Americans are invariably do-it-themselves-ers who want to be as prepared as possible before taking an action.

A LOT of people ask me what they can do now (in America) to learn Spanish in anticipation of going to Chile, Panama, Costa Rica, etc. I tell them all the same thing: “You can’t expect to learn Spanish (at least as an adult) while living outside of a Spanish-speaking country.” Or, to be more blunt, “You will not learn Spanish until you are permanently in a place where you will pee your pants if you cannot ask where the bathroom is and understand the response you get.” In other words, no time-outs available to go back to English. However, you can give yourself a boost if you are dedicated. Here are some suggestions:

A. One thing is getting Free Net TV. Run the setup program on the page and then click play and choose “Chile,” “Canal 13 cable.” Watch it for 10 minutes to 40 minutes per day to begin. The online link is here. It is one of the best ways to help learn Chilean Spanish. And it’s free! Sure, you will “not understand” anything at first. But do you think it will be any different in Chile during the first months after you arrive? There is a benefit to hearing the tone and way people talk and you will, yes even you, eventually begin picking things up.

B. Get some books, a parallel Bible and all the dictionary and grammar books that you can. Amazon has a couple of dictionaries to start with by Oxford and Larouse but you will need more since these are not Chilean-specific dictionaries. Two other must-do recommendations (inexpensive) are:

1. Memorize every word (1,000 verbs, adjectives, adverbs and nouns) in the Buenos Aires-published edition of Mi Primer Libro de las Palabras. Get it on Amazon with this link.

2. Memorize verbs and declension with the Complete Handbook of Spanish Verbs. Get it on Amazon with this link.

C. Plus, it would not hurt to logon to El Mercurio online and read as much of you can of the main Chilean daily newspaper. And everyone who is serious about learning Spanish should be attending at least one Spanish church service each week. Go to a baptist church or anywhere that they preach a long time. Make sure the preacher is a native speaker. Buy a parallel English/Spanish Bible before you go. Here is one of many options available at Amazon.

If you are going to Chile, as a general rule with some exceptions, do NOT get books published in New York, Miami, Mexico or Madrid! The nouns are incredibly different in other Spanish-speaking countries.