If you’ve been learning languages for a while, then chances are good you’ve heard of using podcasts – even if you haven’t managed to give them a try. We spoke to Tamara Marie, a language coach and host of the podcast Learn Spanish Con Salsa (as well as the brand-new Dominican Spanish 101)! Find out how she got into languages, got started podcasting – and what her top tip for language learning is!
Hi Tamara! I guess first things first: how did you initially get into language learning?
Like most people from the United States, I had to pick a foreign language in middle school. I chose Spanish and stuck with it through high school, but still wasn’t conversational. I didn’t realize that until the first time I left the country as an adult, and arrived in Panama City completely clueless as to what people were saying to me. I started to learn Spanish on my own as an adult after becoming obsessed with salsa music and traveling and haven’t looked back since.
Which languages have you learnt and to what level?
I speak English (native), Spanish (advanced), Portuguese (low-intermediate) and Egyptian Arabic (beginner).
And how did you go about learning them?
I learned Spanish primarily through music, travel, and conversation. I’m pretty sure I downloaded every app I could find when I started learning Spanish and tried almost every approach. In the end, what worked for me as an attention-challenged learner was an integrated approach that followed my interests and passions. Dancing salsa and bachata made learning through music a natural fit, and I’ve incorporated that into my language coaching approach with my clients and learning communities.
I started learning Portuguese primarily through podcasts and conversation to prepare for a trip to Brazil several years ago. It’s very similar to Spanish so I didn’t need as much of a focus on grammar. I also used music and love Desta Haile’s course Portuguese through Music.
Which language is your favourite, if you can choose?
No such thing! I love them all 😊
Moving onto your podcast, now: what made you want to start Learn Spanish Con Salsa?
I love podcasts and wanted to start my own “someday.” It took a freak accident where I fell and broke my arm to get me started. I was forced to sit still for 6 weeks, couldn’t drive, and it hurt to type. So I got a mic and got started putting all of my ideas in audio form and interviewing interesting people I’ve met throughout my language journey.
Oh, wow, what a beginning! What do you think, then, makes you different to other podcasts aimed at Spanish speakers and learners?
The Learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast is different because we cover fresh topics that are useful for real world Spanish. If we talk about grammar, it’s in relationship to the lyrics of one my favorite salsa songs.
I focus on conversations with real Spanish speakers in their various dialects, whether it be exploring the differences between Puerto Rican Spanish and the language spoken in Cuba or the Dominican Republic. It can be really difficult to find resources on Caribbean Spanish, so I bring all of that to light on the podcast.
I also like to interview language learners that have had some success to inspire others to keep moving forward towards fluency.
What do you enjoy most about doing the podcast now?
I love the conversations I get to have on the podcast with so many interesting people. And I also love the connection with my audience because as a coach, I want people to have practical advice to make real progress towards Spanish fluency. It’s rewarding when I get a message that says “today’s episode really helped me have the confidence to keep going.”
Awesome! You’ve also just recently begun a spin-off podcast that is exclusively about Dominican Spanish – how’s that going? What made you want to focus on Dominican Spanish, specifically?
There tends to be a generic lumping together of all Spanish that’s not from Spain as “Latin American Spanish.” This category is way too broad and doesn’t help Spanish learners that need to talk to the locals on their next trip to Punta Cana, or communicate with a Dominican sister-in-law. The Dominican Spanish 101 Podcast is a way to bring Caribbean Spanish to light since it has many differences from Spanish spoken in Latin America. I host it with Kesia Sosa, a member of the Spanish Con Salsa team who lives in the Dominican Republic, and we talk about Dominican culture and explore some of the hundreds of words and phrases that are only heard in the DR.
What do you want your listeners to get out of your podcasts – either of them?
I want anyone that listens to the Learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast or Dominican Spanish 101 podcast to be engaged, discover new things about Latin American and Caribbean culture, learn something that they can use in their next Spanish conversation with their Spanish-speaking friends, and overall just have fun with the language.
Finally, what’s your top language learning tip (or two!)?
I’ve found that regardless of level, many Spanish learners struggle with understanding the fast pace of spoken Spanish. Most people just give up and get frustrated after they can’t understand what a native speaker is saying.
I’ve heard over and over again “they just talk too fast.” This is true even for learners that can read pretty well in Spanish.
I think the #1 tip I can give any learner, is to be deliberate about improving listening comprehension.
This is a language skill that you absolutely must practice through active listening if you want to get better at it.
I offer a masterclass to help Spanish learners improve their listening skills and tune their ears to the sounds of the language. On average, participants report a 50% improvement in their listening skills after attending.
uTalk users can sign up for the class for free at http://spanishconsalsa.com/listen-utalk
Thank you, Tamara! Don’t forget to go sign up for that free class if you’re looking to improve your Spanish listening skills (we figure you’re already using our app, right?) and make sure to subscribe to Spanish Con Salsa or Dominican Spanish 101 wherever you get your podcasts!