If you’re trying to learn Spanish, taking some Spanish lessons is a great way to start. However, beyond the usual teacher-student-class dynamic, some added Spanish practice is highly necessary to move successfully down the road toward fluency. I started studying Spanish about ten years ago and am now fluent. Over the years, some of the most useful and effective experiences I’ve had practicing Spanish are:
Watching Spanish television and movies.
Hearing Spanish conversation is one of the best ways to improve your comprehension and increase your vocabulary. It’s easiest to start with very predictable shows and movies. The Spanish equivalent to soap operas, telenovelas, are actually very good to start out with if you can stomach all of the melodrama. The slow-moving storylines and repetition aid you as you attempt to understand what’s going on. Once you are comfortable, you can work your way up to sit-coms and even the news.
Try looking into some of these telenovelas to get started: I personally enjoyed Pasión Prohibida. The juicy storyline full of betrayal, young love and financial scandals caught me from the start. Betty la Fea is also a great classic telenovela that you can’t miss. You can also search for telenovelas based on the country where they are produced and thus practice hearing a specific accent or slang from that country.
Travelling to Spanish speaking countries.
This is hands-down the best way to practice your Spanish, especially if you’re shy. Once you don’t have any other choice but to understand and make yourself understood, you’ll be amazed at the progress you’ll make. Yes, you’ll make embarrassing mistakes. I’ve been the source of amusement for many a native Spanish-speaker, and have only made it worse by exclaiming that I’m “embarazada” or pregnant rather than embarrassed. In your travels, you’ll become an expert at asking for all necessities: food, the bathroom, a place to sleep, and for directions. Make an effort to have conversations that lead beyond these topics and you’ll take your Spanish to a whole new level. You can make the most of your travels by hiring a tour guide at sights of interest. While an English speaking tour guide might sound tempting, try to challenge yourself by selecting a Spanish speaking guide. You’ll move your interactions beyond the basic necessities and practice more verb tenses, vocabulary and challenging topics.
Corresponding with a Spanish speaking pen pal.
Make friends with a Spanish speaking native and write via email or go old school and send actual letters or postcards. This will take you beyond just reading in Spanish because you’ll be expected to respond and interact with what you’re reading in order to write back to your pen pal. You can practice as many topics as you can think of by asking and writing to your pen pal about politics, pop culture, studying, hobbies, etc. The best part is it requires a very low budget as you won’t even have to leave your home. Penpalparty.com is a website that helps pen pals connect. You can search based on language and country preferences. This healthy exchange will not only improve your language skills, but also open up a new friendship and teach you about another culture.