I nearly called this how to practise your Spanish without too much (S)pain. Ho ho!
But seriously, many adult learners find that getting to grips with a new language is not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff.
Of course, there has to be a bit of grimy work there somewhere. For instance, when memorising irregular verbs. But if you want to stick at your language learning long-term, you’ve got to enjoy it. It’s no different to starting an exercise regime. Make it fun and sociable, and you’re much less likely to get fed up and chuck it all in.
You have an advantage compared to language learners of previous generations. It’s called the internet. So step #1 should be to make the web your language buddy and bookmark some sites you reckon could be useful. The online dictionary Spanishdict will conjugate verbs for you as well as give some pretty good examples of how new words can be used in a sentence. Sign up to get its ‘word of the day’ mails.
If you find grammar daunting, or just consider Spanish verb forms a bit of a turn-off, then I’m afraid you may come across a few web pages that could put you off foreign languages for life: beat a hasty retreat, should you land on them. Click here to see the kind of thing I mean. Actually, I quite like this sort of stuff myself. But not everyone is like me. Which is probably a good thing.
Here are my tried-and-tested-and-not-too-painful Spanish learning strategies:
Writing whatsapp messages. In Spanish, por supuesto. I do this quite a lot. Once you’re friendly with a Spanish speaker, you can have an authentic, live quick-fire ‘conversation’ with them. If you want to use some fancy grammar or vocabulary, do as I do and look things up on a tablet or other device just before you type your end of the chat. Get your phone set up for the Spanish language to benefit from some handy prompts as you write.
Writing emails. For lengthier, more considered writing, email’s the answer. Tell your Spanish-speaking acquaintance about what you’ve been up to this week. You can make it simple or, if you’ve time on your side and want to stretch yourself, be more elaborate. Either way, try to use at least one word or phrase that’s new to you.
Reading newspapers. Get clued up on world affairs and practise your Spanish reading at the same time. If you really want to multi-task, eat a bowl of cornflakes too. I like to look at El Universal, a Mexican paper. Because I’m over the age of 40 I do prefer to buy a ‘paper’ paper (if you know what I mean) and smell the ink, listen to the rustle of the pages…. but now I’m back in the UK I make do with the online version.
Reading Buzzfeed. If pop culture is more your thing, try Buzzfeed’s Spanish-language sites (for the Mexican one, click here). You don’t have to be an instagramming millennial to get some value out of Buzzfeed. The snappy format is perfect for picking up a lot of varied language in small doses, even if you’re not all that enamoured of the highly practical advice in 20 ideas para experimentar con el estilo gotico.
Language/conversation exchange. Make contact and meet up with a native Spanish speaker who wants to practise their English. There’s so much to talk about when you sit down with someone from a different culture. I find it works well if the other person’s English is much more advanced than my Spanish. Some nice café vibes make it work even better. Check out the Conversation Exchange website to get started.
Finally, some motivation for you. You might begin to ask yourself, “what’s the point?”. Unless I live in a Spanish-speaking country or am lucky enough to have multiple holidays each year, I’m not going to actually need and use Spanish very often, right?
Well, researchers have found that the process of language learning can boost your problem-solving skills. It puts the brain to work. Further up life’s road, it can even help to stave off Alzheimer’s.
For my part, I like to think of language learning as a pleasant intellectual challenge. More useful than doing the newspaper crossword, at any rate.