Learn Spanish in Spain: Tips to learn Spanish faster from a Spanish newbie!

This is an article on how to learn Spanish in Spain (or another Spanish-speaking country). Those who live in a non-Spanish country won’t benefit as much by reading this article, but sure you could find some ways to implement these tips in your country.

With these tips I’d like to help the (future) students of AIP who struggle with Spanish, because – sharing is caring!

I’ve started learning Spanish 5 months ago. I mean, I’ve had basics from before, but 5 months ago I decided to properly dedicate myself to learning Spanish – and so far I’m quite content with the results. I’d love to help all of you out there who take classes and classes of language courses, but your tongue never unties.

Along the way, I discovered some tricks to complement my classes at AIP and start confidently speaking within no more than 6 weeks!

Listening: Learn to understand

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Firstly, you should learn to understand. It doesn’t make much sense to know how to say something if you can’t understand the reply. So what can help you improve your understanding level?

Listening random conversations on the street, reading advertisements, traffic signs, listen to Spanish music… But, above all – watching TV! Especially something light, like sit-coms.

MejorTorrent is the best website with all the movies and series dubbed in castellano. I’ve watched all the 6 seasons of The Big Bang Theory in castellano and just now I’m finishing the 5th season of Friends. Don’t worry about not understanding a lot (if anything at all), it’s not like you’ll miss out on someone revealing the point of life. Just keep going. After watching some seasons, you’ll realise that you actually understand what’s so funny.

If you hear a slang expression, pause the series, google the expression, for example: ni hablar en inglés. You’ll get a lot of results, but WordReference forum has the best quality of the results. You should learn at least the most common slang expressions, otherwise you won’t understand people outside of classroom!

As for some professional expressions, linguee.es is the best!

Speaking: Practice makes perfect – learn Spanish in Spain

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If you want to remember the vocabulary you’ve learned by watching sit-coms or other series or movies – you should speak. Practice indeed makes perfect! And the best way to practice a foreign language is to talk with the native speakers – go learn Spanish in Spain!

So how do you do it?

Avoid falling into a trap we all tend to fall into: Don’t socialise with English speakers! Don’t take the easy way out as soon as the class is done. Don’t let yourself be saved by bell! Go speak Spanish!

If possible, practice it one on one. Nowadays, informal language exchange meet ups are so easy to find. And AIP organises language exchange once a week in a pub near the school. So, this is what you should intend to do: you should speak in Spanish to a Spaniard, and a Spaniard should speak in English – and you should help and correct each other.

Hang out with Spaniards or Spanish speakers from other countries – and forbid them to use English. Only if something is hardly explainable, allow them to translate it for you. Don’t worry, during the first months you’ll probably be the most silent person in the Universe, but it’s normal, don’t give up. I myself am an extrovert and I found it very hard to be unable to contribute in a conversation.

Learn how to use phrases such as: Bueno, pues, a ver, vaya, venga, ojalá, creo que, vale, no me digas, genial, brutal, fatal… These are some of the expressions that you can say to gain more time while you put the words together in your head.

(I remember myself, listening to the conversation, wanting to jump in and say something – but when I finally put the words together in my head, the conversation has moved on to another topic and there’s no point in saying my comment. Don’t worry, just putting the words together in your head will speed up the process and soon enough you will be able to put them together fast enough to be a part of conversation.)

Writing: Keep an eye on your grammar

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Now, your Spanish friends and conversational partners are not professors, so they will probably let you speak and won’t correct all your mistakes as long as they understand what you want to say. Even if you ask them to do it, they probably forget to do so. They simply don’t have the teacher reflex. And you, you don’t want to sound like: “I going there because they has good food.”

That why you need classes. You need a teacher, someone who is educated to help you iron out your grammar mistakes.

However, if you want to improve your writing, try translating some of the basic things you usually say. For example, translating your Facebook statuses to Spanish is a good way to practice writing. Also if you have a blog, try translating at least parts of some posts. And then, give the translations to your teacher or friends to correct the mistakes! Having your writing corrected may help you become aware of the mistakes you make when speaking. Also, written Spanish can be tricky sometimes. For example, where do you put an accent in Spanish? Do you know the difference between por que, por qué, porque and porqué?

Also, let yourself make mistakes. If you don’t make them, nobody can correct them. The pieces will fall together, eventually. I remember the happiness when I used the “subjuntivo” tense the first time without thinking of it! What an amazing feeling!

And remember, once you break free and conquer a foreign language, it will become easier to learn new languages. After all, it’s not about learning a language, it’s about learning how to learn a language.

Nikolina Dodig,

AIP student and intern, 2013

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