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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Learn Spanish in 7 Days

What if you aren’t satisfied by the slow, gradual approach to learning a language? “I’m an American,” I scream to no one in particular. I come from the country of fast food and 15-minute ab workouts. I buy microwave toast because I don’t have all day to wait around for my bread to come out of the toaster and I definitely don’t have the years it takes to properly learn another language. I was ready to give up until I came across just the book I was looking for called, Learn a Language in 7 Days, by Ramon Campayo. I will start right now. Today is Thursday so I’ll know Spanish by next weekend. To celebrate I think that I’ll go to a little place here in Valencia that is kind of a secret that serves Spanish food.

Day 1

Mister Campayo, or Señor Campayo (I’m learning already) claims that to master another language you need only a few things: vocabulary, grammar, and keys to pronunciation. To learn foreign vocabulary, he suggests that instead of trying to memorize tedious lists of words, you make word associations. The mind works through images, not vocabulary lists. To all my language teachers I now ask, “What the hell were you thinking with those lists you tortured us with?”

He gives the following example to illustrate his point. The German word “Essen” means “to eat.” Campayo says that he takes the letter S from this word and imagines the curves to be the stomach of someone who “eats.” Wow, that was easy. So “Essen” means “fat” in German. I think I got the hang of this. Let me see if I can do it.

Thumbing through my illustrated Spanish dictionary I come across an unfamiliar word “Despeñadero” which means “cliff” in English. All that I have to do to hold this word in my memory is make a visual association. I can’t think of an association in English, and besides, it’s fairly flat here in Valencia and I’ll probably never need the word for “cliff.” It also has one of those squiggly n’s in it that are hard to make on my English-speaking computer. Let me find another word.

I find the word “Farola” which means “street light.” Now all that I have to do is come up with an association for this word in English that will help me to memorize the Spanish term. “Farola” sounds like “far.” I’ll bet that the first street light was made somewhere far from Valencia, but I’m not sure so I’ll have to look it up. I’ll try Wikipedia. I’m not sure of the address so I use Google.

When I get to Wikipedia, I remind myself to create an entry for myself. You can just make stuff up on Wikipedia, almost everything there is bullshit. I create an entry saying that I was the first person to bridge the porn star and rodeo clown professions. I spend most of the rest of the afternoon trying to think up appropriate porno movie titles for a rodeo clown. Most of them involve a bull’s horn and places in the human body not particularly suitable for bull horn insertion. Finally, I get back on track and look up “street lamp.”

OK, that was a little inconclusive because are we talking about electric street lamps or gas? Neither of them was first used in Valencia but Paris used the first gas lights and Paris isn’t really too “far” from here, but I will stick with “far” as part of the association for “farola” which means…shit, I forgot already. I’ll look it up again. Street light! Street light is what it means in English. Why can’t I remember that? Then I remember the whole point of this exercise. Now I just need an association for the second part of the word, “ola.”

The first thing that pops into my head for “ola” is Johnny Ola from Godfather II who was played by the guy who plays Jr. Soprano on The Sopranos. Is that show over now or are they going to have more episodes, because it seems like they just kind of left us hanging there at the end of the 6th season. I just thought of something kind of weird. Here I am trying to remember stuff in Spanish and I come across Junior Soprano who has Alzheimer’s so he can’t remember stuff. Don’t you wish that they made more movies about gangsters? That is definitely my favorite genre. I even liked parts of Godfather III which most people think was a big steaming pile of…what was I doing again?

You know what? To hell with “farola.” I don’t really have to learn that word. How often does the word “street light” come up in conversation anyway? I tell you what, I’ll learn that word if I get a job working for the electric company here in Spain.

Day 2

I forgot to bring the damn book with me today so I just decided to stop for lunch and have a cerveza. I already knew that word means “beer” before I got to Spain so I don’t feel so guilty taking today off from learning Spanish in 7 days.

Day 3

That word association thing wasn’t much fun so today I’m going to learn a little Spanish grammar. I’ll try to memorize some of these verb conjugations.

Is it 8 o’clock already? I must have fallen asleep. Time to put the books away and watch the soccer match on TV. Watching soccer on Spanish TV makes the language seem a lot more foreign than it already is. About the only word I can understand is “goal” and sometimes they will go an entire game without saying it and when they do they stretch it out so it lasts about two minutes. GGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLL! Note to self: Televised soccer is not a good learning tool.

Day 4

Today is some sort of Spanish holiday. Don’t ask me what it is they are celebrating but everything is closed so I think that I should take the day off in a display of cultural integration. Even God took a day off and he invented the whole “Do it in 7 Days” thing.

Day 5

Today is review day where I go over everything that I have learned up till now. Let’s see, I know how to say “Mister” and “Beer” in Spanish. Those words are “Señor” and “Cerveza.” OK, maybe just one and then it’s back to the grind of learning Spanish in 7 days. There is a nice café right across the street from the library where I’m studying.

I’m back but I don’t think that I’m in very good shape to study any more today. Besides, I just learned the words for wine, pitcher, brandy, bigger glass, sherry, just leave the bottle, bathroom, and a shot called a “Flaming Grandmother.” It was kind of hard to pronounce so I ordered four of them. Everyone knows that repetition is the key to learning another language.

Day 6

Tengo Resaca means “I have a hangover.” I’m going back to bed.

I am coming down the home stretch in learning Spanish but they don’t play baseball here so they probably don’t say “coming down the home stretch.” I only have one day left to learn the language so I’m not about to waste it learning what they say here instead of “coming down the home stretch.”

Day 7

I think when he said that you could learn Spanish in 7 days he was talking like they do in the Bible. In the Bible they say the earth was made in 7 days, but now scientists say that the earth is 4 billion years old, so if you divide 4 billion by 7 then that is how long the Bible meant by one day*. 4 billion years seems like a long time to learn Spanish; even for someone like me. Besides, my lease is up next December.

*This means that the 15-minute ab workout takes longer than advertised.


  1. Hello, dear friend I am from Spain, I live here all my entire life (39 years old), and I was satuding English a lot of year, from the school to university, and now, as you probably can check, my English is not perfect, what I want to explain is that the strategies that teachers and goverments use are not good at all....
    Learn a language should be more practical, and it should be like we learn in the real life:
    1º listen (when you were a child you didn´t study grammar, you repeat what you parents said)
    2º talk: repeat what you parents said
    3º read and write
    I didn´t use the method of campayo to learn a language, but I used studying other things in university in it works!!! probably I will use that method to learn Portuguese because I check that the traditional method doesn´t work, remember what bruce lee said about the tradition itself...


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