Warning:the following article is intended for intermediate Spanish learners, the activities we recommend could be frustrating for beginners.
A couple of months ago, I was talking to a friend who liked music very much, he always enjoyed going to concerts and listening to his favorite bands, he was always watching YouTube videos of music festivals, he was really passionate about music, the meaning of the songs he liked, the sounds of the instruments and everything a fan of music likes. Interestingly though, he didn’t know how to play a musical instrument. My friend and I lost touch for almost a year and when I saw him again he was playing guitar really good. He was not a pro or something like that, but he could play some of his favorite songs and was practicing new songs too.
When I asked my friend where he had learned to play the guitar, he said it was all thanks to YouTube, he had been searching for a teacher or an academy, but it was too expensive for him, so he decided to do it on his own, he turned to YouTube, read some documents he found on the internet and that is how he has been learning so far.
Music doesn’t have anything to do with Spanish, so you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this story. What I really want to highlight isthe independence my friend decided to haveon his guitar playing learning. I can tell you from my own experience (Learning English) that the secret to learn a language lies on your independent work, you definitely can have a teacher who coaches you on how to speak Spanish, you can buy all the courses you want, but if you don’t do independent work, you will never speak Spanish fluently.
What I mean by independent work is to live in a Spanish environment.Think for a second about the best language learners, children, when you take a child born and raised in the USA, but he goes and lives in Spain for a while, how does he end up speaking Spanish? How is his fluency? How is his accent?
If you really think about it, children, end up speaking Spanish really good and most of the time they end up getting Spanish native speaker accents. However, most of us don’t have opportunity to go and live in a Spanish speaking country for enough timeto get the Spanish fluency we would like to have, so what can you do?
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH A SPANISH ENVIRONMENT
Most of the people I know (me included) that know how to speak proficiently a second language have done the same thing, we haven’t gone and live in a different country to learn to speak another language, most of us haven’t gone to an academy and if we have, we end up dropping out because of the “lost time” feeling we get going to academies.
So what we do and what you have to do is to create an artificial Spanish environment that works for you. What do I mean by “artificial environment”? Well, let’s go back and think about children living in a country where they were not born, what things do they do? What things do they not do?
REMEMBER: THE KEY TO SPEAK SPANISH IS LISTENING
A child who moves from an English speaking country to a Spanish speaking one has to adapt to many different situations, when they want to watch some TV, they turn on the television and find out that their favorite TV shows are now in Spanish, what do they do? They just watch and listen. Of course, they don’t start to speak Spanish right away, but over time they do.
Children also have to go to school to find that all his little new classmates and teachers speak Spanish, what do they do? Do they get frustrated and give up school because they don’t understand a thing? No, they don’t, they have to keep going to school. These children now have to make new friends in Spanish. Do they speak Spanish right away? No, they don’t, but over time they eventually do.
When these children have homework they have to do it in Spanish, they do research in Spanish on the internet, do their homework and present it to the teacher in Spanish.
Imagine doing all these things in Spanish for months or even years, these activities make that the brain picks up the language automatically and children eventually end up speaking Spanish fluently.
Remember that the best language learners are children, so if you want to be a nice learner and eventually speak Spanish fluently, naturally and proficiently,you have to do what children do. So on your Spanish learning try to see yourself as a little kid who’s just learning to speak, do the same activities children do, but do them with things that are interesting to you. So if you like a specific TV show, I would recommend that you watch it in Spanishand if it’s very difficult for you, turn on the subtitles in Spanish so you can see the words and listen to the pronunciation of them.
Most of the time children’s TV shows have very clear and simple pronunciation, watching one of these shows is a good idea to improve your listening and understanding of the language.
Switch your smart-phone and your laptop to Spanish, this is going to make you see new words and you will be surrounding yourself with Spanish in your everyday life, but remember, focus on listening, this is the real key to learn any language. Try to think about your personal daily routine, what can you do so you can surround yourself with Spanish every day?If you can think about a daily thing that you can do to improve your Spanish listening, do it.
REPEAT WHAT YOU LISTEN
When we tell you to repeat, you are probably thinking about what people do when they go to academies, they usually find themselves repeating what the teacher wants them to repeat, so for example, the teacher could say something like: “Repitan después de mí: hola ”, and then the students would repeat and say: “hola”. This is not what we mean.
Don’t force yourself to speak, speaking will come when you are ready. What you really need to do is to repeat the things you listen to, watch the same episodes of your TV shows in Spanish over and over again,we promise the more you listen to a new phrase or sentence, the easier you will remember it and use it in the future.
Here’s a good idea: stories are a great way to learn Spanish,**especially when they are fun or interesting,so why don’t you go ahead and buy an audiobook in Spanish? If you buy an audiobook, you can repeat the story as many times as you want, you could even follow the reading form the book. In the future we will be posting some great listening material so you can listen to Spanish as many times as you want,**and that way you will be improving your vocabulary, your pronunciation, your fluency and your grammar and all of this automatically.
Finally, remember that the key to learn to speak Spanish is on listening, this is what the best learners (Children) of any language do all the time, they listen patiently and don’t force themselves to speak, it goes just naturally. Try to surround yourself with a Spanish environment in your everyday life and repeat what you listen many times,this way, you will be reinforcing your Spanish, learning deeply and eventually you will get the natural fluency to speak Spanish. Do these things independently every day, teachers or academies won’t make you speak Spanish, your brain will. Learn Spanish the natural way (like children) and you will get better results, you will save a lot of money and you will get to your goal of speaking Spanish.