Chicken Or The Egg, When To Really Learn Spanish Tenses, And What Has Worked For Me
One challenging aspect of language acquisition is the chicken or the egg problem. Languages tend to have many moving parts, which in turn are all dependent on each other. Thus, there is not a strict, orderly sequence of lessons you can simply march through to learn the language.
Although I suspect language experts and theorists have studied this concept in detail, as well as specific manifestations of the problem, I’ve never really heard anyone talk about it as it pertains to learning tenses in the Spanish language.
In my experience, you can only learn so much Spanish before a lack of proficiency in the tenses start to become an learning bottleneck or roadblock.
To illustrate with an overly simple example, you can learn how to say different colors in Spanish, without any comprehension of the Spanish-language tenses, but it will be quite painful to at the same time study general Spanish idioms, which have a much greater dependency on tense knowledge.
The interesting question is this: Where would one draw the line in Spanish curriculum, and say that Spanish-language tenses must really be learned before this arbitrary line in the sand is crossed?
I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ll share my personal observations and use popular Spanish educational books as a proxy for Spanish curriculum and the Spanish language in general.
You can really learn up to, and probably finish, Spanish 3: Advanced Conversation, without really learning Spanish-language tenses.
However, starting with Ultimate Spanish Beginner-Intermediate: A Complete Textbook and Reference Guide, I would say you really want to have already learned Spanish-language tenses.
I read Spanish 3: Advanced Conversation while concurrently writing and learning Flawless Recall: Universal Memorization Method For Conjugating Regular Spanish Verbs, For Students And Teachers.
My results have been very good. Where as I would have previously been blocked or significantly slowed down while trying to read Ultimate Spanish, I am now able to read it normally.
I would also point out that Spanish 3 and Ultimate Spanish (both by Living Language) are pretty good books. I definitely recommend both of them. Just looking at the marketing, I was worried Ultimate Spanish might be a rehash or regurgitation of Spanish 3, but it’s not. It’s a completely separate book, and it’s definitely a step up from Spanish 3. Finally, both of those Living Language books have some typos that might tend to really confuse you if you don’t have a decent understanding of the Spanish-language tenses!