A new shortcut often counts as an awesome find.
Getting where you’re going faster, with no extra effort?
No downside there!
As long as they don’t involve walking through a sketchy part of the woods, shortcuts are a pretty sweet deal.
You may have been told there is no shortcut to learning Spanish, likely by a well-meaning teacher or fellow learner who really meant to say that there are ways in which you shouldn’t try to rush or cheat the process.
And that is a valid point, but just like real-life shortcuts can simply involve choosing a more direct route to where you’re going, you can choose more direct routes through Spanish learning.
Sentence mining is one such route.
If someone had told me about this particular shortcut when I was first starting to learn Spanish, I probably would have jumped up and down with joy.
If you do it right, sentence mining isn’t anything like a sketchy-looking path through the woods or an attempt to cheat learning.
In fact, it is more straightforward than many other learning methods, which is part of what gives it its value.
Unfortunately, no one told me about the sentence mining shortcut when I was beginning my Spanish learning journey.
But lucky for you, I’m here to make sure you don’t miss out on it.
What Is Sentence Mining?
Sentence mining involves learning a language by doing the following:
- Finding commonly used vocabulary in sentence form.
- Saving those sentences.
- Memorizing those sentences.
- Then being able to use those sentences (or slight variations) to speak the language.
If you are good at memorizing, sentence mining could be an expedited way for you to learn the language. It exposes you to a lot of vocab in a ton of different contexts, which is great. For instance, if sports stats and historical facts come to the front of your mind when you need them, this tactic could work really well for you.
If, on the other hand, you don’t think of yourself as someone with the memory of an elephant, sentence mining might not be a long-term solution to understanding and living in the language for you. But it is still a great technique to have under your belt, and if you need to improve your fluency fast or load up on a specific area of vocabulary, it can be a quick fix for the Spanish survival skills you need.
Benefits of Sentence Mining
Sentence mining can help you to learn new words faster and hopefully remember them longer by allowing you to learn a word in a variety of contexts. If you do this, the word will become reinforced in your memory because your mind has usage examples to grab on to rather than just an isolated meaning.
Also, instead of learning the most basic definition of a word, you will be learning how that word is used in real sentences. Many words in Spanish don’t just have one meaning. Words in Spanish, like in all languages, often have multiple uses and connotations. By learning a new word in a variety of contexts, you will be able to understand a variety of these meanings.
How to Sentence Mine in Spanish
The basic concept of sentence mining is really simple:
- First, find the sentences you want to learn.
- Second, save those sentences in a notebook, computer document or flashcard set.
- Lastly, learn your sentences and review them as needed.
As you learn your bank of sentences, your goals should be to really understand what is happening in each sentence without a translation and to feel comfortable using the sentences yourself. Although translations can be helpful in the beginning, you should not be permanently relying on them.
While there is no one method you have to use to learn your sentences, it can be helpful to read the sentences aloud or listen to them. One way to make this easier is to mine your sentences from an audiobook. One good audiobook to get started with is “1000 Spanish Verbs in Context” (see below). If you can’t find an audiobook or a collection of sentences with audio accompaniment to suit your needs, you can always record your own voice reading various sentences that you have found.
As you advance through the language, you can continue studying your bank of sentences and updating the bank.
You will need to work with the sentences a little bit before you decide what methods of tracking and learning are best for you.
The hardest part, however, is probably finding accurate sentences that will help you learn useful vocabulary effectively. You don’t just want to find random sentences from sketchy places and hope that the meanings are correct! That would be a huge waste of time.
So, I have done the legwork for you and found some great resources for sentence mining. Check them out below!
Spanish Sentence Mining for Newbies: 9 Claim-worthy Sources
This book has an extensive variety of sentences that range from simple to complex, and is a great sentence mining book for beginners.
The sentences in this book are basic, but are useful ones to know for your everyday Spanish conversations.
You can buy a version that has the English translation on top of the Spanish sentence, or the other way around. (But note that the digital edition actually links to both formats!) Sentence mining is very easy when the translation is easily accessible like this, instead of in the back of the book.
Here is another great book from the same series full of sentences to mine. There are seventeen chapters with hundreds of sentences for topics that include sports, tourism and more.
With this one, you can also order the book with either Spanish or English translations on top. You should be thinking about how the format of the book will help you to easily and quickly mine as many sentences as possible. Again, if you get the digital edition, you can access both formats, so you don’t need to worry in this case about which one to buy.
This resource is also good for beginners, but an intermediate learner would likely still be able to learn a lot from this book.
FluentU is the perfect online source for sentence mining, as it allows you to mine real sentences being used by actual native speakers in content intended for Spanish speakers. FluentU takes real-world videos—like news, vlogs, movie trailers, interviews, television clips and more—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
You guessed it, this book has exactly 201 sentences for you to mine. Although the sentences in this book might seem simple, they are still extremely useful to know. You will be able to easily vary their basic structure in your everyday Spanish conversations.
Remember, you need to have basic knowledge to build on as you continue to mine more sentences.
This book has a lot of categories including music, restaurants and greetings. It also comes with access to a corresponding audiobook, and is perfect for a beginner.
This affordable book offers over 700 sentences to start mining. There are more than twenty chapters of conversational sentences that cover topics from shopping to emergency situations.
One great thing about this book is that in addition to the sentences there is typically a list of other vocabulary words that could also be used in the sentences on that page. This extra list is an extremely productive way to add additional learning to your sentence mining.
This book is great for beginners and anyone who wants to travel in Spanish-speaking countries.
The sentences in this book are focused on a list of common verbs, which is great because Spanish verbs can be tricky to master.
The basic structure of these sentences will work well with many other Spanish verbs, so this is a great way to learn many versatile sentences.
This is a great resource for beginners, but really a good book for all levels because it contains sentences with irregular verbs (and everyone could use some practice with those!).
This book contains more advanced Spanish sentences and vocabulary. The complexity of the sentences lends this book to being most useful for intermediate and advanced learners of Spanish.
The cool thing about this book is that it isn’t only a compilation of stand-alone sentences. I don’t know about you, but I find sometimes it can be hard to just look at (much less learn) a ton of disconnected sentences. Here, lists of sentences are broken up with dialogues, which you can also mine sentences from directly.
The book contains translations, as well as translation exercises. Additional practice is never a bad thing!
The title of this book says it all. There are literally 1,000 Spanish verbs in context. Again, verbs are always tricky to learn, so this is a great resource for that.
It could also just be a great way to mine a ton of new vocab in sentences. As mentioned, there is also an audio version of this book.
This book is geared towards beginner and intermediate learners.
Again, the title gives the content of this book away. The words here are defined and then used in sentences. You can also find an audio version of this book.
This is a great resource for breezing through a variety of words all at once. It covers all sorts of vocabulary, and is great for beginners.
While mining sentences, try to use a variety of sources to make sure your vocabulary is ready for any situation. Just mastering the sentences from one book does not mean you have mastered Spanish.
Also keep in mind that as with all other language learning resources, you will need to start with the basics and work your way up.
Sentence mining could be an easy way to take your Spanish to the next level.
It isn’t a magic bullet, but it just might help speed up the process of learning Spanish for you!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.