses and I enjoy them and find them to be helpful. However, in my opinion, Rosetta Stone is not the first or second most effective method for learning a new language.
I will mention the most effective technique first, before dismissing it as impractical for most people and moving on to the second most effective technique. The single most effective technique for achieving fluency in another language is to take an immersion course in a foreign country. In this technique you also live with a monolingual family who only speaks the language that you want to learn. Everyone who has tried this technique agrees that it works. I have tried it on four occasions and really enjoyed it. Although this technique is not expensive, for most adults with families and businesses it is not very practical.
The second most effective technique is extremely practical and effective. It is the Pimsleur audio language courses. You don’t even have to be able to read to use these courses! The Spanish course consists of 120 half-hour audio lessons. They can be downloaded from the Internet on to your smartphone or iPod. You can listen to them while driving, exercising or doing household chores. Although Pimsleur Spanish audio lessons are available from a variety of retailers, including the iTunes store, I have found Audible.com to be the most economical source.
There is something unique about the way that the Pimsleur course is organized that makes it more effective than every other course that I have tried. I can’t explain how it works or why it works. All I know is that it does work. If you listen to one lesson per day while driving or exercising you will need 4 months to complete the 120 lessons, and you will be speaking basic Spanish fluently at the end of that time.
So, after you have mastered the basics of Spanish what is next? I recommend the Oxford University Take Off in Spanish course. This is the absolute best value in language learning tools. For only $26 (from Amazon.com) you get a book, 5 CDs and the ability to digitally download the audio lessons at no additional charge. I have found the Take Off In … series to be a great follow-up to the Pimsleur lessons. It isn’t necessarily better than Rosetta Stone, but it’s a fraction of the cost.
If you finish the Pimsleur course and the Take Off in Spanish course you will be speaking Spanish and then will have a variety of options for achieving greater fluency and learning agricultural terms. Two helpful activities are watching the nightly news on a Spanish-language television channel and talking with your field workers. The key is to start with the Pimsleur course first and then add additional techniques after that.