Thank you Kevin, for your question: “What advice could you give me regarding my incorrect approach to learning Spanish by talking from the very first day, and not receiving correct input. I also translated word for word and still have a lot of problems having to think about almost every word before speaking. Any tips would be appreciated.”
I don’t know of any way to undo what’s been done, however we are all learning new things all the time. Will your study get in the way of acquisition? Yes. It is this point that draws the most criticism from the language teaching community. The problem is, we see it all around us.
So let’s not worry about what’s happened already. Past is passed.
Let’s think about improving from where you are.
The only way to acquire a language is to gain more input. See my blog: The Airside and the Brainside of Language. We must find ways to gain experiences in that culture/language.
What can thatinput be? What can you do to gain input?
Follow your interests in the society – Do you like football? Get together with others who like football too. Listen in on their conversations. It’s much less important what those interests are – in other words, don’t worry too much about balance.
Watch movies in the culture/language. Watching with subtitles will focus your attention on the words, rather than the whole experience and thus keep you from developing your ability to “hear”.
Use Crosstalk. One way you might use this is to make regular appointments with Spanish speaking people who want to learn English, or any other language you may be fluent in. You use that language with them, while they use Spanish in communicating with you. For a very short period, your ears will need to adjust, but you’ll soon be surprised at how much you can communicate in this way. The key to using crosstalk successfully is to never give in to the tendency to translate something. If it’s not readily understood, always look for a way to ‘show’ them rather than to use verbal language.
The basic rule is this – input that leads to acquisition must be understandable, and interesting for you. It can be any sort of happening, direct involvement, or third party observation. Don’t focus on language however, because that will detract from the happening!
Good luck to you! 🙂