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7 Don’ts Of Learning Spanish

Before you study Spanish in Argentina, you may be practicing at home gearing up for your trip abroad in a Spanish speaking country.

You’ve been trying to learn Spanish. You memorize a few new phrases and then give up. You wonder, “why isn’t it sticking?”

Sound familiar? Most students tackling Spanish feel this way at some point.

Without the guidance of professional teachers, studying Spanish can have lots of starts and stops. Here are 7 things not to do while learning Spanish.

What Not To Do While Studying Spanish
1. Don’t skip out on setting goals
Setting goals aren’t just for the gym. Goal-setting is a great tool when it comes to studying Spanish. Do you want to become conversational with other Spanish speakers? Do you want to pass the DELE exam? Want to become fluent in the language? Fluency means different things to different people, so it’s important to narrow down the reason why you are studying Spanish so as to not get overwhelmed. Once you have narrowed down your goals, you’ll be extra focused when hitting the books.

DO: Write down macro and micro goals for your language learning and celebrate every time you reach one of them. An example of micro goals before arriving in Argentina for Spanish classes could be: (1) Memorize the alphabet, (2) Practice the Argentine slang and lunfardo—che! Dónde está el bondi?, (3) Know how to introduce myself in Spanish.

2. Don’t ignore phonetics
Want to sound like a native? You have to think about things like word stress, sentence intonation, rhythm, and more. Plus, each dialect has its own accent. But getting the hang of phonetics is especially important if you plan on traveling to a country to learn the native language of the people there. Speaking with the right accent can make you a more confident speaker and it makes it easier for a local to understand you.

DO: Identify the phonetic rules in your target language that give you the most trouble. For example, native English speakers learning Spanish typically have the most trouble with the letter “r.”  You can find the pronunciation of any word on Forvo. For studying Spanish in Argentina, try watching Argentine films such as The Motorcycle Diaries, Los Secretos de Sus Ojos, and Relatos Salvajes.

3. Don’t focus on irrelevant vocabulary
Many at-home programs toss around a mixture of vocabulary, verbs, and phrases that may have nothing to do with your life or your plans abroad. So be sure to focus on words that are specific to you. Not only will you quickly reach a conversational level that is relevant to your life but the vocab will also become easier to remember.

DO: Start studying a language by writing about yourself (hobbies, travel plans, family, etc) and build your language knowledge from there, choosing complementary words.

4. Don’t miss out on language immersion
Growth is inevitable when you fully immerse yourself in a new country, a new culture and a new language. The deep mental involvement challenges the brain in unique ways while building confidence in the language and lending various learning opportunities and practice with native speakers.

DO: Check out Expanish Spanish School’s Spanish courses in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the complete immersion package. With classes available for all levels taught by native Spanish speakers and free activities every week for students, it’s a fun way to surround yourself with Spanish and quickly reach your language goals.

While You Study Spanish in Argentina
5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
You may have the written accuracy of a language prodigy but speaking in real-time with natives is where growth happens. So get ready for some mistakes. If you have ever confused the Spanish word for “embarrassed” and said estoy embarazada (meaning “I’m pregnant”) instead of the correct phrase tengo verguenza, the conversational mishap would leave you….well, embarrassed. I bet you anything you’ll never forget the correct phrase again. And you know what? That’s great! Most Spanish speakers will laugh it off and help you learn to maneuver correctly in their language.

DO: Approach each conversation as a learning opportunity and not as a test.

6. Don’t speak English
Did you fly to another country to speak in your native language? Or did you come to learn? I think you came to learn. Don’t fall into the English trap while conversing with friends or asking for directions in tourist areas. And when you have some downtime after a long day of sightseeing? Don’t succumb to your favorite homeland TV show. Take that opportunity to dive headfirst into the culture. For example, if you are living with a homestay family, have a look at primetime television shows in Argentina. Or read the local newspaper. Or listen to the national radio. You get the idea.

DO: Tell any locals you meet that you are practicing your Spanish skills. Not only should they be more inclined to have a back-and-forth with you, but it may also dwindle their urge for them to practice English with you. This is your time to shine. Indulge yourself.

7. Don’t lose faith
Don’t get down on yourself when you haven’t gone from complete beginner to fluent in a few months. Studying Spanish takes calculated steps, dedication and lots of help from trusted teachers, classmates and Spanish-learning friends. Embracing every milestone, every newfound word, every successful lesson makes keeping the faith a little bit easier.

DO: Return to step 1 of this list if you need to re-adjust your goals.