If you aren’t proficient in Spanish, then living or traveling to a Spanish-speaking country can be a daunting task. You may be afraid that you won’t be understood, will be made fun of, and/or be filled with anxiety due to the culture shock. In the Summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to go to an IES Abroad program in Quito, Ecuador. I had minor experience with the Spanish language because I studied it in school and had friends who I conversed with it, but I didn’t feel proficient enough to survive in a Spanish-speaking country. However, by the end of the month-long program, my skills in Spanish had improved tremendously. I was able to comprehend the language from native speakers, I spoke it smoothly, and I felt like I was able to live in Quito for the rest of my life with no language-barrier. Whether you are like me before I headed to Quito and feel unconfident about your Spanish skills or are decent at Spanish and want to improve, you just need to continue reading. I have compiled 9 ways that I improved my Spanish and became almost trilingual (I also speak Vietnamese).
1. Watch Movies and Shows in Spanish
Even though my comprehension with Spanish wasn’t the best when I arrived in Ecuador, my comprehension improved by watching shows dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles. If you want a bigger challenge, you can watch the show dubbed and subbed in Spanish. In addition, this may sound odd at first, but you should consider watching “children’s” shows and movies in Spanish because their vocabulary and pace of speech is easily understood. Even watching Spanish content 5-10 minutes a day is better than 0.
2. Listen to Music and Podcast
By listening to music and podcasts in Spanish, you can hear how specific words are enunciated, improve your accent, and increase your comprehension as well. Music has many diverse genres and you can tailor your listening and learning experience however you like.
3. Practice Writing
Writing is a great skill and should be practiced by everyone. Even if you don’t know what to write, you can start by journaling your life in Spanish. This helps you recall your daily life, improve your Spanish vocabulary and writing skills, relieve stress, consolidate ideas, and more. The more you write in Spanish, the more your vocabulary and writing will improve.
4. Immerse Yourself in the Culture
In my opinion, the best way to improve your Spanish is by immersing yourself in Spanish culture. This is why studying abroad is one of the best ways to improve your language skills. If you are in a majority Spanish-speaking country, you are literally submerged and surrounded by the Spanish language. You hear it constantly, read it constantly, and speak it constantly. It has even been said that living one month and immersing yourself in a Spanish-speaking country is comparable to learning Spanish for a year passively. One important thing to note if you are studying abroad and immersing yourself in the culture is that you should make a strong effort to not speak English. You may be surrounded by friends from America who speak English, but if you are surrounded by English and practice English, you won’t improve as much in Spanish.
5. Use Apps
There are plenty of apps available to download and use to practice and improve your Spanish. Apps such as Duolingo, Memrise, Mango, and more all provide language learning at your own pace. You can set up 10-30 minutes a day for these apps and can practice wherever. Be sure to make a conscious effort to focus and be consistent to get the most out of the apps!
6. Live in a Spanish-Speaking Household (if studying abroad)
I attribute a lot of my gains in Spanish to my host mom in Ecuador. She was hands-down THE reason why my experience there was amazing, and she was constantly speaking to me in Spanish. Every morning we would speak; when I got home from classes we would speak, and every dinner we would speak. She even reminded me of an autocorrect. Every time I would say a phrase or word incorrectly, she would correct me instantly. Thus, living in a Spanish household abroad is a great way to improve your conversational skills.
7. Put your Phone Language to Spanish
Many people today are constantly on their phones. They receive, see, and send hundreds of messages, images, and content. By putting your phone in Spanish, you receive more content in Spanish and improve as a result. You may not know what certain words or phrases mean at first, but over time you will remember what the word means and improve your Spanish as a result.
8. Join Spanish Cultural Groups Online
There are thousands of students out there who want to improve their Spanish. As a result, many have created/joined groups to have a community of students who also want to improve their Spanish and have weekly meetups with each other. You can converse, network, and work on your Spanish with these groups while having fun with like-minded individuals.
9. Enjoy and Trust the Process
At the end of the day, learning Spanish should be a fun and enjoyable process. If you are stressing about learning the language as quickly as possible and are not enjoying it, you are doing the process incorrectly. You need to be patient and trust that your skills will get better with consistency and practice. You may not see the day-to-day improvements and may be discouraged from test scores and frustrated with the rate of development. However, always keep your head up and think positively.
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<p>I am a first generation college student who hopes to create my own company soon. My parents are Vietnamese immigrants and I’m hoping to help them retire one day. On my free time, I love playing basketball and taking photos. My fun fact is that I speak three languages.</p>