In addition to attending Spanish classes every day, or even just a couple of times a week, there are plenty of other ways to supplement your learning and quite honestly, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not doing more to improve your Spanish skills outside of the classroom. I’m not just referring to doing some homework exercises every night – although that kind of repetition is a great way to really remember the material well – I’m talking about finding new and creative ways to soak up more of the language and quicken your learning as much as possible. Here’s a list of some ideas we think can give your learning a little boost:
PRACTICE YOUR SPANISH OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM: While this sounds incredibly obvious, it’s actually surprising how easy it is to slip back into comfortable conversations in your native language or seek out others that speak your language. If someone wants to speak to you in your native tongue, make an effort to try and continue the conversation in Spanish.
LIVE WITH LOCALS: This option is not only a great way to practice your Spanish with native speakers, but it’s a great way to immerse yourself further into the culture of wherever you may be. For instance, in Buenos Aires, one can learn a lot living with natives about local customs, foods, and regional words that are unique to the area. Even if they speak English, do your best to practice your Spanish with them whenever you can.
DATE A LOCAL: Depending on your relationship status, this could potentially be one of the best ways to really get to know the language and the culture quickly and “intimately.” Be adamant in asking your new squeeze to speak to you only in Spanish (even if they know English) so that you will be forced to learn in different situations, although you may eventually test their limits of patience. This can really help speed up your process to become (more) fluent, and at the end of the day you get to sleep with the teacher.
VOLUNTEER OR WORK: This is another one of those options that allow you to gain a lot more from an overall experience that you can’t necessarily get in a typical class setting. It’s always good to give back something to the community where you are living and working closely with the local people may not only be personally rewarding, but you may also find that you learn quite a bit of Spanish in the process.
WATCH MOVIES/LISTEN TO PODCASTS/READ THE PAPER: What better way to learn another language than by lounging around watching movies? There are many places one can find popular movies dubbed over in Spanish with sub-titles (or the reverse), which is a great way to kill some time if the weather is bad or you’re just wanting to relax. It’s also quite helpful to watch the news and read the paper so that you can keep current with the events going on around you and discuss it with others. If you have an iPod or smart phone, see what kind of podcasts in Spanish might be available to you as well.
KEEP A JOURNAL: Most times you will typically already have some homework to go home with, but if you have some extra time while you’re doing your work, try to write down a few things in Spanish that you did that day, or wanted to do, or wish you would have done as a way to keep practicing. In the end, looking back at your journal months from now, it might be interesting to see how your Spanish had progressed and remember what you were doing while you were living abroad.
LABEL ITEMS IN YOUR SURROUNDINGS: This may seem a bit silly or tedious, but you might also be surprised at how much this can help with useful vocabulary. Find some stickers or labels and place them on the things in your home in every room. On your desk, chair, sink, pots and pans, forks, oven, lamp, mirror, floor, wall, etc. Your house may look ridiculous, but you will soak up a lot more words a lot quicker this way. This would be something easy to do before leaving for your trip abroad as well.