6 Fun and Efficient Ways to Learn Spanish in Your Car
Language isn’t like riding a bike. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
That’s why it’s important to take advantage of every spare minute and get creative on how to keep practicing your Spanish skills, even during the busiest times in your life.
You’ve already learned about other ways to practice Spanish regularly. Now it’s time to bring another daily dose of learning to your life – in the car!
- 1. Tune in to Spanish radio stations
- 2. Order your language course to go
- 3. Bring your favorite Spanish music with you
- 4. Make it story time with audiobooks and podcasts
- 5. Play word games
- 6. Have someone quiz your Spanish in the car
So, why should you focus on studying in your car?
Most of us spend a lot of time (probably far too much time!) in the car. Nothing’s more annoying than twiddling your thumbs in bumper-to-bumper traffic or getting caught at all those red lights with nothing interesting to occupy your brain.
Why not turn that frustrating down time into your advantage by learning Spanish in the car? Fill in those boring minutes where you just stare at traffic lights and listen to endless radio commercials.
Here are five great tips to try out on your next road trip or quick drive to the supermarket:
1. Tune in to Spanish radio stations
Love Spanish language music? Then you’re off to a great start! All across the country, there are Spanish language radio stations. Of course, the exact channels change depending on your region, but they’re out there. There are music channels and Spanish talk radio—choose the one that suits your interests and your Spanish level best.
Spanish music stations are like any other music stations, just featuring artists that sing in a different language. Now there’s a shocker! Some slower songs will be perfect for catching the actual words and vocabulary. Faster-paced songs, though harder to understand, may keep you from falling asleep at the wheel.
If you hear a song while driving that you like and is new to you, try remembering a few lines or catching the name of the artist. Later, when you’re at home, you can look up the lyrics to the song (maybe with a dictionary in hand), to get a better grasp on the meaning of the song. With this method, you’ll work on both your comprehension and reading skills.
The important thing to remember when listening to Spanish music stations is that every little bit of Spanish helps. This means the commercials, too. Although ads for toothpaste or monthly car payments can tempt you to change the channel, resist the urge and remember: you’re there for the language exposure. View pesky commercial commentary as a way to focus more thoroughly on sentence structure and pronunciation, two aspects of language that may become the most skewed in songs.
Spanish talk radio is another good choice for learning Spanish in the car. Talk radio is a bit more of a challenge than music stations, because you’ll have to keep up with the majority of what is being said in order to stay interested. Radio hosts are known for talking incredibly fast with really strong vocal personalities—after all, they need to keep the attention of their audience without the luxury of facial expressions or hand gestures. Because of this, talk radio is best for those with a bit more advanced level of Spanish. It’s great for testing out comprehension skills at a fast clip. Also, many times the commentators will pepper their speech with jokes and idioms, so it’s a great way to learn authentic speech (the opposite of those dull textbook dialogues).
2. Order your language course to go
You can order a cheeseburger to go while cruising around, and you can do the same with your language learning courses. Simply choose a course that has downloadable MP3 files which you can put on your device, CDs or offline apps. The latter is perhaps the most modern of the three options.
If you’re looking for CDs or digital downloads, Pimsleur is the option most recommended by language learners who spend solid amounts of time in their car. Each lesson lasts around 25-30 minutes, and these babies can get you from complete newbie status to fluency—with plenty of time and practice, of course. You’re constantly prompter to listen, repeat, answer and converse with the audio lessons, so it’s all highly interactive. Listen, speak and drive!
We’d tell you how much it costs, but Pimsleur often changes its pricing and offers sales on different packages of Spanish audio lessons. You can just follow this link to their site to see what's currently available.
You can also think outside the box and use a program like FluentU. This immersion program uses authentic Spanish videos to teach the language, like movie clips, news segments and music videos. And since it has an iOS and Android app, you can take it with you on your commute.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you watch videos while you drive. Instead, make sure autoplay is on (it’s on by default), turn your phone with its back to you so you don’t get distracted and focus on listening to the videos.
Every video you watch will get stored in your watched videos list, so when you get to your destination or whenever you sit down to study with your eyes, you can rewatch them to see how well you understood everything. After the video, take the follow-up comprehension quiz for additional review.
You can also flip this around: Watch a few videos before you leave home for your commute. Use FluentU’s interactive subtitles and transcripts to look up any word and become familiar with the content. Then, listen to the same videos as you drive to reinforce your learning through focused listening.
FluentU also has some audio recordings you can listen to in the car, which feature slow-paced vocabulary learning lessons.
3. Bring your favorite Spanish music with you
Here’s an easy one! Switch out your English music with Spanish music while driving. Chances are, you already listen to your favorite music in the car, whether you have a CD collection or a virtual library stored in your smartphone or MP3 player.
If you’ve never listened to any Spanish artists before, a quick search for already-created iTunes, Spotify or Soundcloud playlists should yield some good results. Pick your favorites and take them along with you for the ride.
Some of today’s most popular Spanish language artists that you might want to check out include: Enrique Iglesias, Romeo Santos, Shakira, Juan Luis Guerra, Alejandro Sanz, Gloria Estefan, David Bisbal, Melendi and Juanes. They’ve all got their own genres, styles and sounds, so this short list provides a great introduction to essential Spanish tunes.
4. Make it story time with audiobooks and podcasts
This one can be hard if you’re in the driver’s seat and need to pay attention to what you’re doing. If you’re the passenger, you can play a Spanish audiobook and really get lost in the narrated stories or lessons (as long as you’re not prone to getting car sick). As the driver, you don’t have that luxury.
Audiobooks in Spanish should be available at your local library, or you can find them for download or purchase through Amazon. If your Spanish skills are a bit shaky and you therefore prefer to be familiar with the book’s plot before diving in headfirst, try searching for one of your favorite English books that has been translated into Spanish.
Keep in mind that audiobooks and regular books will serve different purposes in your Spanish learning process. Regular books give you the chance to slow down and analyze the written word. You go at your own pace. Audiobooks, on the other hand, work well to practice and fine-tune your comprehension skills. An audiobook in Spanish may require fixed attention, since it’s easy to lose hold of the plot if you zone out for even a few moments. Remember, don’t focus so hard that you neglect your driving duties!
Similar to audiobooks, downloadable talk shows or podcasts are good to listen to in the car. A great thing about this option is that podcasts can be found on any subject, meaning you’re almost sure to find one that interests you. Take a look at these highly-recommended Spanish language podcasts for listening practice to get you started on the right foot.
5. Play word games
Any kind of word game will work, even one you invent yourself. Ever play a game in the car just to pass the time? That’s the idea here, but you’ll be substituting the usual English words with your Spanish vocabulary. One simple game is a twist on the Alphabet Game, in which you think of a Spanish word that begins with each letter of the alphabet. Better still, tailor those words to the vocabulary you’re currently learning. As thrilling as Cranium or Taboo? Maybe not, but it’s foolproof for the car!
You can also play a version of the license plate game. Try making Spanish phrases using words that start with each letter of the license plate in front of you. Just don’t focus so hard on the plates that you forget to watch the road.
All of these tips work if you’re alone in the car. If you have a passenger along with you, all the better! You can take your Spanish studies a step further by enlisting their help.
6. Have someone quiz your Spanish in the car
With a little planning ahead of time, you can arrange to bring along your class notes and have your passenger quiz you. This can be done with vocabulary lists, flashcards or even sentences out of the textbook. The passenger doesn’t need to know Spanish in order to be of help to you.
Of course, getting quizzed doesn’t sound incredibly appealing on a road trip. But if you’re trying to kill two birds with one stone — simultaneously driving somewhere and learning Spanish — then quizzes are the fastest way to check up on what you know and what you need to work on. Later, once you’re out of the car, you can really hone in on what you need to improve. Plus, your passenger may appreciate the distraction!
Lastly, if all else fails, pick up a hitchhiker and hope they’re a native Spanish speaker.
Kidding on that last one. Sort of.