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Do you have trouble understanding sentences as a whole?
April 28, 2013
21:57
Hallowspite

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I'm at the stage of Spanish where when I read a sentence, I know what most of the words mean. However, strung together, I have little to no idea of what's actually being said; I just pick out key words and try to guess the meaning from there, often finding I'm wrong.

 

Is this normal? Does anyone have any advice for it?

April 29, 2013
07:56
Gaius Julius

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(I'm not used to these terms in English or Spanish, so please correct me if I misuse a word).

 

I think you should focus on your grammar. Here's a nice method for reading and understanding sentences - mark the different syntactic function of each word, and then rebuild it in your native language. I'll give one example in Spanish, and one in English which is a little more interesting.

Tenemos que beber cerveza

 

You will probably recognize all the words.Tenemos - a verb. This will probably be the predicate. Might include the subject as well.

que - this word is either a question word, or a word entailed by the preceding word. In this case, the preceding word is a verb so it's probably related to that.

beber - an infinitive form. Most likely a direct object.

cerveza - a noun. Maybe this is the subject? Either that or another direct object.

This is a simple sentence so you can easily answer all these questions and understand it. But this method can also help you with more complicated sentences, and can assist you in rebuilding them in your native language. Don't forget to keep in mind the possibility of passive verbs (I have no idea how this works in English).

It is obviously quite slow, but once you get over the barrier you are currently this will no longer be necessary, except for extreme cases.

 

An English example:

Boys hit cry.

Knows: English Hebrew Arabic German Learning: Spanish Korean Basic: French

April 29, 2013
07:58
Gaius Julius

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My Spanish is quite elementary, so I probably can't see the whole spectrum of options in "Tenemos que beber cerveza"...

Knows: English Hebrew Arabic German Learning: Spanish Korean Basic: French

April 29, 2013
08:50
Stephanie S
St. Julian's, Malta

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You may want to focus on adapted texts before moving on to real ones. The sentences put together in language study books are generally carefully chosen to include words and constructions you will understand. Once you've become more comfortable with [Beware! This is SPAM posted by a third party] texts, you'll be able to figure out real ones more easily. I used to scoff at [Beware! This is SPAM posted by a third party] and constructed stuff, but my dad told me, someone's already done a lot of work for you, you don't have to start from scratch. He was right. :)

Stephanie

Elanguest English Language School

June 16, 2013
00:51
Amy
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My advice is to read texts that you know the meaning of before moving on.  I originally had this problem with French, but I read Harry Potter, a book that I know very well, which meant that by using the surrounding sentence, I could guess what that sentence should mean, and then kept doing this, reading several books in this way, and eventually it all just came naturally and I could read books without needing to know the story beforehand.

You could even by a book that has a side-by-side translation to help with this.

Good luck!

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June 16, 2013
05:35
patkoala
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Gaius Julius said
My Spanish is quite elementary, so I probably can't see the whole spectrum of options in "Tenemos que beber cerveza"...

 

I know this reply isn't much related to the post, but I wanted to "correct" some things on the syntactic analysis done by Gaius Julius,only because I think this way is easier (I suppose he doesn't mind).

I'm a student from Spain and this is the way they teach us in school( though there are some more)

Tenemos que beber cerveza

In this case, there is a verbal periphrasis (tener que), so the main verb is "Tenemos que".

Beber cerveza is a subordinate preposition which acts like Direct Object.

About all I wanted to mark that "tener que" is a verbal periphrasis, since this simplifies so much the analysis. 

July 15, 2013
18:09
Olly Richards
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Your phrase: "I just pick out key words and try to guess the meaning from there" might indicate what is holding you back. 
 
While it's certainly a good strategy to try to guess the meaning from context, in reality language does not exist as series of single words. Native speakers of any language do not speak by putting together single words - rather they speak with fixed strings of words (often known as chunks), replacing certain words here or there to change meaning. 
 
So, for example, if you focus on the single word - tenemos (we have) - you will have a very different understanding from the longer chunk: tenemos que (we have to). 
 
I recommend that you focus on learning longer phrases when you're studying, even if you don't necessarily understand the grammar within. You then no longer have to worry about the precise meaning of individual words, which, after all, is not something that native speakers do!
July 18, 2013
22:37
crislang360
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hi.....i'll tell you how i did it, im not 100% sure how i did it but now i can understand a lot of things in french, i'd say 70%-85%.....the some of the resources i've used are the live news channel from france.."france24"...the ebook and audiobook for around the world in 80 days from "booksshouldbefree.com", and the deathnote anime french dub..........these were my main recources.....the way i did it was kinda the glossika way...id listen to the english chapter from around the world then the same chapter in french....id do 4 chapters a day....the same 4 for 4 days then move on....you have to try hard to understand full speed but thats what re-listening is for, if it helps read and listen at the same time....slow down the audio to .80X if you have to, but do it again and again... i did the same thing with deathnote after around the world, you'll find "deathnote español" on youtube. pick a number of episodes and relisten to them everyday...until you finish all 37 episodes if you want to watch death note.... the reason i chose deathnote is that its more realistic when it comes to dialog and events than most anime's....it's always about who did what, someone who want's something, opinions, motives...etc, which gives great vocab..and phrases to copy... which brings me to "shadowing" just do it it helps...i've found that i couldn't understand a sentence but when i said it i suddenly could make sense of what it meant most of the time... also movies some here're some spanish movies "rec, el espinazo del diablo, el orfanato" all horror....ive used this method since around march i guess, i started french in january and hope to finish in nov or dec to move on to german with at least a solid b2 or c1.......also today with my new samsung galaxy i tried speeding up the audio to 1.5x and i could understand everything being said in my full speed french recordings perfectly.... so try it dude......let me know how it goes.....I speak natively english and spanish, and like a b2 in understanding french b1 in speaking i guess and pretty ok at reading.....although i suck at writing........

P.S. THINK, THINK, THINK!!!! IN SPANISHcool 

"Speaks: English, Spanish" "Learning:French"
July 19, 2013
02:14
Stephanie S
St. Julian's, Malta

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Wow, that sounds like a good idea...

July 27, 2013
22:12
hedwards

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I don't do Spanish, but I did take Latin and I believe this to be a similar situation.

This sounds like a challenge that you end up with going from a language like English or Chinese where there's little or no cases to something like Spanish, Latin or German that has plenty of cases and more flexibility in terms of ordering.  The way that you listen is going to have to change in order to accommodate the difference. Rather than listening by order, you have to learn to listen for the case and ultimately hold the bits in your memory. Which is going to feel rather strange at first, but with adequate practice it should eventually start to feel a bit more natural. Especially if you understand most or all of the words.

I'd recommend doing a lot of listening and preferably to short selections with a transcript and really work on it. I know it's tough, I'm doing that as well. Getting the gist can be relatively straightforward, but ultimately, you're likely to want to be able to listen the way that natives do, and that'll take practice.

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