If you’re wondering how to improve your Spanish, you’re not alone!
Many of us attend Spanish classes once or twice a week thinking that, if we participate and do our homework religiously, we’ll make fast progress.
The truth is that, if we really want to progress significantly, we need to incorporate Spanish into our everyday lives.
“Sure” you say, “but I … [insert excuse].”
…don’t have any time
No hay problema! There are lots of ways to get in your Spanish practice that don’t require extra time. You just need to slightly modify the activities you’re already doing.
…will be bored
Practicing a language can be really fun (and even inspiring), you just need to choose the things that are fun for you!
…don’t know any Spanish speakers
Okay, but add “yet” to the end of that sentence, my friend. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language on the planet and I’m 99% sure you’ve got at least a few Spanish speakers (or aspiring ones) in your network of friends, family and local community.
Everyone on board?
Consider this: Why do you want to learn Spanish? What motivates and inspires you? Are you an introvert or extrovert? What are your hobbies and interests?
The answers to these questions will provide valuable clues on how you can accelerate your Spanish language learning beyond the classroom and stick with it.
Remember, everyone is different. You’re the best judge of what will (and won’t!) work for you.
Now let’s get you inspired!
Review some new ideas below and, most importantly, commit to taking the first step today (seriously!). As Mark Twain once said…
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
How to Improve Your Spanish: 10 Inspired Ideas
1. Boost your Spanish with Games on the Go
Do you love playing games on your phone or computer? Is your first instinct upon waking up to check if your opponents have played their turn? Do you try to squeeze in a game (or 5) whenever you have a free moment in your day?
Great! Let’s take that addiction and use it for good.
Check out one of these language games (in Spanish). With different levels, games and activities, you’ll get your fix. And you’ll be improving your Spanish in the process!
DuoLingo is all about gamified language learning. You earn points, buy health potions for harder levels, advance through levels and check our your friends’ progress.
LingoArcade comes with a huge library of language learning materials and resources, all of which are integrated into its four different game modes.
Not a gamer but love videos and learning in a fun way? Try FluentU!
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
2. Befriend a Native Spanish Speaker
A great way to improve your Spanish is to hang out with Spanish-speaking friends. You can talk about the same typical friend things, but all in Spanish!
You might already know a Spanish speaker. In that case, what are you waiting for?
- Ask them out for lunch or happy hour (you’re already going, right?).
- Talk about common interests and ask lots of questions in Spanish.
- Set up regular meeting times.
- Ask them to correct you if you make a mistake.
- In between hangout sessions, text them in Spanish.
If you don’t know anyone, think about the friends you currently have. How did you meet them? Through a mutual friend? At a class? Online?
Still stumped? Here are a few ideas for meeting a new Spanish friend:
- Ask friends and family if they know any Spanish speakers. You’re bound to have a connection. Invite them to hang out and, if it’s a match, ask them to meet regularly.
- Look on Craigslist for language exchange partners. They’ll help you with your Spanish and you’ll help them with their English. Be sure to meet them in a public place until you get to know them.
- Go to places Spanish speakers are likely to go. For example, you’re bound to meet lots of native Spanish speakers at salsa dancing classes and events. Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet a hottie (see #8 below).
3. Dine Out in Spanish
If you love going out to eat (and tend to go out often), why not practice some Spanish while you’re at it?
Start by looking online for restaurants serving Mexican, Spanish or Central/South American food. The authentic places are likely to have Spanish-speaking owners and staff.
Commit to speaking Spanish for the entire meal. Go with another Spanish speaker (native or aspiring) or go alone and chat up the staff.
Ask for the Spanish version of the menu, if they have it. ¿Puedo ver la carta en Español? (Can I see the menu in Spanish?) Don’t know what something is? Just ask the waiter in Spanish… “¿Qué es esto?” (What is this?) or “¿Qué me recomienda?” (What do you recommend?).
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of a good margarita to get you talking.
4. Host a Weekly Spanish-only Dinner or Game Night
Do you love getting together with friends? Do you enjoy having regular meals or game nights? If so, how about doing the whole thing in Spanish?
Pick a theme or a Spanish-speaking country. Have each guest bring a dish or drink to match the theme. Ideas: caliente (hot), verde (green), Cubano (Cuban). Feeling lazy? There’s always Mexican take-out.
Play a game. There are tons of awesome games out there and most of the standard rules can be found in Spanish! To start, pick a familiar game or one with simple rules, like Scrabble, Manzanas con Manzanas (Apples to Apples) and Bananagrams.
For a super fun party game that’s a great way to kick things off (and can be downloaded as a phone app) why not try Tabú (Spanish Taboo)?
5. Volunteer with Spanish Speakers
Volunteering is a great way to meet Spanish speakers and do something good for the world. Find a cause you care about and get ready to feel truly inspired.
Be sure to pick an organization that’s staffed by Spanish speakers and/or works with the Spanish-speaking community. A few possible ideas: helping a non-profit Latino theater group, advocating for migrant laborers or mentoring a Spanish-speaking child.
Check out VolunteerMatch or Idealist to see what’s available near you or abroad.
Be sure to use Spanish as much as you’re able to. Volunteer for tasks that provide opportunities for you to read, write, listen and speak in Spanish.
You never know who you might meet. And, if you’re lucky, you might even meet a new friend or ten while you’re at it.
6. Attend a Meet-Up in Spanish
A classic way to improve your Spanish is to join a MeetUp language group that connects native Spanish speakers with Spanish learners like yourself. It’s a great way to practice and grow your Spanish friend circle.
However, have you considered pursuing your normal hobbies or sports in Spanish? Using MeetUp to pursue your interests in Spanish could be a great way to stay engaged and squeeze Spanish into something you’re already doing.
A quick search in LA brings up an array of clubs, dancing groups and even a Toastmasters group, all in Spanish! Don’t see what you’re looking for? Start your own group!
7. Take an Exotic Trip (or Move!) to Spain or Latin America
The absolute best way to learn Spanish is to live, eat and breathe it every moment of the day.
The best way to do this?
Travel to a country where everyone speaks Spanish! Not only will you get to speak in Spanish, but you’ll be reading, listening and even writing in Spanish nonstop. There’s nothing like going abroad to accelerate your Spanish learning.
Are you planning an exotic trip, vacation, gap year or honeymoon? Let’s take that awesome getaway and Spanish-ize it.
If you’re thinking Hawaii, why not bask on the beaches of Belize or Costa Rica instead?
According to The New York Times, three of the top 52 places to go in 2015 are Spanish-speaking countries!
Ditch the hotel room and stay with locals by checking out Airbnb or CouchSurfing.
You might not be able to pack your bags today, but give this one serious consideration—especially if you’re already planning to take a trip.
8. Date a Spanish Speaker
So far we’ve talked about making friends with other Spanish speakers. Friends are great but…let’s spice things up a bit.
If you’re single and “on the market,” why not date a native Spanish speaker? It’s a great way to immerse yourself in Spanish language and culture. If you’re someone who likes to spend a lot of time with their significant other, all the better! With access to a Spanish speaker for hours on end and all of those long and deep conversations, you’ll be learning and practicing new words and phrases all the time.
Where to meet this special someone? Here are some ideas:
- Search for Spanish speakers at online dating sites like Match.com.
- Your Spanish speaking friends (see #2, #5 and #6 above) might know an eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Ask them to hook you up. Or perhaps you like your Spanish-speaking friend, in which case you can ask them to hook up with you.
- Find love (or like) on your next holiday. If you go somewhere in a Spanish-speaking country, the odds are in your favor. That someone special could be anywhere…the bar, your hostel or even the person working at your morning coffee shop.
For a few pointers on what to say before your first date, check out this awesome post on romantic Spanish phrases.
9. Devour a Book…in Spanish
Do you love to read? Are you part of a book club (or three)? Have you ever stayed up all night because you couldn’t put a book down?
Reading books in Spanish might just be the extra language boost for you’re looking for. Here are a few options to get you started:
- If you’re on the more advanced end, you could start with some Latin American or Spanish novels.
- Beginner? How about some basics to build up your level?
10. Host Native Spanish-speaking Visitors
If you love people and other cultures, this might be for you! Invite Spanish speakers to stay in your home. They get a place to stay for a few days, weeks or even a year and you get to practice your Spanish. Imagine all of the friends you can make from around the world, all without leaving home!
For fun, variety and a smaller time commitment, CouchSurfing is the way to go.
Want to go all in? Host an exchange student for a few months or even a year. If you’re in the US, you can get more information on exchange student programs here.
Don’t forget what Mark Twain said, okay? (Reminder: To be successful, you need to get started.)
Let’s get out there and start Spanishizing our lives!