12 Tips to Practice Spanish Conversation Like a Rock Star

Have you found a Spanish conversation partner in town?

Are you chatting with someone online from the comfort of your own home?

Or maybe you’re still a bit hesitant about talking to a native speaker and haven’t set something up yet (if that’s the case, do it! You’re ready! It could be the best decision of your year!).

Spanish conversation practice is one of the best and quickest ways to bump up your language skills from an intermediate to an advanced level, but few people really know how to get the most out of each session.

In my experience, for instance, there’s very little point in wasting lots of time on correcting grammar or clearing up doubts related to accuracy.

Conversation classes should focus on fluency and be as fun and light-hearted as possible. I found that once I learned how to relax and go with the flow, I fell naturally into the rhythm of the Spanish language.

I had a lot of fun during my conversation classes, mainly because I avoided the temptation to structure them too much. It’s easy to feel frustrated when you can’t communicate what you want to say and the clock continues to tick along happily.

Expecting too much from every single conversation class is perhaps one of the most common mistakes made by the majority of Spanish language learners.

So then what is the best way to approach your Spanish conversation practice?

To get the most out of conversation classes or exchanges and practice like a rock star—whether you’re a beginner or advanced speaker—here are 12 fantastic tips for you.

12 Tips to Practice Spanish Conversation Like a Rock Star

1. Practice at Least 2-3 Times Per Week.

spanish conversation practice

I found that conversation classes once a week really weren’t enough for me. The only real way to become fluent in Spanish is to speak as frequently as possible.

Twice a week is a really good start, but three times a week is ideal. You don’t have to have long sessions—even 30 minutes three times a week can make a real difference.

It’s also absolutely vital that you learn how to speak Spanish with a native speaker. It doesn’t matter if he or she has teaching experience or knows how to explain Spanish grammar to you. What’s important is that you hear natural speech from a native.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Consistency is the key to success. If you practice your speaking skills a few times a week, you’ll be consistently feeding your brain with Spanish vocabulary and grammar structures. The result will be a faster and improved mastery of the language.
  • Don’t overdo it. It’s fine to practice conversation for an hour if you’re feeling motivated, but avoid long study sessions of several hours if you really want to absorb what you’re learning. Microlearning has been proved to be very beneficial, especially for language learners. Take advantage of it!

2. Find a Variety of People to Talk With.

spanish conversation practice

I took conversation classes for about six months while living in Venezuela and for about two years while living in Argentina. I made sure that I had sessions organized with more than one person in both countries. I found the variety to be really important.

I learned street slang from some and formal speech and an extensive vocabulary from others. With some, we talked about our personal lives, with others, we gossiped and talked about cinema and art exhibitions.

Whether I’m in an interview, traveling across the rural plains of Latin America, chatting with friends on a Friday night after work or discussing the importance of arts and culture, I now have access to the appropriate vocabulary and can express my views through words that fit the social context. I wouldn’t be able to do this without having enjoyed such varied conversations with such different people during these conversation classes.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Find a Spanish language partner. Find a native Spanish person who’s learning your mother tongue and meet with them often to practice your conversation skills.

3. Expand Your Skills by Signing Up for Group Conversations.

I strongly recommend organizing a combination of both private conversation classes and group sessions. The key is to find a group of language learners who have a better level of Spanish than you. I found that by mixing with people who could speak better Spanish, I was able to learn new phrases and improve my own Spanish at a faster rate. One of the first group conversation classes I took was with language students who needed my help to converse. That didn’t help me at all.

Group sessions are also useful because they force you to speak Spanish while listening to a number of people talking at the same time. This prepares you for real-life social situations in Spanish, and there’s nothing better than sessions that equip you with skills you’ll actually end up using.

One unique option for finding a group conversation class is LingQ. This Spanish learning space is like a forum, language exchange, tutoring site and app all rolled into one. They offer a lot of uniquely convenient features that you won’t find elsewhere—like group conversation courses and one-on-one courses.

How to put this tip into practice:

4. Invest in a Little Pre-conversation Preparation.

spanish conversation practice

If your level of Spanish is anything between beginner to intermediate, it’s a good idea to read or watch something in Spanish before turning up to your conversation class—in order to have something to talk about.

When first starting out, the most difficult thing about a conversation class is having the vocabulary to be able to keep the dialogue moving. By watching or reading something specific beforehand, you’ll arrive to your conversation class with a bank of vocabulary to draw upon and a topic in mind.

I also used to send what I’d read or watched to my conversation buddy before attending the session. It noticeably helped when the other person knew what I’d seen or read. They were able to help me by directing the conversation whenever I found that I was unable to express myself in Spanish.

If you’re looking for a short clip to watch before some conversation practice, check out FluentU!

spanish conversation practice

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:

learn-spanish-with-videos

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.

Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

learn-spanish-with-interactive-captioned-videos

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

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Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

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The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the iOS or Android FluentU app.

But that’s not all!

FluentU also has a YouTube channel where you can get ready for your real-life Spanish conversations.

FluentU’s Spanish YouTube channel uses authentic material and transforms it into awesome language lessons.

For instance, you can polish your Mexican vocab with this video on Mexican slang:

Or learn tons of food-related words before you meet your language partner with this video on Spanish kitchen vocabulary:

FluentU Spanish is a great tool to warm up before any real convo in Spanish. Subscribe to the channel so you’re always ready to talk!

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Decide on one or two conversation topics. Before your conversation session, pick a couple of topics you want to talk about. Then look for related posts on the Spanish FluentU blog or related videos on the FluentU platform and get acquainted with the vocabulary and grammar rules connected to the topics in question.

5. Turn Note-taking into a Habit.

spanish conversation practice

Get into the habit of taking a small notebook to the conversation sessions with you. Write down all new words that crop up during the class and re-read your notes throughout the week. This will help you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary and employ it more often.

I still re-read my old notebooks every now and then, and I still come across words that I’d heard in conversation but very rarely employ when I speak. The learning never stops!

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Learn how to take language learning notes. Depending on the type of learner you are, taking notes might take different forms. Find the one that’s best for you!

6. Find the Balance Between Questions and Answers.

Take it in turns to be the one who asks the questions and the one who responds when participating in conversation practice. Some native speakers enjoy asking lots of questions and others are more content to sit back and have you guide the class.

The problem is that you need to ensure you get the chance to practice asking questions and answering them. You need to have the chance to improve both kinds of grammar constructions, so keep an eye out.

If you feel that you’re always asking questions, make it clear to your conversation buddy that you’d really benefit from responding to questions during the sessions too.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Learn how to ask questions. You want to make the most out of your conversation sessions, so learn how to build questions before actually asking them. That’ll save you precious time that can be used for listening to your native speaker answer your queries.
  • Practice answering questions in complete sentences and do it during your conversation classes, too. Giving answers in complete sentences will help you speak faster and more fluently in the long run, even if it seems harder at the beginning.

7. Record Your Conversations.

spanish conversation practice

If your conversation partner doesn’t object, one of the best things you can do to get the most out of your conversation classes is to record each session.

Once the class is through, you can listen to the conversation over and over again. I used to use these recordings to reinforce what I’d learned during the session and to correct my pronunciation.

Hearing myself in the recordings helped me notice the incorrect vowel tones I was making. I was able to hear how the natives spoke certain words and how I spoke them.

Recording these sessions was, without a doubt, the key to improving my Spanish accent. Few people recognize my British roots now, and I’ve only been speaking for the past six years.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Make the most out of your recordings. Don’t just listen to the recordings after your conversation sessions. Write down the words you mispronounced, make flashcards with the new words you learned from your partner, read about grammar constructions you got wrong… Work with the audio and transform it into an additional language lesson!

8. Practice Spanish Conversation Without a Partner.

spanish conversation practice

Yup, you’ve read that right. You can also practice Spanish conversation without a partner.

Maybe you don’t have enough free time to commit to weekly group conversations, or you live in a place where there aren’t any native Spanish speakers. Perhaps you still don’t feel confident enough to take the plunge and talk in your target language publicly.

No need to worry. As they say: No speaking partner? No problem!

Granted, conversations with a native speaker are going to help you much more than practicing on your own, but if for some reason you have to survive without a partner for now, there are several tricks and techniques you can use to keep improving your Spanish conversation skills.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Think in Spanish and talk to yourself. Make yourself think in Spanish as often as you can throughout the day. You don’t need to be doing anything special to decide to switch to Spanish. If you’re trying to remember what you need to get from the grocery store, do it in Spanish. Are you cooking? Tell yourself what you’re doing in Spanish. Going for a walk? Describe what you see in Spanish. Every opportunity to think or talk to yourself in Spanish is golden.
  • Pretend you’re a different person. By this I mean, talk in front of the mirror. Pretend you’re having a conversation with a stranger. Ask them how to get to the nearest museum, the price of gas or the latest discovery in science. Then, answer the question in Spanish in a way that they (you) can definitely understand.
  • Use tongue twisters. My youngest students love tongue twisters and all the fun they have when trying to repeat them faster and faster every time. Tongue twisters will help you conquer the most difficult sound combinations in Spanish. After that, normal conversations will be completely unchallenging for you.

9. Try Shadowing.

spanish conversation practice

Although shadowing could’ve been included in the previous tip, it’s important enough to give it its own section.

So, what’s language shadowing?

Simply put, language shadowing is a learning technique in which you listen to some audio in your target language and repeat it several times while trying to imitate the accent, pronunciation, rhythm and intonation of the native speaker.

Language shadowing doesn’t actually focus on understanding the language. In fact, at the beginning you’ll be shadowing words, phrases and sentences you’ll probably not understand. However, this language learning technique was created in a way that allows you to pick up vocabulary and grammar constructions as you go.

Since the main focus is on the repetition of native audio, you can use any native Spanish media you may have available. Shadowing is best used when learning by yourself, but if your language partner is OK with you turning into a Spanish-speaking parrot, bring him into your Spanish shadowing sessions!

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Choose a Spanish podcast on a topic you like. If you’re familiar with the topic in your native language and you enjoy it, it’ll be easier for you to start learning new words and grammar rules you can later use in real Spanish conversations.
  • Use FluentU’s Spanish videos. FluentU’s huge collection of short videos in Spanish will give you shadowing material for months on end. The fact that they’re short clips makes them the perfect material for short shadowing sessions.
  • Use native Spanish media. If you have Netflix or access to any Spanish TV show or program, you can practice Spanish language shadowing and pretend you’re a news reporter, your favorite Spanish actor or even the weatherman. Just have fun!
  • Read the translation and the transcript after your shadowing session. After finishing your shadowing session, you can listen to the audio a couple of times while you read the translation and the transcript/subtitles of the audio (if available). This will help you understand and consolidate what you’ve been repeating and memorizing during the session.

10. Learn the Right Vocabulary and Phrases.

Practice makes perfect, we all know that, but how can you practice Spanish conversation without learning some words first?

If your focus is on being conversational, you don’t have to learn the whole Spanish dictionary by heart before starting to talk, but choosing vocabulary smartly can save you lots of stress and will help you start working your way up to more challenging and meaningful conversations.

There are tons of resources on Spanish for beginners that can help you build up your Spanish vocabulary. Choose material and sources that are compatible with you and your way of learning, and try to always use your new vocab during your conversation practice sessions.

If you feel you don’t know how to start a session, there’s always the possibility of using small talk (especially at the beginning of the first couple of sessions until you and your language partner feel at ease).

Small talk can be related to practically anything. It’s just a way to fill silences with words.

If you don’t know where to start, here you have 10 useful conversation starters that’ll come in handy when those awkward silences take place:

¿Dónde naciste? (Where were you born?)

¿Has estado alguna vez en…? (Have you ever been to…?)

¿Vas mucho a la playa? (Do you go to the beach often?)

¿Qué te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre? (What do you like to do in your free time?)

¿Conoces a…? (Do you know…?)

¿Te gusta Almodóvar? (Do you like Almodóvar?)

¿Te gusta el verano? (Do you like summer?)

¿Qué clase de libros sueles leer? (What kind of books do you normally read?)

¿Tienes hermanos o hermanas? (Do you have any brothers or sisters?)

¿Tienes perro/gato? (Do you have a dog/cat?)

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Learn some Spanish small talk. Every situation is the perfect situation to practice your Spanish conversation skills, so arm yourself with small talk ammunition and you’ll always be ready to talk.
  • Learn Spanish core vocabulary. Core words are a language’s most often used words. Their so common because they can adapt to different contexts, i.e. they have different meanings and uses. By learning the most common Spanish words, you’ll be able to understand and say much more by using fewer words.
  • Learn Spanish cognates. Cognates are words that look identical or very similar in two or more languages. Additionally, they have the same meaning across those languages, so they’re basically words you’ll be able to learn in the blink of an eye. Adding Spanish cognates to your word bank is one of the easiest ways to improve your Spanish vocabulary, which will allow you to have more and better conversations with native Spanish speakers.

11. Take an Online Spanish Speaking Course.

spanish conversation practice

The internet is full of awesome opportunities to help us learn and practice Spanish.

When it comes to practicing conversation, not many learners take online speaking courses into consideration, and that’s a pity, actually.

Online speaking courses are a great way to improve this skill when you’re too busy to meet your language partner or you need an official certificate.

Besides, online speaking courses are normally flexible yet well-structured, and they’re the perfect kind of practice before you put yourself out there and start talking to native Spanish speakers.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Subscribe to FluentU. Go from complete beginner to fully conversational while you have fun. FluentU includes thousands of videos divided into three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), real-world content and native speakers with accents from all Spanish-speaking countries, among other amazing features.

12. Keep the Focus on Fluidity and Pronunciation.

Finally, to get the most out of the conversation sessions, it’s important to recognize that these classes are meant to improve fluidity and pronunciation.

They’re not designed for grammar practice or for correcting poorly constructed sentences. You must make sure that you stay focused during these sessions, and that you don’t waste valuable time asking your conversation buddy to help you conjugate in the past tense, for example.

How to put this tip into practice:

  • Make a note of grammar doubts in a notebook during the conversation classes. Later on, go back to your notes and find the answer to your grammar questions through another route. Your time with native speakers is golden, and it isn’t to be wasted on a series of grammar questions that you can work out for yourself at a later date.
  • Remember: Think less, speak more, ignore your mistakes and keep talking with a smile. Conversation classes are all about fluidity, so avoid stopping in the middle of every sentence to make corrections.

 

Just go with the flow, and you’ll be practicing your Spanish conversation like a rock star! Rock on!


Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.

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