As an American living in Mexico these past few years, I’ve been working on my Spanish in a variety of ways. In fact, I have become fascinated by how people acquire second languages and have made a study of the subject.

One of the things that helps us to acquire proficiency in another language is to immerse ourselves in that language in a variety of ways — I often recommend listening to music that has words or watching DVDs of soap operas or films.

I’ve had a lot of fun, and picked up some Spanish, by reading. I’m always reading something in English; usually there are several books by my bedside table.

One day, I was in a mall in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city. I had finished my shopping and was waiting for the people I had come with. I wandered into a small bookstore and started browsing. I didn’t think I could read most of the books there without frustration, but as I picked up first one, then another, I saw that I could get the general idea at least.

I ended up buying one called “El leon, la bruja, y el armario.” (They must not Spanish Magazine  capitalize titles in Spanish, as that’s how it was on the book cover.) Sound familiar? It was a translation of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” a novel I had read before.

I had forgotten what a gripping story it was. Once I started reading it in Spanish, I could hardly put it down and I must admit I skipped ahead and read the last couple of chapters! I missed a lot, even in the parts I read, because I didn’t know words, but I had the pleasure of immersing myself in a great story and I gained more confidence in reading Spanish. After that, I began to go through the book methodically, with a copy in English that I bought for the purpose of reading each chapter in both languages.

Whatever language you are learning, once you get past the very beginning level, do try reading in that language — try newspapers, magazines, websites, children’s books, or whatever you can find. It’s enjoyable and you will likely learn something.

Most agents, regardless of what they will tell you, are only acting on one person’s behalf – their own. Yes they get paid by the seller, and they may even claim to act on behalf of the buyer – which really is an oxymoron – but at the end of the day what they are really interested in is their commission for selling you a house – nothing more.

Get used to this idea and trust no-one with your money. It’s yours, you’ve worked hard for it and if someone were to steal it from you in the street you would be upset and angry – wouldn’t you? So if an agent, solicitor, developer, bank, robs you blind by over-charging you – then you would also be upset and angry – wouldn’t you. Yet so many people allow exactly this to happen and do nothing to prevent what is easily preventable.