I’ve been an avid learner of languages for as far back as I can remember. Thanks to Dora the Explorer I’ve had a great love of Spanish since I was little, but I didn’t take learning Spanish seriously until I was 15 and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.
Being able to communicate with people has benefitted my travels (obvio) but has opened up new relationships and love for different countries that I wouldn’t have had without learning the language.
¿Soy una experta?
¡Completemente no, por nada!
But I do believe everyone has the ability to learn a new language. So I put together a few tips on learning Spanish or any language you fancy that have helped me a lot and have genuinely improved my Spanish skills.
1. Get speaking
This can be anything from full blown sentences to repeating the words despacito or piña over and over again because they might be the only words you know. Regardless of the level of your knowledge of a language, constantly speaking allows you to make improvements in pronunciation and to speed up your ability to remember the meaning of certain words because through constant repetition your memory will improve.
Looking back at it, I feel so bad for the people who I met at the beginning of my year abroad because of all my ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ which all came from a mix of nervousness and a lack of belief in my own language skills. The reality is, you’re gonna fall on your face a few times, but that’s how you get better!
2. Make mistakes!!!
I can’t emphasise this enough!! You’re gonna make an absolute tit out of yourself, but that’s perfectly okay. It’s just like when I stood in front of a classroom full of people and I said me pongo mantequilla en mi cara antes de salir. No matter how many times I’ve said this story it still makes me laugh because I said it with such pride and confidence in front of my whole classroom but I had no idea why it was so funny.
What I wanted to say was: I put on makeup before going out.
What I actually said was: I put butter on my face before I go out.
It was that day that I learned maquillaje means makeup and mantequilla means butter.
Moral of the story: don’t put butter on your face before going out!
Hahaha no but seriously, you’re gonna muck up and make a fool out of yourself but it’s all part of the journey. Be confused then learn from it. Keep face palming, because clearly it means you’re doing something right.
3. Grammar is the backbone of every language
I know, I know this is an unpopular opinion because no one likes grammar. But think about it. Learning vocabulary only gets you so far. You can learn all the names of dozens of fruits and vegetables but without grammar you won’t be able to articulate what you had for dinner last night or ask someone at a supermarket that you would like 100g of strawberries please.
Conjugation (changing verbs to suit the person who is speaking or who you’re talking about) sucks and we all do it incorrectly. But the mistakes shouldn’t put you off. Drawing verb tables is the oldest trick in the grammar book but as much as we all hate to admit it, they’re really beneficial.
Accents in basically every language that’s not English are important too. Just like how in English commas are important and can change the entire meaning of a sentence, the same goes with accents.
My favourite example in English is:
‘Let’s eat grandma’ vs ‘let’s eat, grandma’
And in Spanish:
‘¡Feliz año nuevo!’ vs ‘¡feliz ano nuevo’
Chances are you want to say the former to someone – happy new year – rather than the latter – happy new anus.
You can thank you me later 😉
The way I look at it is the better your grammar, the better you will get at expressing yourself in another language. And if you’re anything like me who loves to talk as much as physically possible, this is motivation enough to start cracking out those verb tables.
4. Use your resources!
Music, Netflix and YouTube are your best friends. Yes you heard that right.
Yes, I am one of those people who put off doing my Spanish work and
accidentally finished a season of La Casa de Papel instead. Why? Because it’s in Spanish and listening to them was helping my Spanish listening skills. Was it true? I don’t know, but I kept telling myself that over and over and eventually I convinced myself it was true.
But using resources like Netflix is really beneficial if you use them intentionally. By this I mean watching and enjoying a great series and taking notes of new vocab and any new phrases you hear. I know it sounds a bit tedious because you’ve come home from a long day of work or classes and you just want to relax. But it is really helpful because you’re making a note of new information and colloquialisms that you can use in later conversations with people. Or think of it this way, you can use it as a way of comparing words said in different Spanish speaking countries. Even if you’ve never met someone from Spain before, with Netflix you can hear the massive differences in the accents and phrases said by Spanish people and Mexican people even though you might live in a different country from them. But lets not forget the VAST array of adjectives like gilipolla (Spain) or pendejo (Mexico) that your teachers never told you, that you WILL hear when speaking to natives (trust me).
If only Netflix sponsored this post…
5. Carry a notebook with you EVERYWHERE
Inspiration comes from everywhere and I can assure you, you will not go a single day in a foreign country without learning a new word.
So write it down.
Take a note and keep it in a notepad or journal with the language you’re learning (Spanish in my case) and your native language (English for me) and remember all the new things you’re learning. It may seem a bit boring or a bit weird to take out a notebook and pen mid conversation with your mates but I can assure you that as time goes by you’ll be able to look back at your lists and see how much you’ve learned and how far you’ve come since your first day.
ALSO – don’t forget to actually look back at the notes you’ve made. I know it kinda goes without saying but that is definitely something I’m still working on, haha.
With all that being said and done, I know how much it sucks to think you’ve been improving a lot but then sit in a conversation with someone and have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
But be patient, keep going and take it all one day at a time.
Did you see what I did there? 😉
Abrazos y besos,