7 Cheap Ways to Better Your Spanish

I’ve been working on my Spanish for a while, let’s say more than two decades. Here’s what I’ve discovered works for me to keep it fresh. Taking a class or learning online can be good methods to better your Spanish, but if that’s the full extent of your language input and output, your progress will be slow. The key to improving a second language is to remember how we learn our first; human interaction, daily exposure, practice, and making many mistakes. The last one is the essence of Fake Flamenco; we must embrace failure to experience success.

The mistakes part throws adults for a loop. I have to screw up and say something silly to get better?!? Yes. Relax and it can be very funny. For example, if my dad is embarrassed and I don’t know the phrase Mi papá tiene vergüenza. I might say: Mi papá está embarazado. My dad is…pregnant. So now I’m a comedian. Remember all the cute things you said as a kid? You get to relive that phase. We just need to be as much brave as children are and we’ll be as humorous too.

We are in a great digital age to meet people, read notices and gather resources online. These are examples of low cost ways I practice:

  1. Conversation Group: Find a local Spanish conversation group (Meetup is one site). Attend each week. Challenge yourself only to speak Spanish, even if it is in unconjugated verbs and sentence fragments. Using all present tense is fine too. These groups are generally low cost or free, although if they’re in a café it’s good form to order a beverage or treat.
  2. Language Exchange: Meet someone whose first language is Spanish once a week to practice. You might speak one hour of Spanish and one hour of English as an exchange. You’ll make a friend and learn a lot.
  3. Spanish Radio: Listen every day to Spanish music or radio. Most cities have stations in Spanish; make it your default station in the car. Or stream music over the internet. Open yourself to new styles of music, exercise your comprehension, hear native speakers’ accents and improve your vocabulary!
  4. Movies in Spanish: Live stream online, or borrow a movie in Spanish from the library. Many movies have settings for Spanish dubbing, especially animated kids’ movies which are action-based with simple plots. Ice Age is fun in Spanish, as is Frozen (the song Let it Go is Libre soy – I am free.)
  5. Count: Count in Spanish when you work out at the gym; ten squats, ten curls, twenty sit-ups. Tally the number of train cars as you wait at a railroad crossing. Or, cuenta en español when it’s your turn to set the table. How many forks? Uno, dos, tres…
  6. Self Talk: Conduct your inner monologue or speak aloud in Spanish. Any moment can be a Spanish moment. When you make errors, be kind to yourself; “No te preocupes.” Don’t worry. “Está bien.” It’s okay.
  7. Opportunity Knocks: On the bus, on a plane, in a store, on a train speak Spanish if there is an opportunity. My uncle is great at this. He took a high school language class more than four decades ago, but he still speaks Spanish because he practices all the time. He’ll say hello to a Spanish-speaking waiter or sales clerk and ask, “¿Usted me haría el favor de hablar español conmigo?” Would you do me the favor of speaking Spanish with me? I’ve never heard anyone turn him down. Sí, se puede.

How do you surround yourself with Spanish, or your second language? Please share your tips.

Feeling good about your speaking and listening? Check back next week for suggestions on how to improve your reading and writing in Spanish.

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. Olé! –Rebecca

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