how watching Spanish movies can help

Improve Your Pronunciation: 3 Spanish Movies to Watch Now

how watching Spanish movies can helpBecoming fluent in a new language can feel quite daunting, especially when you’re trying to translate in your head first! Read on for some great tips to increase speed and pronunciation from instructor Giulia M


I have been teaching Spanish, Italian, and English for a number of years. I am Italian, which means that two of the three of the languages I teach are not my native one. I understand the challenges students encounter while learning a new language since I’ve been through them myself.

In order to master a language and express our thoughts and emotions in an effective way, we need to start thinking in that language. This can be difficult to achieve, but with time, practice, and dedication, your thoughts will begin to originate in your new language.

I think the most powerful tools we have when learning a new language is our memory and our capacity to imitate. In fact, a big part of my learning process through the years has been when I watch movies in Spanish and memorize the dialogue. Much like with music, memorizing movie dialogue can help you learn pronunciation without having to think about the translation. The practice is useful when training yourself to think in a new language.

My Top 3 Spanish Movie Recommendations

There are so many great opportunities out there to watch movies in Spanish! I am a big fan of the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. His movies are very interesting and the actors speak Spanish beautifully. These are a few of his greatest titles.


A comedic drama, the film features ghosts, murder, and love as it details the relationships between three generations of women in Madrid.

All About My Mother

This emotional film follows a woman coping with her own personal tragedy as she makes new friends and reacquaints herself with an important character from her past.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Many complicated paths cross in a confusing jumble as a woman seeks to discover the reason her lover chose to leave.

Even More Spanish Movies to Watch

I recommend movies from Mexico like Y Tu Mamá También or Amores Perros to hear Spanish being spoken in a non-Spanish accent.

Chilean and Argentinean movies might be a little more challenging because the actors tend to speak quickly. I am a big fan of Ricardo Darín, an Argentinian actor. You may want to check him out if your Spanish is intermediate or advanced. I love El mismo amor, la misma lluvia, Son of the Bride, or Nine Queens.

Quick Tips for My Students

  • Watch movies with English subtitles if you are a beginner, and in the language you are learning if you are intermediate or advanced. This way you will be able to connect the words you’re hearing with the words you’re seeing on the screen. This will help you memorize new words and work on pronunciation. Using two of your senses at once tremendously increases your learning ability.
  • Whenever you don’t understand a word, concept, or grammatical structure, pause the movie and look it up in your textbook or a Spanish dictionary. This will be more accurate than using an online translator and the act of looking for something helps you learn.

I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I do! I promise that on top of having fun, your level of comfort while speaking Spanish will increase rapidly.

Readers, do you like to watch movies in Spanish? What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Guilia M

Giulia M. teaches Spanish, Italian, singing, and guitar in Austin, TX and online. She is from Florence, Italy, and has been a tutor for the past 12 years. Learn more about Giulia here!




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Vocal Audition Crimes

Vocal Audition Crimes: 3 Mistakes That Turn Judges Off

Vocal Audition CrimesHave an audition coming up? You may know what TO do, but what about what NOT to do? Take a look at these tips for singing auditions in this guest post by Glendale, CA voice teacher Ben M...


Let’s face it: auditions are nerve-wracking. You’re presenting your talent for somebody else’s approval, and that’s not easy to do. But auditions can also be a ton of fun and lead to amazing changes in your life. It’s incredibly important to make auditions a habit, even if you’re happy with where you are in your singing career. The more auditions you attend, the easier it will be to convince yourself to go to the audition in the first place, the better you will perform, and the more likely any given audition will lead to the result you want. We’ve already covered the things you SHOULD do at an audition in a previous post. Here are the top three vocal audition crimes to avoid.

1. Letting Your Fear Take Over

A teacher once had to convince me that my anxiety over auditioning has exactly 0% benefit to my performance. Many of us believe that our anxiety will somehow prepare us to perform and will cause us to do a better job because we “take it more seriously.” But there’s a difference between anticipation and anxiety.

It’s great to be mentally prepared and aware of what will be expected of you at an audition. But the moment it crosses over to stress, you’re wasting valuable physical and emotional energy. You’ve crossed over to the dark side, where you’re now faced with the risk of psyching yourself out, forgetting your lyrics, or creating unnecessary tension in your voice. If you find yourself in this position, take a deep breath, count to 10, remind yourself that it’s just an audition, and RELAX. Just as with vocalization, the only way to see the results you want is to let go and allow your body to arrive at and STAY at a place of rest.

2. Not Knowing Your Words By Heart

There’s never an excuse not to know your lyrics at an audition. In fact, there’s every reason to ensure you know them by heart. It’s not just to prove you know the words – it’s about internalizing the song and spending time with it, which is one of the important tips for singing well. Once you learn how to efficiently memorize lyrics, it can actually be quite fun. The process allows you to apply your own voice to the song and make little changes in phrasing and intonation. Methods vary depending on how you learn best, but I have always found that memorizing a song line by line yields the quickest results. Sing through one line of a song until you know it, then start from the top of the song and sing up to the line you just learned. It may seem like it takes longer this way, but you’ll find that you internalize the tune much faster. Remember to do your core memorization at least one night before – you’ll find that the words come much easier the next day.

3. Going Too Far Out Of Your Sweet Spot

Not everybody agrees with me here, but an audition is not the time to try something you’ve never done before. Nor is it the time to try to sound like somebody you have never sounded like. It’s tempting for singers to go over the top and show the outermost range of what they can do, but the problem with this is that you are exposing your limits to the folks auditioning you. In the process, you’re taking the attention away from what it is you do best. When an audition notice asks to “see your range,” be smart about your choices. Make sure that your audition piece is 90% in your sweet spot – the tried and true range and timbre of your voice. If you like, you can add a few special embellishments that show the tip of the iceberg, but don’t make that uncharted territory the meat of your audition. Besides the weakness-exposure factor, you’ll find that whatever anxiety you do carry into the audition will not work in your favor if you’re trying to hit higher notes or mask your voice with a tone that isn’t yours.

Lastly, don’t go at it alone! Consulting a vocal coach is a necessity before attending a big audition. Besides helping you brush up on technique, a good coach will also be able to critique your audition and help you pinpoint weak spots, preparing you for an easy audition process that you can repeat again and again.

Readers, what other tips for singing auditions have helped you? Let us know in the comments below!


Ben M. teaches music performance and singing in Glendale, CA. He attended Northeastern University and is currently studying voice at Brett Manning Studios. Learn more about Ben here!



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French Grammar Rules Distinguishing Between Imparfait and Passé Composé

French Grammar Rules: Distinguishing Between Imparfait and Passé Composé

French Grammar Rules Distinguishing Between Imparfait and Passé Composé

French grammar guru Carol Beth L. is back on the blog with this guide to the passé composé, the imparfait, and when you should use each of them…

If you’ve been studying French grammar long enough, you may know that French has two different forms of the past tense: the passé composé (composed past) and the imparfait (imperfect). It is sometimes difficult for those who have just learned them to distinguish between situations that require the passé composé and situations that warrant the imparfait. There are patterns, however, that can help you tell when to use each one.

Generally speaking, the passé composé is used for things that happened only once in the past, and that happened at a specific time, not over a duration of time. If you want to talk about the one and only French lesson last happened last Thursday, for example, then you doubly know that you should use the passé composé. It happened at a specific point time (last Thursday), and there was only one such lesson on that particular Thursday. So you might say:

J’ai eu mon cours de francais jeudi dernier.
I had my French class last Thursday.

If your teacher asks you if you did your homework, then you probably also both know which homework that was, and either you’ve done it or not. If you did do it, you hopefully only had to do it once. So if you’ve done it, you’d probably say:

Oui, j’ai fait mes devoirs. Les voici!
Yes, I did my homework. Here it is!

A side note in this example: “devoirs,” or homework, is plural in French while the English version is singular. As a result, even though it may seem odd to us English-speakers, it is correct to use the plural possessive pronoun “mes” and the plural object pronoun (and under some other circumstances plural article) “les.”

Or, you might hear your less diligent doppleganger say:

Euh, alors, mon chien a mangé mes devoirs….
Ahhh, well, my dog ate my homework….

The imparfait, on the other hand, is usually used under different circumstances. The first common situation is a repeated action in the past.

Au lycée, je faisais mes devoirs tous les jours.
In high school, I did my homework every day.
Aux années soixante, il visitait la France tous les ans.
During the ’60s, he visited France every year.

The second common situation is when one enduring event or action is happening, and something else happens during the first one. In this case, the surrounding, more long-term event takes the imparfait, and the interrupting event takes the passé composé. In this sort of situation, the event that is conjugated using the imparfait might under other circumstances require the passé composé – sometimes even in an adjacent sentence.

Mais c’est vrai, j’ai fait mes devoirs hier soir. Pendant que je faisais mes devoirs, mon chat a sauté sur la table et a marche sur mon travail.
But it’s true, I did my homework last night. While I was doing my homework, my cat jumped on the table and walked on my work.
Pendant que nous dinions, ma mere a appelé.
While we were eating dinner, my mother called.

Let’s look at a few examples and see if you can tell whether to use the imperfect tense or the passé composé.

1) L’année dernière, je (j’) __________________ (visiter) la France.
Last year, I visited France.
2) Pendant que je (j’) __________________ (être) en France, je (j’) __________________ (rencontrer) une vieille amie.
While I was in France, I met an old friend.
3) Quand nous __________________ (être) petits, nous __________________ (jouer) sur le meme equipe de football.
When we were little, we played on the same soccer team.
4) Pendant notre séjour, nous __________________ (voyager) a Strasbourg, une petite ville alsacienne a la frontière allemande.
During our stay, we travelled to Strasbourg, a small Alsacien town on the German border.
5) Pendant que nous __________________ (rester) a Strasbourg, nous __________________ (visiter) la Musée d’Alsace.
During our stay in Strasbourg, we visited the Museum of Alsace.

How do you think you did? Here are some answers to check yourself:

1) ai visité (passé composé)
2) étais (imparfait); ai rencontré (passé composé)
3) étions (imparfait); jouions (imparfait)
4) avons voyagé (passé composé);
5) restions (imparfait); avons visité (passé composé)

How well did you do? If you missed some of them, don’t be discouraged. Keep looking for examples and practice using them. While there are general rules you can use to figure out which one is appropriate, it takes time to internalize the logic of a new language. Remember to keep it fun and enjoy studying French!

For more help learning French grammar, study with a private tutor. Tutors are available to work with you in-person or online via Skype depending on your location. Search for your French tutor now!


Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!



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3 Common Problems Beginners Face on the Ukulele - And How to Solve Them

3 Common Problems Beginners Face on the Ukulele – And How to Solve Them!

3 Common Problems Beginners Face on the Ukulele - And How to Solve ThemLearning to play the ukulele is tons of fun, but it comes with its own special challenges too. Music teacher Jonathan D. shares three difficulties beginners often face, plus the best ways to overcome them…

For the enthusiastic beginner on the ukulele, a healthy dose of “try harder” in combination with a shiny new instrument may seem like a great start, but you may soon find you need to dig a bit deeper to conquer some of the stubborn difficulties of the instrument.

There are multiple categories of pitfalls the ukulele can present. First, there are general musicianship concerns such as reading notation and developing rhythmic coordination. Then there are the difficulties inherent to the ukulele. Last, there are the mental minefields you must navigate before mastering the ukulele. Let’s look at all three!

1. Keeping the Beat

Common to all instruments is need to recognize and master rhythmic structures. Beginning ukulele students face this problem immediately. At first it doesn’t seem like a big deal to play quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. Most method books teach students to count quarter notes as one beat, half notes as two beats, and whole notes as four beats. Most teachers teach students to develop a system of counting beats. Unfortunately, many students promptly forget the importance of the beat. Fingering, reading notation, strumming, and many more concerns can cloud your mind as you learn how to play the ukulele and cause “rhythmic amnesia”.

The importance of keeping time cannot be overestimated. So how can you learn to stay on beat? There are several solutions that can be used alone or in combination. Using a metronome is at the top of the list. These days there’s no need to shell out $20 for a mechanical ticker at the local music store as a number of apps and online resources are available to the modern music maker.

Another solution to the enduring problem of rhythm is to isolate the rhythmic elements in a song and repeat them in your body until you habitually “feel” the rhythm of music. For example, if the introduction of eighth notes is causing you mental anguish, stand up and rock back and forth in time, coming down on alternate heels with each quarter note, and chant or clap twice for every beat. If you’re interested in exploring this method, TaKaDiMi is a superb option.

Perhaps the best approach to playing rhythmically is to find songs that are rhythmically enjoyable. After all, the real problem is usually a lack of motivation to find and maintain a beat. I’m always perplexed at musicians who leave out the best part of music making – the beat! Find songs that make people want to dance. Then enjoy playing them (along with metronome and TaKaDiMi work of course).

2. Getting to Know Your Uke

There are difficulties inherent in every instrument. When it comes to the ukulele, most of these are related to the connection between human and instrument – the fingers and the hand. At times the strings won’t vibrate well because of the amount of finger pressure. Fixing this problem could be helped by keeping your fingernails filed. Beyond grooming, keeping your thumb on the back side of the fretboard will help give your fingers a better angle of contact with the strings resulting in better control of the pressure they can, well, press with.

Another common frustration beginning ukulele students find is transitioning between chords quickly on the fretboard. Apart from finding efficient finger motions, one of the most effective solutions is practicing scales slowly, evenly, and daily. Scales provide the framework for chords, and after your fingers are comfortable navigating the scales, you are much more equipped to navigating the chords built on them.

3. Mental Mastery

Many ukulele students look for magical fixes for their technique when most of the answers can be found in your own mind already. The creative process is the key ingredient to learning technique, but the creative mind is often inhibited by fear.

For example, fear of hitting the wrong note makes you look down from the notation and onto the strings. The problem with this is that the information flow from the printed notes is interrupted, the mental learning process slows, and a mental “hiccup” occurs. Over time, you learn to pause and break focus. This habit is among the most inefficient mental habits in beginning students and creates mental murkiness. By maintaining your focus either on the printed music or on the fretboard, mental clarity is developed. Eye control leads to clarity, and clarity leads to better technical habits as you learn how to play the ukulele.

Remember that above all else, enjoying the learning process by taking a positive, problem-solving approach will guide students at any level to conquer problems. There are always solutions for any difficulty encountered in learning how to play the ukulele.

For more help learning to play the ukulele, sign up for lessons with a private ukulele instructor. Ukulele instructors are available to help you in-person or online via Skype. Find your ukulele teacher today!

Jonathan D

Jonathan D. is a singing instructor in Greenville, SC. He’s earned a BA and MM in vocal performance and has been teaching privately and in schools for more than 15 years. Learn more about Jonathan here!




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Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for Spring

Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for Spring

Birds, Bees, and More French Vocabulary You Need for SpringC’est le printemps! The sun is finally coming out, and Willy M. is here to share the French vocabulary you need to know for spring!

What on earth could be lovelier than Paris in the spring? After a long cold winter, everyone is ready to get out and enjoy the warm weather. Here are ten French vocabulary words that will get your spring off to a good start. Not only will you get ten new vocab words, but I am also going to give you some tips to help you memorize them, and to put them into practice fast!

The first word on our list is the French word for Bird: l’oiseau (masculine noun)! Not only is the word oiseau poetic in its sound, it has the rise and fall (wah-zo) of a bird in flight. A group of related words are found in the popular French-Canadian song “Alouette,” a song about plucking off the feathers of a lark for waking the singer up too early!

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.

The next word on our list goes along with our title, and it is the word for Bee: l’abeille (feminine noun). This word should be easy for you to remember, because it is similar to a person in English saying “a bee.” Don’t let the fact that all the bees you see flying around in the world are male drones fool you though, this little French vocabulary word is a feminine word!

The next word on our list is one that you have to have if you are going to talk about spring, and it is the world for Flower: la fleur (feminine noun). And as Pepe Le Peu would probably say, females are the flowers of the world, this petit mot is feminine as well. This one should be pretty easy to remember as our English word “flower” actually originally derived from it.

And who can have flowers without having some grass around? L’herbe (noun feminine) is the French word for grass. This one is like our word herb. Should be pretty easy to remember, and like fleur, it is also feminine.

Another word that goes along with flowers and grass is the verb to plant: planter. Planter is an -er verb, and should be conjugated as such. It shouldn’t be too difficult to remember!

A couple words that are often associated with spring are words have to do with rainy days: rain (la pluie), cloud (le nuage), and sky (le ciel). Pluie is actually a feminine word, and it’s interesting to note that very often nouns that end in ie tend to be feminine. My name is Willy, and other people spell it Willie. But a long time ago, Willy was the shortened form of William, whereas Willie was the shortened form of Wilimina. In English we have not retained this distinction, but when we did, it came to us from the French!

Le nuage and le ciel are both masculine words, so keep in mind that clouds in the sky are always masculine! But the rain that waters the feminine grass and flowers are also feminine!

But no one wants only rain in the spring. What we’ve all been looking forward to is some warm weather, and some sun to brighten our days! Chaud is the French vocabulary word for warm, and it is important to remember that it is an adjective that follows the noun. Some French adjectives precede and some follow, but the word chaud comes after the noun.

Le soleil (masculine noun) should be easy to remember as “sun” if you know that the Latin name for our sun is sol!

So there are 10 French vocabulary words that should get you started speaking French this springtime!

Learn even more French words and improve your speaking skills by working with a French tutor! Tutors are available to work with you in-person or online via Skype. Search for your French tutor now!

Willy M

Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, NC. Willy studied French for over 6 years in high school and at Earlham College. He traveled to Quebec, Canada where he was able to practice with native speakers. While working as an ESL teacher for World Relief, Willy had the opportunity to translate for people from former French colonies, such as Haiti, the Congo and Vietnam. Learn more about Willy here!


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How Often Should You Practice Spanish To Really Improve?


Not sure if you’re practicing Spanish enough to reach your goals? Make sure you’re getting enough practice time with these tips from Spanish teacher Emmanuel N

The fastest way to learn Spanish is to practice and use the language as much as possible. Think about it, kids go to school five days a week from kindergarten to high school, and they use English constantly. They read, write, and learn new words and vocabulary. In order to learn a new language, you have to practice speaking, writing, and reading.

You might be wondering what’s the fastest way to learn Spanish, and the answer is that it depends on how often you practice and use the language. So how often do you need to practice in order to improve? My recommendation: Every. Single. Day.

Find Time to Practice

I realize not everyone is able (or even willing) to practice every day, but it really is the fastest way to learn Spanish. If you want to learn and improve, you need to make a commitment and find time to practice. When it comes to Spanish, just like any other skill, practice is the key to learning. This doesn’t mean you need to study constantly or complete limitless assignments and homework.

Make Learning Fun

Learning Spanish can be fun, and it’s important to find a study strategy that works for you. Here are two effective learning strategies that you can try.

  1. Listen (and sing along if you want) to Spanish songs. Find videos on YouTube that have English translations for the Spanish lyrics. You can also do this yourself: find the Spanish lyrics and use Google to translate the words. This will be easier if you understand Spanish expressions, and the best way to learn this is through conversations.
  2. Watch Spanish shows and movies, or English shows and movies that are translated in Spanish. If you’re a beginner, turn on the English subtitles to help you follow along. It may be difficult to understand the shows at first since fluent Spanish speakers speak pretty fast, but you’ll be able to understand more words and phrases as you continue to practice.

Find a Teacher

I have shared some ideas and suggestions to help you improve your Spanish, but at the end of the day it always helps to have someone to help you study. Not everyone has Spanish-speaking friends or relatives. This is where a Spanish tutor can help. I like to structure my Spanish lessons like conversations you would have with a Spanish-speaking friend. I understand that learning a new language is difficult, and I try to encourage my students when they make mistakes. A teacher can offer extra help if you’re struggling, and help you determine what you want to learn and practice.

Do Your Homework!

I’m a firm believer in homework as a study tool. Just because the lesson is over, doesn’t mean you’re done learning. Here are some things you can do on your own to practice your Spanish between lessons.

  1. Write (in Spanish) about your day, week, or weekend.
  2. Write down all the Spanish words you hear during the day that you don’t understand. Ask your teacher to explain the words in your next lesson.
  3. Watch your favorite show and describe the plot in Spanish.

I’m Latino, but English was my main language because I used it in school. After years of practicing with my family, I managed to improve my Spanish. I’m not fluent and I may not have the perfect accent, but I never gave up on learning. I encourage you to do the same to learn Spanish; challenge yourself, stick with it, and have fun!

Emmanuel Noriega

Emmanuel M. teaches Spanish online. A California State University, Fullerton graduate and native Spanish speaker, he also teaches essay writing, study skills, and singing. Learn more about Emmanuel here!



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How Long Does it Take to Speak Spanish Fluently

How Long Does it Take to Speak Spanish Fluently?

How Long Does it Take to Speak Spanish Fluently

Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate Spanish student, you may be wondering how long it will take to become fluent in the language. Here, New York, NY tutor Lauren P. shares her practice tips and recommendations to help you become a fluent Spanish speaker… 

To determine how long it will take to speak Spanish fluently, you must first decide how much time you have every day to practice Spanish. The key words here are practice and every day. No scientific data can determine exactly how long it will take to speak Spanish fluently, but if you commit to a specific amount of practice every day, you can set a realistic time frame to reach your goal.

Active Practice

It’s not enough to just read a study guide or use learning software, you must actively practice listening and speaking the Spanish every single day. Our brains are meant to learn vocabulary and grammar naturally by listening to and speaking the language. Therefore, don’t spend all your time reading vocabulary lists and rules of conjugation. Instead, choose a small set of vocabulary or verb conjugations, and use the majority of your time making authentic sentences with these words. For example, spend one minute reviewing 10 household vocabulary words, and then use your remaining time to practice using those words in sentences. A great way to practice is to jot down several sentences throughout the day, and then spend your study time translating those sentences into Spanish. Since the human brain remembers details it finds meaningful and important, you will learn and retain the content of your real-life sentences better than a generic vocabulary list. Depending on how much time you have every day, use a Spanish guide with the following strategies to learn to speak Spanish fluently.

15 Minutes = Three Years

At the bare minimum, you can find 15 minutes a to study Spanish. It’s important to set specific daily goals instead of one long-term to goal. Spend two minutes reviewing a list of 10 related Spanish nouns, and three minutes conjugating one or two relevant verbs. By focusing on one vocabulary theme or category at a time, you will remember more than if you learned the words separately or in alphabetical order. Spend the remaining 10 minutes making up realistic sentences and questions with your list of nouns and verbs. Since sentences should be authentic, look up additional verbs as needed. Write the sentences and then practice saying them aloud. Record everything in a notebook so you can look back and review. Remember that speaking aloud is more important than reading and writing since your goal is to speak Spanish fluently.

30 Minutes = Two Years

Do you want to push yourself to practice Spanish for 30 minutes a day? Spend the first 15 minutes on the activity above, then incorporate more real-life practice into your routine and learn five real-life sentences every day. Keep a record of sentences you use or hear throughout the day. Either jot down sentences in the moment, or do your best to remember them during your practice time. Translate these sentences into Spanish and practice saying them aloud. Practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice does. The last thing you want is to learn incorrect Spanish translations from faulty online tools. Meeting with a private tutor for 30 minutes every day or several times a week will ensure you make time for perfect practice and have the correct translations.

One Hour = One Year

Increasing your practice time from 15 or 30 minutes to an hour is much easier than you think. Spend 30 minutes reviewing relevant vocabulary and verbs to use in sentences. Then, listen to Spanish for another 30 minutes at any point in the day. You can listen to a Spanish radio station or podcast while you walk, drive, or exercise. While everyone agrees language immersion is the best way to become fluent, you can simulate brief periods of immersion by listening to real Spanish speakers. While you listen, write down any unfamiliar words and sentences to incorporate in your targeted practice time.

Two Hours = Six Months

Committing to two hours a day of Spanish practice isn’t too difficult if you use your time wisely. Just think of how much time you spend commuting, watching television, browsing the Internet, or even sleeping. Double the amount of time you spend practicing vocabulary and verb conjugation, and then spend 30 minutes reviewing 15 to 20 vocabulary words and four or five verb conjugations. Use another 30 minutes to translate 10 to 15 real-life Spanish sentences. Jot down sentences from your own conversations and from the words and sentences you hear from real Spanish speakers, radio, or television.

Double the amount of time you listen to authentic Spanish speakers during your day. Whenever you exercise, drive, walk, or have downtime, tune into Spanish radio, podcasts, or Spanish television. Since your goal is to speak Spanish fluently, you should use half or all of this time to practice conversations. Find a native Spanish speaker who is willing to talk to you for a certain amount of time every day or every week. Then schedule time to speak with a private tutor for 30 minutes to an hour every day. With this fun but intensive program, you could be conversational within six months.

Three or More Hours (Immersion) = Three Months

If you’re moving to a Spanish-speaking country, you can expect to be relatively fluent within three months if you continue to practice, and listen to and speak with native Spanish speakers. If you’re not moving to a Spanish-speaking country, spend one hour on targeted study and another two hours listening and speaking to a private tutor or native Spanish speaker.

Whether you have three years or three months to learn a language, you cannot fail if you commit to specific daily goals. Find 15 minutes to thee hours a day to practice speaking the words and sentences that are relevant to your life. The best way to stay committed is to schedule time with a private tutor who can ensure perfect practice and act as a conversation partner. Find a Spanish tutor in your area. Stick with it and good luck in your journey to speak Spanish fluently!


LaurenPLauren tutors various subjects in New York, NY. She has her Master’s Degree in Education (with a concentration in students with learning disabilities), and is a certified NYC Special Education teacher. Learn more about Lauren here!




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The Pros and Cons of Online Guitar Lessons

The Pros and Cons of Online Guitar Lessons

The Pros and Cons of Online Guitar LessonsSo you’ve heard about online guitar lessons but you’re not convinced they’re right for you? Guitar teacher Edward B. shares the benefits and drawbacks he has learned from teaching live online lessons…

Live online guitar lessons are filling a much-needed gap in society’s need for lessons, especially for students in rural areas who don’t have access to music teachers, and busy students who have trouble fitting lessons into their schedules. I’ve given guitar lessons quite successfully via Skype and Google Hangouts, and have found this method of teaching benefits students in the following ways:

Quality Teachers

I believe it is better to have Skype lessons with an excellent teacher than it is to have in-person lessons with a mediocre teacher. Searching for a guitar teacher online gives you even more options to choose from since you’re not restricted to your small local region.

No Traveling

You don’t have to fight traffic to get to your guitar teacher’s studio. Also, when a student is five or ten minutes late, I give them a courtesy call in case they forgot. But if they live 15 minutes away and they have a 30 minute lesson, it’s hardly worth it for them to come late. Taking lessons online means no missed lessons due to forgetfulness since the student and teacher can connect 30 seconds after the courtesy call.

Convenient Scheduling

There are more options for choosing the best day and time for the lesson when you look at all the teachers available online versus just the teachers in your local area.

Convenience of Recording Lessons

While students always have the option to record their face-to-face lessons, that almost never happens (at least, in the history of my teaching). But you can easily record Skype and Google+ lessons for review at a later time with software like Evaer and Super Tin Tin, or for audio only: Pamela MP3 Skype, or RecorderVodBurner.

Immediate Practicing

While face-to-face students must drive home before practicing what they learned, online students can practice immediately after the lesson when ideas are fresh. The first practice session will always be of higher quality when it is done immediately after the lesson than if it is done the next day, and the first practice session is the most important session of the entire week.

Warming Up

You can warm up right before your lesson, only stopping seconds before the lesson begins. This lets you show off your best playing to your teacher each week instead of starting rusty.

Increased Student Performance

Students actually spend more time performing during distance lessons than in face-to-face lessons.

Don’t Have To Be In The Same Room

You won’t need to cancel lessons because you had the flu two days before, because during online lessons you can’t pass illness on to your teacher.

Transferring Instructional Music Files

I can simply email mp3 audios and screenshare or email music documents.

Of course there are also a few drawbacks to choosing online guitar lessons…

No Physical Touch

Sometimes the most efficient way to achieve technical results with a student is to physically manipulate their wrists, fingers, elbows, etc. while their hands are on the strings. Your online guitar teacher won’t be able to give you physical adjustments if needed.

 Dependent Upon Internet Connection

The student and teacher must both have a fast Internet connection, and even if they do, sometimes there are days when Internet backbones are lagging, ISPs are having trouble, etc., although that’s a rare occurrence. Glitches still happen sometimes with Skype and Google Hangouts but seem to be happening less as the technology develops.

 Sound Quality

Even with a fast Internet connection, sound quality does not resemble the quality of a CD or the quality of hearing the student in person. Having said that, I feel that I’m still able to judge tone quality acceptably well.

Looking From a Different Angle

Sometimes (but not very often), I’ll walk to the other side of the student in order to see what their hands look like from the other side, in cases where I have to look specifically at the left hand position. Since I can’t do that in an online guitar lesson, students have to reposition their webcams.


Students may be more distracted at home by noises made by siblings, animals, neighbors, etc, than they would be at a teacher’s studio.

All things considered, I believe there are effective ways of working around these issues.

Interested in trying online guitar lessons? Find a great guitar teacher online now!

Edward BEdward B. has a degree in Guitar Performance and owns and operates his own private instruction studio in Wailuku, HI. He has over 25 years of performing and professional teaching experience and is currently an instructor for the University of Hawaii and The Maui Music Conservatory. Learn more about Edward here!



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5 Reasons Why It's Important to Practice French Conversation

5 Reasons Why It’s Important to Practice French Conversation

5 Reasons Why It's Important to Practice French ConversationLearning French by reading and writing is a good place for some students to start, however there comes a point where you must speak French in order to truly improve. French tutor Carol Beth L. shares her advice for students who are ready to take the plunge into spoken French…

Conversing in a foreign language is not easy. In some ways, it’s almost akin to public speaking. It puts you on the spot and tests your ability to think using a set of linguistic tools that are not as automatic as those of your native language. Many French students – especially beginners and lower-level students – are self-conscious about conversing in French because they know how imperfect they sound. But this makes it even more imperative to get out there and practice. Here are a few reasons to practice your French conversation:

1) Get over yourself and your imperfections.

As mentioned above, many French students – especially beginners – are understandably self-conscious. There is no better way to gain confidence with French than through real-life practice.

2) It’s not like the movies.

Life generally isn’t. In a movie, everything is scripted. (Well, almost always.) The same is true of your textbook and the written exercises you might also do. Starting from a script is great. It provides you with a baseline, including examples of common situations and ways to say things. To become truly proficient, however, you must eventually take the plunge and remove the book.

3) Solidify your ability to speak French.

You may have heard it said in the past that “your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Ghandi originally said this as part of a much more serious context.

Yet the basic idea can also be applied to learning a language – and when it comes to your thoughts, you can focus on which thoughts you wish to strengthen. You know and believe that your knowledge of French must be encouraged in order to become proficient. By translating your thoughts into action, you can train your brain to use the parts of it that contain your knowledge of French. By doing so, you are strengthening those parts of your brain and the connections between them.

4) Solidify your ability to think in French.

When it comes to conversation, thinking in French can be just as important as speaking in French. If you can think in French, your rate of speech will almost invariably be faster than those who can’t or don’t. It doesn’t usually happen immediately, but keep in mind that thinking in French doesn’t necessarily mean that you can say anything and everything. It does mean that the web of French vocabulary and grammatical tools you have at hand in your head has cohesively developed, and that you can proficiently navigate it.

5) Meet other francophiles and francophones.

You may make a few French-speaking friends with similar interests. If you can establish your relationship in French, you may also gain an advantage when it comes to practicing, maintaining, and improving your French. In addition, you will have strengthened your social network.

So, are you ready to go for it? Start searching for a conversation group or class in your area to get started! Check out these tips for learning French for ideas on how to find your group. It’s out there waiting for you!

Working with a private tutor is another wonderful way to practice speaking and improve your French. French tutors are available to work with you in-person or online via Skype. Find your French tutor today!


Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!




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Overlooked Parts of a Successful Vocal Performance

3 Often-Overlooked Parts of a Successful Vocal Performance

Overlooked Parts of a Successful Vocal PerformanceStage presence makes a huge difference in how your audience will respond to you. Take a look at these performance tips from NY music teacher Nadia B...


You’ve practiced, rehearsed, and it’s finally time to share your vocal arts with others. Sometimes, though, components of a successful performance can be overlooked after you’ve spent so much time mastering the music. Key elements of stage presence for singers include setting a unique musical intention, making use of physical space and gestures, and creating connection in the moments directly before and after you sing, all of which will guarantee that you create an unforgettable and enjoyable performance.

Establishing Your Musical Intention

What makes live performance enjoyable is the spontaneity created by the performer-audience connection. It can never be the same twice. You can take advantage of this fact by taking a moment before your performance, or in the rehearsals leading up to your performance, to set a unique musical intention. What is a desired feeling you want to convey in each piece, in this performance? You can take into account the audience makeup (is it children, friends and family, judges of a singing competition, or the general public?), and the personal significance of the music for you. Setting this intention will ensure that your performance is meaningful and spontaneous, since you are interacting with the aesthetic of the music in a current and engaged way.

Making Use of Physical Space

Another element that differentiates stage presence for singers from other musicians is that singers are in a unique position to make use of physical space, both within their own bodies and in the environment. For this reason, an important part of your performance as a singer is to consider the physical possibilities. Are there certain times that movement would emphasize the musical setting or mood? Also consider physical gestures as a way to underline the key musical characteristics of each piece. Sometimes simply becoming aware of the space around you is enough – even if you don’t incorporate movement or gestures, this awareness can allow you to fully expand into the space physically, energetically, and vocally.

Creating a Connection With Your Audience

Lastly, consider the first and last things you do in your singing performance: you greet and express your gratitude toward the audience for sharing your musical journey with you. These moments play a key part in creating a well-rounded performance. When you enter the stage, a sincere bow can establish an immediate connection with your listeners, and taking your time as you walk along the stage, bow, and prepare to begin singing can allow your audience to settle in and join your journey with ease. A rushed or nervous entrance can draw the attention away from the music and unsettle the audience.

At the end of the performance, a gracious bow allows the audience to fully savor and participate in your performance. They are thrilled that you have performed for them, and it is a sign of respect to acknowledge the pleasure and gratitude that they express with their applause. If you are unsure of how your stage presence is, try turning on an applause track on YouTube at home and working on entering and exiting the room. You can also watch performances of famous singers to see how they interact with the audience to get ideas.

Remember that your musical preparation and practice will help you have your best performance possible. Keeping in mind these other elements will only serve to showcase your hard work and skill, and developing a confident stage presence can make the difference between a good performance and an unforgettable performance, both for you and your listeners!

Don’t forget — a professional voice coach can also help you develop your tone and stage presence! Find a teacher near you here.

nadiaBNadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!



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