Updated June 18. 13:30
Why a Finn should use English to learn Spanish? Actually quite obvious, a vast selection of fine free materials. Below just a tentative surface scratch.

Edx.org is a collection site for MOOC’s from the best universities around the world. They are free if you don’t need a certificate. Currently there are only four Spanish courses. JaverianaX is Columbian and UPValenciaX Spanish university.

One of the best features of edX is the media player.

Peter is a former opioid addict. This video is from The Opioid Crisis in America from HarvardX

Note the speed, which has 0.25x steps and how the current location is highlighted in the transcript pane. You can also download the files, for example, for mpv player, available at least for Linux, which has 10 % speed steps for more high grained control.

There are also some audio only clips in the Basic Spanish courses and their speed can be adjusted from 0.5 to 1.5 with 0.1 steps. Then there is also language lab – you can record your own pronunciation and play it back.

The browser asks if I would allow edX site to use my mic and which one of them.

MOOC? Click here. Direct link to edX Spanish courses.

Podcasts

KVG as we Finns say, click here.

I clicked at the first: 9 Great Spanish Podcasts Every Spanish Learner Should Listen To and it first opened a pop-up requesting my email for a newsletter and a free e-book, The Complete Guide to Instant Spanish Immersion. I gave my address and hey presto! I got the book and scrolled down to Contents..

I planned to end with To be continued, but think not. Bob’s your uncle!

Bag of tricks

Here i will collect some tricks that I have used to improve my English, a continuous process, and variations of them.

Kindle e-book reader

I have a Kindle reader, but no longer use it. I use Kindle cloud reader instead. To try it out with spanish, I bought Don Quijote de la Mancha (Spanish Edition) from Amazon for free (most probably Project Gutenberg version converted to Kindle format) and used the dictionary function. The Spanish dictionary was already there!

I believe almost all academic languages have their “official” dictionaries on the net and they might be also available for Kindle (cloud) reader. There is no reason to buy dead tree versions of books or newspapers!

If you have a Kindle device, it is also possible to install all kinds of dictionaries and there is even a Spanish to English dictionary. So google “how to install additional dictionaries to kindle” or use what I did, Multiple Languages Kindle Dictionaries Download and Install Guide. It has a download link to Spanish to English dictionary by Dave Slusher and Mac Sturm. What is perhaps not so obvious is that also WordNet 3 Infused ES English + Spanish is a English to Spanish dictionary. There is also a third one, but very small.

Kindle reader is available also for Android and if it detects for the first time, that you read something in Spanish, it asks if Spanish dictionary should be installed and if you answer yes, you just have to wait for the download to finish before you can use it.

I18n and l10n support in Linux from the point of a language student

To measure how wide l10n (short for localization) support Linux currently has, I gave the command “dnf search langpacks | grep meta-package | wc -l” and the answer was 80. Among language meta-packages are:

  • langpacks-eu.noarch : Basque langpacks meta-package
  • langpacks-es.noarch : Spanish langpacks meta-package
  • langpacks-ca.noarch : Catalan langpacks meta-package
  • langpacks-gl.noarch : Galician langpacks meta-package
  • langpacks-ast.noarch : Asturian langpacks meta-package

There are also other Romance languages spoken in Spain besides Spanish. With Linux you can have them all installed or even all the 80 language support or l10n meta-packages that install the needed real l10n packages. I was more cautious or thorough, I did a search: “dnf search Spanish“, picked the necessary packages and gave the install command:

dnf install kde-l10n-es.noarch hyphen-es.noarch libreoffice-help-es.x86_64 autocorr-es.noarch hunspell-es.noarch langpacks-es.noarch libreoffice-langpack-es.x86_64  

After that you can start individual programs in Spanish instead of the default by setting the LANG environment variable. The usual advice to restart or re-login is just a load of dingo’s kidneys. You can even start multiple instances of a same program each with a different language setting. Below is a command I used to start Chrome with a new profile for Spanish settings (–no-sandbox is needed when run as root user):

LANG=es_ES.UTF-8  google-chrome --user-data-dir=chrome-es --no-sandbox &

Then if you, for example, visit Spain in Google Arts & Culture, it looks like:

I am almost certain that all the text is automatically translated from English.

When I visited the same page with my normal LANG setting, fi_FI.UTF-8, everything was in English with “Translate with Google” button centered at the bottom. The only Street View building I found in Spain was Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Mind blowing!

If you would like to have the whole environment, desktop, etc. in Spanish, the most convenient way to do that is to create a new user account with Spanish as primary language. In fact, you can create as many language specific accounts as you like. Switching between accounts requires however logging out i.e. shutting down all programs. You can however run multiple instances of X each with different user account, but that is rather resource hungry. As almost always with Linux, there are multiple ways to do things and I think that specifying language at the program start is the most convenient way.

TED.com and Khan Academy

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) has a very good video player and transcript system which can be used in a kind of a reverse way to learn Spanish. You follow the text and the speaker translates it to you. Video playing speed can be controlled in 0.25x steps and the slowest is 0.5x.

The downside of this is that you must wait for the Spanish translation, but it is among the first ones. And there are so many old fine TED talks with Spanish translations, that you should have enough material for this kind of practice. One example is the talk Salman Khan gave year 2011. Sal created Khan Academy which has self study materials covering the whole US compulsory K12 education. It has been translated to 22 languages, including of course Spanish. So if you feel the need to brush up your math or any other subject taught at school or just want to learn the vocabulary in Spanish, it is available anytime, anywhere, and it is free.

This talk has been viewed over 5 million times and has also Finnish transcript, which is rather unusual.

DVD and Blu-Ray video disks with Spanish audio and subtitles

I have a video film collection extracted from DVD and Blu-Ray disks that contains about 800 items. The exact number would be 825 minus the number of TV series disks I have in the same directory. I have used matroska container format because you can store all the audio and subtitle tracks in it. Because they are on hard disk (actually a 30 TB raidz2 ZFS array) it was easy to query which ones have Spanish audio and subtitle tracks.

First I had to install mkvtoolnix package to get mkvinfo program and then do some simple scripting. First list-spa.awk:

/Track type: audio/ {track="audio"}
/Track type: subtitles/ {track="subtitle"}
/Language: spa/ {
sub("./","",dir)
if (track == "audio") print dir " has Spanish audio track"
if (track == "subtitle") print dir " has Spanish subtitles"
}

Then the command line:

for dir in `find . -type d -maxdepth 1 `; do cd $dir ; mkvinfo  `ls -Sr *.mkv | tail -n 1 ` | awk -v dir=$dir -f ../list-spa.awk ; cd /tank/mirrors/avi/DVD-folders/ ; done 2>/dev/null | sort | uniq

Sort and uniq are needed to prune out the duplicates. Almost all movies seemed to have either none or two Spanish subtitle tracks and few had even more than one Spanish audio track. I also appended “| grep “audio track” | wc -l” and “| grep “subtitles” | wc -l” to get the number of movies with Spanish tracks. There were 108 with Spanish audio and 109 with Spanish subtitles and 134 with Spanish audio or subtitle track.

As a sample of what I have, below is a status report from mpv media player about Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange Blu-Ray disk rip after I had switched both audio and subtitle tracks:

Track switched:
(+) Video --vid=1 () (vc1 1920x1080 23.976fps)
  Audio --aid=1 --alang=eng () '3/2+1' (ac3 6ch 48000Hz)
Audio --aid=2 --alang=eng '3/2+1' (pcm_s16le 6ch 48000Hz)
Audio --aid=3 --alang=fra '3/2+1' (ac3 6ch 48000Hz)
Audio --aid=4 --alang=deu '3/2+1' (ac3 6ch 48000Hz)
Audio --aid=5 --alang=ita '3/2+1' (ac3 6ch 48000Hz)
(+) Audio --aid=6 --alang=spa '3/2+1' (ac3 6ch 48000Hz)
Audio --aid=7 --alang=spa '3/2+1' (ac3 6ch 48000Hz)
Subs --sid=1 --slang=eng (*) (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=2 --slang=eng (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=3 --slang=fra (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=4 --slang=deu (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=5 --slang=deu (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=6 --slang=ita (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=7 --slang=ita (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
(+) Subs --sid=8 --slang=spa (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=9 --slang=nld (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=10 --slang=jpn (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=11 --slang=zho (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=12 --slang=kor (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=13 --slang=spa (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=14 --slang=por (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=15 --slang=dan (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=16 --slang=fin (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=17 --slang=nor (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=18 --slang=por (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)
Subs --sid=19 --slang=swe (hdmv_pgs_subtitle)

Strange movie. I learned many russian words watching it and a lot more when I read the book without realizing it back then. Anthony Burgess also wrote Language Made Plain,a brief overview of the field of linguistics.