You made the right decision if you decided to learn Spanish abroad. As with any language, it’s the best way to understand, on a deeper level, how a different culture communicates. Travelling gives you that extra perspective that academia can’t cover alone. Besides, travelling is always great for personal growth.
If you’ve decided to learn Spanish abroad, the best way is to sign up for a course. You’re going to be spending a significant amount of time in a different country during the experience. And you know learning a new dialect isn’t a few-weeks deal – you’re going to be spending more than 3 months in a new country. So, you’re going to need to go prepared if you’re going to survive. It’s not just about studying but learning the city you’re visiting itself and meeting people. That’s the only way you won’t burn yourself out with your courses.
To survive and make the most of your trip, you need learning tips as well as ways to relax and enjoy the foreign city you’re visiting. But fret not: that’s why we’re here. Here are three keys you need to know before embarking on a journey to learn Spanish abroad.
1. Consume All Your Content in Spanish
When you’re studying Spanish abroad, you’re going to be consumed by the language. It’s inevitable. You need to get around; buy groceries, ride public transport. And you need to enjoy yourself. Learning Spanish abroad is the sort of intense and on-the-field practice that’s essential to mastering any language. It’s why you made this decision. But it’s going to be hard, especially at first.
You can’t take any shortcuts and everyday people won’t give you slack like teachers do. While you’re there, you’re going to be interacting mostly in Spanish. So, the best way to approach this is to make the most of the situation.
That means setting your phone language to Spanish. It means watching Netflix with Spanish subtitles (better yet, some Spanish content). It means your phone will ask “¿estás seguro?” instead of “are you sure?”It’s a simple and effective way to get that extra hands-on approach with the language.
You should also start conversations with as many strangers as possible as you go about your daily life. You’re going to need to meet locals during your stay if you’re going to survive. A lot of people agree speaking with a local in their native tongue is, bar-none, the best way to practice any language.
Something simple and great you can do on Netflix is watch shows you’ve already seen a bunch, and add Spanish subtitles. Since you’ve got what they’re saying down, even what they’re going to say next, you can stay entirely focused on the subtitles, on how the words translate into Spanish. It’s a fun little exercise. And it helps.
But studying isn’t everything. You also need to relax. And you might even find yourself learning a few things while investing in leisure. Which leads into the next point.
2. Explore the Foreign Night Life
As a traveler, you cannot miss out on the nightlife of your travel destination. Latin American cities like Buenos Aires are famous for their vibrant bars and clubs that stay open well past 6 AM. It’s also the best chance you’re going to get to interact with drunk locals. What’s more fun than that? You’ll find that most everyone is very eager to meet foreigners and talk to them, make them tell their story. Most people, in general, love hearing about other countries. And you’ll be having a blast.
If you’re not going out sometimes, you’re missing out on a huge cultural aspect of the city you’re visiting. You would also burn yourself out with your studies. Balance is everything. And you know you’re not traveling abroad just to learn Spanish. It’s also about exploring a new culture, a different society.
One great ice-breaker is to simply approach a group of friends sharing drinks in a bar and ask them something, anything, in your first language. With no shame, as if you’re expecting people to understand you. Everyone will laugh, ask you where you’re from, and ask you to join them.
After you’re done getting to know the (sometimes drunk) people in the city, it’s time to do some actual tourism. What’s the point of traveling, otherwise? So, like we said:
3. Do Some Actual Tourism
You won’t learn Spanish abroad just inside of four walls. You’ll be visiting a foreign city with tons of attractions that are worth visiting. You might not have arrived under typical tourist circumstances, and you might have some school duties, but that won’t stop you.
The best way to start is to just get on the city tour bus, that takes you through the main landmarks, letting you get off and on at any point with a one-day pass. In a few short hours, you have a panoramic (but blurry) vision of the entire city.
You can also go to any tourism agency (they’re everywhere) and ask for advice. The people in the spot you’re staying at will also point you in the right direction. They might even point out some more underground spots that agencies don’t consider.
Learning a language, at its core, means ingesting a new culture. And tourism helps immensely with that. Besides being great fun. One great practice is to take one day off a week and go exploring. By foot, by public transport, by bicycle. Aim for landmarks, but stop in the little colorful spots you see along the way. Stop and talk to people. Everything and everyone have a story to tell.
These simple and effective tips will help you immensely to survive living in another country, speaking a different language, for many, many months. If you put these to use on your trip, you’ll vastly improve your Spanish as well as your cultural diversity.