Learning Spanish Outside of Spanish Class

Dear John,

I know that when you come to live in Spain you want to learn Spanish and that you are planning on taking some languages classes (maybe at a language school?) to get ahead, but I want you to know that is not the only way to learn a language! In addition, I think it is important that you keep in mind that learning a language is like a roller coaster and living in a non-native language is hard—so just try to do your best and don’t get down on yourself.


We already talked about using Duolingo to learn a language, so here are some other tips! 

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1.) Do yoga or take a gym class in Spanish: When I first moved to Granada my mom and I found a small yoga studio with a teacher who spoke some English and started taking yoga classes with him. My mom is a seasoned stretcher and I quickly caught on, enjoying time with my mom and the mental clarity that yoga leaves me with (even if I fall asleep at the end). However, one outcome I did not expect, was the Spanish class. Whenever you are thrown into a ‘native’ situation you have to expect that everyone around you will speak in their own language. This is hard, yet beneficial because your brain has to work as hard as your body during the class, but you come out having learned things you don’t normally learn in normal Spanish class.


2.) Join a peña: If the gym or structured sports are not your thing, think about joining a peña for team sports. I have already talked about how I play soccer in Spain with a group of guys who are pretty fun. What I didn’t mention is that it is also a great language learning opportunity. Not only do I learn the terminology used for this sport in Spain, I also now have teammates who are comfortable correcting me when I say something wrong. This is incredibly motivating because I want to be able to communicate as well as possible, in all situations, not just academic ones.


3.) Hit up cultural courses: Like with the University in Granada, all around Spain you can find different cultural centers that offer such as Flamenco dancing, cooking, or art history. These courses will not only help you dive into specific cultural aspects that are interesting if you want to understand how Spain came to be, you will also learn specific terminology and have access to a different groups of people that you might never meet if you were only at Spanish school.

Bonus tip: If the course is something that mainly Spaniards sign up for it will be extra beneficial for your language learning.


4.) Participate in one-day or weekend workshops: There are so many short conferences offered through organisations like the University and local government offices that cover topics from political debate to entrepreneurship education that are available to you if you know where to look. Take advantage of a one or two-day workshop with a topic that is interesting to you and add on the bonus of practicing your Spanish as well. By choosing a short course you also don’t have to worry about over-committing to something you don’t like or overwhelming yourself with too much Spanish.


5.) Don’t be afraid to sign up for a longer-term course: Once you have given a shorter course a go (or there is a month long one that interests you), be open to taking the plunge and do a longer class. In a social entrepreneurship class I once did, I found myself looking up more information and researching more topics that in school. If it is something that interests you, then the curriculum will act more as a motivator than any ‘normal’ Spanish class would.


Image Source: Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

6.) Live with natives: We are going to dive into this topic a bit more in the coming weeks, but living with native speakers (whether is be a host family or sharing an apartment) can hugely benefit your language learning. I know it might be more comfortable to live in a student residence, alone, or with friends—for people of all backgrounds—but putting yourself out there to make a new ‘family’ while abroad can be amazing in more ways than one. And I would definitely put language skills at the top of that list. In fact, when I moved back to Spain to study my degree abroad, one of the first things I decided was to move out of my parents' and in with Spaniards. It makes a big difference!

What else are you doing to improve your language skills? Let us know!