Taking a break from reading to focus on Grammar

Hello everyone so I think I may have decided that once I reach 17k in known words I would like to focus on just my listening and Spanish Grammar.

I have had a personal tutor for the last 5 weeks teaching me the basics in Spanish and have felt myself improve but when I am reading books and forever seeing the “SE” and “lo” which I do have a little bit better of an understanding but still very far from what I would like.

I also have an interview in Spanish in 6 weeks time and feel like 17k words in a okay amount of words for me to express myself but if I cannot speak these words in a grammatically correct way.

so I think it would be a good idea on my part and use my 1 hour of daily reading to go through some grammar tests on the internet and try to crack the Spanish grammar to prepare myself for my interview.

People have said that I would just learn the grammar from reading an exposure but I have not learnt that much and have just assimilated a large amount of words but do not know how to use them correctly!

if anyone has any suggestions regarding this please advise.

Studying grammar isn’t going to improve your output. Shadow natives in the situations you want to replicate.

I personally can’t recall too many people who “have said that I would just learn the grammar from reading and exposure.” It’s true you learn a hell of lot that way, especially from the phrases, but even if it’s just looking at a grammar reference or asking a tutor, you should do something to help you “notice.”

Grammar and other “ground up” activities can get dry fast, so you might not be able to get an hour a day out of that. When I was doing 1.5 hours a day during my first big “stretch” I did 1/2 hour a day of that stuff and then an hour or so of reading or listening.

What did you do exactly to improve your understanding of grammar?

I personally do not subscribe to the view that just reading a lot automatically gives one an understanding of grammar. Yes, children learn their native language from scratch this way but they are exposed to thousands of daily examples of the same simple grammatical patterns for several years, making lots of mistakes along the way. Massive exposure to grammatical patterns can reinforce one’s understanding but I personally think that for adult learners, a simple explanation up front as to what the pattern is and how it works is a lot more efficient when learning a new language. This helps the learner to recognize the pattern when reading or listening and to accurately understand what is being said. I also think that it’s extremely valuable to refresh one’s understanding of certain grammar points from time to time when you encounter something you don’t readily understand. Some things are idiomatic and you just have to memorize the phrase but others are not and it’s more efficient to get it straight so you’re not stumbling over the same thing over and over. I do agree with your strategy to focus on some basic grammar points in preparation for the interview. Not knowing an unusual word is not that critical but mangling basic grammar will reflect poorly on your language ability. Over practice these points because when even a little nervous – as you are likely to be – your skill level will likely drop a bit.

You mention that you are still unsure about the use of “se” and “lo” in Spanish. Se is used in several ways: for example, in the passive voice (se habla español - Spanish is spoken); in reflexive verbs (lavarse - to wash oneself) to denote the third person (ella se lava las manos = she washes her hands, el se lava las manos = he washes his hands, los muchachos se lavan las manos= the boys wash their hands); as the first person, present tense, of the verb saber (yo sé = I know). Lo also has several meanings, depending on the context: for example, it refers to a masculine direct object: yo lo leí (I read it, referring to a book); or it refers to something indefinite, abstract (lo importante = the important thing). This contrasts with the usual masculine article “el” that is used with specific objects ( for example, el libro más importante = the most important book). I suggest you go to Youtube and look at more than one video regarding “the passive voice in Spanish” and “reflexive verbs” in Spanish and the use of direct objects and articles in Spanish. Each explanation will fix the logic and examples in your head better. Invariably, some explanations will be better than others.

I also recommend that when learning anything complicated that you break it down into small parts and learn only one small piece at a time. Thus, ONLY work on “se” as part of reflexive verbs, constructing sentences that you yourself are likely to use with common verbs. When you can do that readily and without thinking, then work on the use of se in the passive voice, constructing common phrases (hint: public signs often use this form) that you are likely to see/use. Then work on lo as a direct object, then regarding abstract concepts. That is, it is more effective to work on ONE pattern/use at a time until you are sure of it, before moving to the next. Otherwise you will get confused and mix them up.

BTW, I have been learning Russian – which has a far more complicated grammar than Spanish --and do not own a single Russian grammar book. Instead, I learned all grammar points from internet sources – primarily through Youtube videos but also through Russian language sites in response to Google searches, for example, “direct objects in Russian,” or “prepositions in Russian,” etc. I started Russian before I came to LingQ and thus learned the basics on my own through the internet. On LingQ, Evgeny has many very helpful lessons for Russian learners about common sticky grammar issues – e.g., use of reflexive verbs, words that are translated similarly in English but which require more than one word in Russian, etc. If LingQ does not have equivalent lessons in Spanish, then I suggest searching Youtube for Spanish grammar points – reflexive verbs, use of the subjunctive (very important yet complicated in Spanish), pronouns, etc. The advantage of the Youtube videos is that you will hear someone pronouncing the words and phrases as well as providing sample sentences. For me, reading is never sufficient to really “know” something. I have to take the extra step and construct sentences myself – writing them out by hand – with the grammatical pattern to be sure that I understand it well enough to USE it. I write sentences that are true for me when I am constructing them. That is, they are not abstract exercises but are sentences that I want to say right now and so are very meaningful to ME. Good luck.


Read three novels a week and after a year you won’t need to look at grammar anymore.

I don’t know any child who learned their native language from reading.

Personally I have a general idea of how grammar works in Spanish, but I do flip through my little Spanish grammar book from time to time. So rarely I would have any problem with the reading comprehension, but I do think it is opportune for me to divert more time to a systematic approach in study of Spanish grammar.

We have no problem understanding the text even if we have a vague idea of how grammar works sometimes, provided there are context and one’s overall sense of what’s happening in the article.

Studying of any grammar rule should boil down to following processes, noticing, deciphering(cracking), assimilating, memorizing, and integrating.

First we notice a grammatical structure in a text, we try to make a sense of it by consulting a reference book or from previous encounter with that particular grammar rule, then we try to understand it and take it to be part of ourselves, and commit it to our long-term memory, and lastly use it freely as part of ourselves.

In my opinion, first three processes are good enough if you devote most of your time in passive learning with listening and reading only, last twos are fundamental if you want to express yourself freely and naturally like a native.

I am working on a book called “Fuentes”, and “Spanish composition”.

I prefer spend more time in writing and response on online forum in Spanish than practicing with sample exercise from the grammar book. I do recommend you to write a draft for your interview in term of questions and answers, answer to any particular question can be elaborated in 3 ~ 5 sentences. You can also use the grammar rule in your sentence which is related to your own circumstance, which helps you learn faster and easier.

Grammar study requires more effort on your part comparing to reading, I do recommend to break it down into two 20~30 minutes sessions if you can devote one hour to grammar study daily.

Just like with reading comprehension and learning of vocabulary words, it is a lengthy process for all grammar rules to be integrated into part of ourselves, so take your time.

PS : Comparing to the thorough approach with a textbook, online Youtube channels for Spanish Grammar are more interesting and really helpful too.

hey thanks for the post! what was your routine for practising the Spanish grammar?

I plan on going through all the text exams on this website http://www.spanishdict.com/ ( the ones that I feel are necessary )

then trying to repeat them when talking to native speakers.

any suggestions would be great?

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to write that post!

I know you don’t like it, but reviewing flashcards with one grammar rule and a lot of phrases using this rule would be very effective. You can do this for the harder parts of grammar.
Unfortunately we have to review in order to remember, for example, I’m still cracking when to use “to / for” because in portuguese we only use “para”, I’m gathering a lot of phrases and grammar definitions to try to understand-remember this thing, but it’s hard hahah

I had just read a little bit from an old college textbook I had. I also bought the quick cheap Dover Essentials of Spanish grammar book later on to leaf through/review. You could probably also just do that with some online web source, but I happen to have the textbook already and the Dover book was quick and slim.

Again, it’s purpose was just to give me an “overview” of things that I might later notice in reading and/or as a source for me to look up specific things I had been seeing but was unsure of what was happening.

Well, not so much of daily routine for me. Whenever I review any grammar, I write a short paragraph with the grammar rules presented in the lesson. I check on youtube channel for a more detailed explanation and examples if I having trouble with any difficult ones. In one way, I am going through lessons in my textbook to review and reinforce my knowledge, and in another way, I review any particular grammar rule on a needed basis because I want to write as effectively, and correctly as possible. I do find the method “Story with Point of View” to be really interesting and in which i can write my mini-story and review almost everything including tenses, moods, conjugation, and etc.

Problem with study of grammar is that every pieces seem to be fragmented and it is even worse than the puzzle. But let’s remember that our focus and objective in the language learning is comprehension and communication, it is equally important to have a global sense in terms of grammar study just like in the reading. Learning any grammar rules helps us understand the text better, and improve the communication.

I strongly recommend that you learn the basic ones first, and concentrate on the ones that you interested most.
Study easier half of lessons, and then give yourself a break for one week; then review easier half before you get to difficult ones.

You can review some of interesting lessons at lingq so that you can pay more attention to the sentence structure and reinforce your learning on http://www.spanishdict.com/.

I do not recommend spending too much time in one setting. You will have an overall picture of how Spanish language works after multiple reviews over time. If you find reading material to be more understandable, then you are on the right track.

PS : Even I said that I wanted to spend more time on Spanish grammar, that’s less on 5 % of all my time with Spanish. Usually I only do it for 1 ~ 3 times a week.