How to improve your Spanish
What I am doing, and will do… steps to improve your Spanish
When I first returned from Europe years ago, I was frustrated by communication, or lack thereof. I was near embarrassed by inability to communicate in another language, and so I set off on a mission. A mission to learn Spanish.
Upon returning home, I feverishly began studying Spanish daily. I used a program called LiveMocha.com to get me started (no longer available — was deprecated by Rosetta Stone). It was recommended to me by a Brazilian linguist that I met in the Colosseum, to this day I thank him dearly. If it weren’t for that to get me started with learning the Spanish language, then I don’t know if I’d be where I am today.
I have been in Spain near a month now, and I will stay for about one more (thanks to REAJ). This has been a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, but also an opportunity for me to see where I need to improve. I am not speaking English very often so that is helping me to practice Spanish in different situations; Like the interview that I did with La Verdad, a Murcian news station. (Wasn’t expecting that one!)
So what am I doing differently to improve my Spanish?
1.) Focusing intently on the conversation. Big picture. I was told long ago to focus on the big picture of the conversation instead of focusing on every word. This has helped me in understanding tremendously. My ability to understand has improved greatly.
2.) Going a step further. In the past, I used to be proud of myself when I could order a drink at the bar or get my dinner correctly. Recently, I realized that was just for beginners. Now, whenever I go somewhere to order something, I try to initiate deeper conversation by joking around or asking about the waiter or waitresses day. This makes me talk to more people and hear them speak in different contexts.
3.) Asking for clarification. If you do not understand something, then just ask. Stopped being embarrassed to make a mistake. If you are speaking in another language, then it is alright not to be perfect or completely understand every situation.
4.) Reading Everything. Context is what helps you get to the next level in language learning. I have been reading lots of signs, graffiti, and pamphlets whenever I can to try and get context and learn new words. Also, when I read aloud, the Spanish people with me can correct my pronunciation 🙂 (Thanks to you all for listening to me butcher words).
5.) Using new words. Using new words is like learning new names, if you do not repeat them a few times quickly, then you won’t likely remember them well. When I hear new words, I try to find a way to use them in a sentence shortly after at least once.
6.) City-Walk-Write. For lack of a term, city-walk-write is something that I am going to try out before leaving Spain. I am going to walk around one day with a notepad and pen and write down every situation or thing that I see and cannot accurately explain in Spanish. It may sound like a lot of work, but if you think about it, we don’t use that many different words daily. My logic is that if I can walk a day and know everything I see or do and be able to explain it, then I should be able to handle most normal situations.
Whats the plans for when I get back home?
One of the nice things about Spanish is it is a language that I can practice fairly easily. Spanish is the second language of the United States (first in some places) and I do not have to go far to use it (although the words may be a bit different). Here are a few things that I am going to do when I get home to further improve my Spanish:
1.) Read leisure stuff. I am going to try and read more in Spanish. Whether it is books that I like or simple comics, whatever. Reading is a good way to see formal language written.
2.) Escuchar. (That is ‘listen’ in Spanish). I will listen to more Spanish music, but also try to watch my news in Spanish.
3.) Hit the grammar books. I have a great grammar book that I brought with me, but I haven’t really made the time to use it. I am busy exploring Spain at the moment so I think that is more important. I want my grammar to improve.
4.) Use DuoLingo.com. DuoLingo.com is a program that I started to use for some French phrases a few months ago. I just played with it a few times, but I think it has great potential as a vocabulary builder. DuoLingo currently only has a few languages, but I am sure they will expand in the future.
5.) Continue practicing. When I return home I will continue practicing Spanish with friends who speak it, but also maintain my new network of friends from Spain, which will enable me to continue using my Spanish.
6.) Other Resources. There are other helpful resources that I will use. One is Conjugation.org, which will full conjugate any verb that you type into the search box and give you a definition or meaning. I’ll add more as I find them.
I have come to the conclusion that part of my problem in learning Spanish was that I did not always focus on what the person was actually saying. I do this in my native language also, but not intentionally as I love conversations. It is just that my mind wonders at times… On this trip, I have been better focusing on the big picture rather than understanding each particular word.
I firmly believe in language learning, and I think every traveler should make an effort to speak languages when they travel. Besides just learning it for the sake of respecting local cultures, learning another language will change your entire experience. It will give you the opportunity to meet many new people and have experiences that you likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. At least, it has for me.
If you enjoyed this article on languages, you may be interested in the others that I have written here: languages.
Do you speak Spanish? How are you improving your Spanish?
**Tags: Improving your Spanish, improve your Spanish, get better in Spanish**