Want to know one of the best ways to actually learn Spanish? Embrace the opportunity for immersion and take your learning on the road. No one ever said, “I hate Spain!” Sun and sand, festivals and friendly people and the siesta make it a perennial bucket list destination. The gastronomy in San Sebastian is at the apex of its popularity. And Costa del Sol in the south is more magnetic than the south pole. Not to mention, the art found all over Madrid and Barcelona could be a degree program in itself.
But what about those who actually go there to learn Spanish? Because so many English speakers travel here, you could easily find your niche of party buddies. But you could also walk away after months of study with little more than a hangover and a barely passable level of conversational Spanish. In Spain, you may get so caught up in the culture that you do not actually learn the language. However, if you actually want to return home with more than just a postcard and the ability to order in Spanish, keep reading.
Take Classes In Spanish
If you can study in Spain, do it. For as long as you can afford to, do it. Studying during your undergraduate days means having youthful vigor, time, and many scholarship opportunities. However, studying when you are older means more maturity, money, and a commitment to not wasting time. Opportunities abound at the Complutense University of Madrid as well as many other Cervantes Institute. These are well respected certified Spanish language instruction programs, and more programs can be found across the country if staying in the capital does not interest you.
Invest In Your Second Language
Nevertheless, taking classes in Spanish in Spain that you have paid for will help you because you have a vested interest in succeeding. When you have paid to go to Spain and arrive there for a six-week course to learn Spanish, chances are you will not give up easily the first time you cannot roll your ‘R’s’.
Make Paper Your Pal
Once you have landed, walk off the jet lag by going to a ‘Papelería to buy a notebook with blue lined graph paper inside. A papelería is a stationary store in Spain, and this notebook will become your best language confidant. You will make friends who will help you to learn, but to learn Spanish, you also need a notebook.
Embrace The Help Of Friends
Every day, take time to write down new words and phrases that you hear people say and the context in which you hear them say them. At night, then, review these words and phrases and commit them to memory. On the next day, coolly drop one or two of these new words or phrases into conversation as if you have been using them for weeks. Tapas will drop, people will smile, and you will be invited to a party where Spaniards will want to show you off as their astute American friend. Your confidence will grow the more you use these shiny new words and phrases. Plus, you will have a blue lined paper record of how far you have come.
Tapas will drop, people will smile, and you will be invited to a party where Spaniards will want to show you off as their astute American friend. Your confidence will grow the more you use these shiny new words and phrases.
Live In The Language
Your first best option is to live with a family of Spaniards. If you cannot do that, share in the rent on a flat with Spanish roommates. When you are forced to live in the language daily, you will learn it faster. They will be as interested in you and your culture as you are in them and theirs. Because of this mutual interest, be ready for stimulating questions such as “Do you all really have carpet in your house?” and “In high school do people really want to be popular?” If you have to use Spanish in the most familiar areas of life, your brain decides that this foreign language is extremely important for daily functioning and thus it will prioritize figuring it out faster so that you can function.
Open The Doors To Romance
If the first two options are not available, but even when they are, also take time to make friends from Spain. When you like people, you want to talk to them in their language. And, if you are able to do so, a sweetheart is even better. Oddly enough, when you are interested in someone else romantically, the motivation factor for being able to communicate with them in their language grows exponentially. Who knows, that special person you have been looking for all your life may just be waiting for you to talk to them…in Spanish!
Live Out The Language
You have to get out of the classroom and do what many people are afraid to do–talk to strangers. Talk to everybody–the butcher, the baker, the…well, you get the idea. The more you talk to people, the more practice you gain in both speaking in this new language and in understanding it. The greater your exposure to the language, the more familiar you will become with the conversational rhythms of it. The local bread shop will go from being a maze of strangely labeled yeast products to a landscape of tasty treats run by Remmy, a feisty 86-year-old who is passionate about her “pan.” Spanish will suddenly transform from an unfamiliar cacophony of sounds to a familiar old recliner of words and phrases that you finally understand.
The more you talk to people, the more practice you gain in both speaking in this new language and in understanding it. The greater your exposure to the language, the more familiar you will become with the conversational rhythms of it.
Another word of advice–visit the Spanish bars. Often. Life in Spain happens in the bars. Spanish bars are where all the locals hang out and the colloquial language of the land can be learned. These bars are literally everywhere. If you want to actually learn Spanish in Spain, pick several to frequent.
A Final Word To The Fluent
In fact, I noticed that for some of my friends who were having a tough time speaking in Spanish that after having a beer or two they became much more fluent. Apparently, the fear of looking foolish can hold a person back from learning and growing. This is one of the factors that makes language learning easier for children, so be willing to make a mistake and to laugh at yourself. The locals know you are a foreigner trying to learn Spanish and expect you to make mistakes. So you might as well be who you are and confirm what you both already know–that you are a novice language learner.
This is one of the factors that makes language learning easier for children, so be willing to make a mistake and to laugh at yourself.
Make Room For Laughter
I discovered that the more I was able to make mistakes, the more I learned, and the more I laughed. One in particularly memorable time I confused the word for brush with the word for a part of the male anatomy. I’ll let you use your imagination, but my roommates laughed heartily when I asked them for my missing “brush.” None of them disowned me, all of them invited me out to parties, and one even invited me on his radio show in Spanish.
So, if you are committed to learning Spanish, or another language, cheers to you! May you make a lot of mistakes, have a lot of laughs, make a few friends, and come back more fluent in the art of language learning and living well. If you do not speak Spanish but you need some who loves the language and knows how to translate it, contact us. We would love to partner with you for all of your translation needs.
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