Want to know why learning to speak fluently in Spanish is so hard? Native Spanish speakers don’t always speak correctly! Spanish lessons aim to give you the knowledge and foundation to speak, read, write and listen in Spanish—but even the best Spanish lessons in Argentina (or in any country, for that matter) cannot perfect your spoken Spanish skills if you don’t practice outside of the classroom. Here are 8 tips on how to improve your spoken Spanish so you can start making some porteño friends.
Enroll in classes that take a Communicative Approach
Practice makes perfect. And as I briefly mentioned above, even the best Spanish lessons in Argentina can’t force you to practice outside of the classroom (which is where a lot of a student’s knowledge of Spanish is actually put into real-time effort). The simplest way to improve your spoken Spanish is to communicate out loud. That’s why it is important, when enrolling in classes, that you choose a school that takes a Communicative Approach. What is that? It is a method that puts an emphasis on orality, encouraging students to talk. That means you can first begin speaking in the classroom where you feel comfortable. You can also ask if the school has courses designed for extra oral language practice!
Focus on being conversationally fluent
Let grammar go out the window (for a minute) while you focus on speaking with locals. Didn’t think I’d say that, did you? Worrying about grammar can hinder your confidence while trying to speak with fluidity. You may say something like “they goes to the store,” but the person you’re speaking with will understand you. Another trick is: If you haven’t learned past tenses yet, go ahead and speak about your day in present tense. You will be getting practice in the level you are currently learning and you won’t need to worry about being grammatically correct if it’s ahead of your Spanish level knowledge!
How to converse with locals? In Buenos Aires, Argentina, there are tons of language-exchange nights and lots of porteños who will love that you are trying to speak Spanish (and may ask for some help in English, too!).
Realize you will have to speak differently in Spanish
You may have something super smart and witty to say…but you only know how to say it in English. You don’t yet have the Spanish vocab. You must realize that while you are learning Spanish, you will need to do “work-arounds” in your mind, i.e. forming your answer in English and then translating it into Spanish using the words and phrases you do know. The answer may sound completely different in Spanish. As a language learner, for example, that may mean you are simplifying all of your replies and leaving out some detail. Oh well! Work with the Spanish words you know and figure out how to maneuver a conversation with those.
Watch movies and listen to music
This is not only a great tip for learning Spanish in general, but it is especially useful for those looking to improve their spoken Spanish. Through movies and music, you will hear exactly how people talk naturally. Use that time to pick-up cool phrases, slang and rhythm.
If you aren’t making mistakes, you probably aren’t speaking enough. Trust me, I get it. I’m the type who wanted to speak perfectly after 2 weeks of Spanish lessons in Argentina, but that’s just not going to happen. Make mistakes and move on to the next step.
If you’re having a Spanish conversation with someone, and you find yourself stumbling on a certain tense or a certain word, that is the perfect opportunity to understand where you are struggling. Was it the perfect tense? Was it the topic of government? Jot it down. Did someone correct you after you finished your thought? Make a mental note and practice it later.
Learn conversational connectors
I wish someone had taught me this tip while I was a Spanish learner! While I was formulating a response in my head, I would be dead silent. So, imagine the time is takes to translate the Spanish question to English then formulating a response and translating that reply to Spanish. As a newbie, it can be a full 5-second pause. In a conversation, this is considered awkward. So, to be more conversationally fluent, add in connectors which will help bridge that space between your mouth and your brain. Equivalent to an English “um,” “well,” or “so.”
In Buenos Aires, they use a lot of: es que…, a ver…, mira…, em….
Try out exclamatory expressions
Similar to the tip above, if you are in the midst of a conversation and don’t know how to reply or your Spanish language juice is running dry, you can always end with a simple exclamatory remark to acknowledge the speaker without actually formulating a full response to what they said. Some very common examples from Buenos Aires (and beyond) include: Mira! De verdad? En serio? Que bueno! Que grande! Que lindo!
Whether it’s to communicate with colleagues or chat with locals during a trip abroad, these tips should help you take your Spanish knowledge from textbook to street smart. Mucha suerte.