What’s standing between you and speaking, thinking and dreaming in perfect Spanish?
Do you know what they are?
Or are you being held back by some mysterious obstacles?
Sometimes it’s hard to see where the next step lies.
Regardless of your current skill level, we’ve got the tips you need to get you on the right track to eventual fluency. But can 5 simple tips really help you improve your Spanish that much?
The short answer: Yes! Just remember that you won’t see a change overnight. You’ve got to stick with it and not get frustrated. Then just sit back and let these tips work their magic.
Improve Your Spanish by Applying These 5 Tops Tips to Your Daily Ritual
1. Incorporate Spanish into Your Leisure Time
The trick to squeezing more Spanish into your day is to take the things you’d usually do in English and switch them to Spanish. Just don’t take the concept too far—your colleagues and friends may not understand you if you suddenly insist on speaking Spanish to them.
This doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have to watch dubbed movies. Simply adding the Spanish subtitles to a movie you’re watching in English can give you extra Spanish practice. Or, of course, you can watch Spanish language movies instead for even more practice.
The same applies for any hobby you do regularly. If you spend all day listening to music, try to make at least half of your playlist Spanish. You could also try listening to Spanish radio or podcasts.
Spend a lot of time on your phone? Or staring at your computer screen? Why not switch your devices into Spanish to force you to go into Spanish mode several times a day. It doesn’t seem like much, but you can pick up new vocabulary this way and it also reminds you and your brain that Spanish is now part of your life!
Finally, switch your social media into Spanish. That means learning all about etiquetas (tags) on Facebook and putting me gusta instead of “like” on the things you approve of. You can also follow people who regularly post in Spanish, both on Facebook and other social networks such as Twitter.
Remember not to go overboard, it really wouldn’t be fair to delete all your English-speaking friends just because they don’t speak Spanish. If you get really excited about posting in Spanish, then create a separate Twitter account just for retweeting your favorite Spanish content. The idea is just to keep Spanish as present in your day as possible.
One more idea for learning Spanish in your leisure time is to use FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, YouTube clips, news broadcasts and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Choose videos that work with your learning style, skill level and personal interests, and FluentU will recommend more authentic Spanish content for you! You can find all kinds of hobbies and topics covered by authentic Spanish videos on the site. There’s a wide variety of video topics like soccer, Disney musicals, TV shows, music videos and even magical realism, as you can see here:
It’s a great way to figure out what kinds of Spanish language videos help you learn best.
Choose any video that strikes your fancy! You’ll see how many Spanish vocabulary words you can learn from it, and you can even look at the transcript of the dialogue and practice vocabulary before watching the video.
Once you’ve chosen your videos, you can improve your comprehension with the interactive subtitles. Hover over any word or phrase to see the translation, along with a helpful image.
You can even use awesome active learning tools like vocabulary lists and multimedia flashcards to study and reinforce the newly-learned language from your videos.
Plus, FluentU will allow you to keep track of all your progress along the way.
2. Try to Interact as Much as Possible with Spanish Speakers
If you’re living in a Spanish-speaking country, this means getting out there and using every opportunity to speak with the locals. It’s fine to have foreign friends too, but remember that there’s no use moving abroad to learn a new language if you don’t actually speak it!
For those who aren’t so lucky as to live in a Spanish-speaking country, try seeking out local Spanish speakers. How easy this is will depend largely on where you live, but you can try websites such as ConversationExchange to connect with people in your local area.
Once you do find someone to talk to, try not to annoy them! They’ll want to learn English (or perhaps another language that you speak fluently), so the relationship will be mutually beneficial. That means you guys should split things fairly when conversing: spend 50% of the time speaking in Spanish and 50% of the time speaking in English. They’re your link to the Spanish-speaking world, so make an extra effort to keep in contact with them and make your conversations worth their time.
As well as conversation exchange websites, you can also use online resources to find people to talk to. This might mean being a bit braver about who you talk to on Twitter or Facebook, but it could also mean that those social media or WhatsApp chats might even count as Spanish practice time.
3. Keep Good Notes
The key to remembering vocabulary is to record it in a way that’s useful to you. Even if you’re one of those lucky people who remembers things the first time they hear them, it’s probably a good idea to keep a written record. If nothing else, it’s a good way to keep track of your progress (see tip 4).
Experiment with writing your notes in different ways. This might mean your notes are a little messy at first, but it’ll be worth it once you hit gold with the note-taking style that suits you best.
Remember that you’ll want to be able to reference these notes later on, so make sure you can read your own handwriting. Oh, and remember where you stored that file on the computer.
There are several apps you can use to store new vocabulary. One very good one is the My Words application, which allows you to create your own dictionary. You can choose to record yourself (or someone else) saying the word or phrase you want to remember, attach an image, write the translation, whatever you like. You can also store dictionaries of more than one language if you’re learning several at once.
4. Don’t Set Unrealistic Goals
Don’t go crazy. The trick is to practice Spanish a little bit, often. Also, be realistic and know yourself. You’re not really going to watch every movie you ever see from now on in Spanish, so don’t feel bad about watching movies in English too. Everyone needs a break, right?
Have patience. A good way to do this is to set yourself achievable targets for fixed periods of time. This might be every two weeks, every month, whatever works for you. This works best if you set very specific goals (e.g. I will read one news article every day for a week) and keep track of your progress.
Apps like LangFolio are good for tracking your language progress, or you could go old-school and draw yourself a good old fashioned chart, or make targets on your calendar. You can also set up reminders on your phone to help you remember to stick to whatever goal you’re aiming for.
Recording yourself speaking every now and then is another really good way to track progress. Most phones have some sort of voice recorder, so record yourself talking for one minute on a subject of your choice. This could be anything, it’s up to you, but you might find it easier to pick a topic (e.g. what I did today, or your description of your surroundings) and stick to it.
Listening back to yourself in Spanish will help you notice any mistakes that you can correct for the future, and should give you a clear idea of your pronunciation. It may be a bit cringe-worthy at first, but it gets better!
Record yourself talking on the same topic every two weeks, every month, or every two months. You should be able to hear your progress.
5. Believe in Yourself
It sounds cheesy, but this is the thing that holds most people back from learning another language. It might mean you’re afraid to talk in front of a group, or it might mean that you just switch to English whenever you can’t find the Spanish word.
Combating this takes time, but you can help things along by keeping a record of times when your confidence failed you. Then look back on this and think about what you could do the next time around to feel more confident. You could also repeat the sentence that you didn’t say, so that hopefully next time you’ll be ready!
If you really feel your confidence is letting you down, trying downloading a confidence boosting app, such as I Can Be Free. Or tell yourself “I can speak Spanish” five times every morning when you look in the mirror. This works better if you say it in the target language: “Hablo español.“
You should also remember to speak up. Think of all the times when you don’t understand what someone said in your native tongue. This also happens in Spanish! So if someone says “¿Qué?” it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t understand you, maybe they just didn’t hear you.
Try not to compare yourself to others. Easier said than done, we know! Again, repeating positive mantras to yourself can help combat this.
Don’t beat yourself up about making mistakes, they’re part of the process and making them means you’re trying and you’re learning. Keeping a good record of these mistakes (tip 3) can really help consolidate this and show you how the mistakes you made lead to eventual progress.
Last but not least, don’t stress about getting the perfect accent. Think about famous foreigners who are famous and well loved for their accents. Do you like or understand Penelope Cruz any less because you can tell she’s not a native English speaker? What about Gael Garcia Bernal? Didn’t think so.
Remember that you’re aiming for communication. If you can communicate, you’re more than halfway there!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.