Make Spanish part of your life at home, at work, and in your free time.
Are you ready to take your Spanish to the next level? Here are 5 top strategies to improve your linguistic skills.
But before we get to it, remember: Consistency is the key to success. Mastery requires time and practice – lots of it!
Tip #1: Train your ear – at the right level!
When we learn our native language, first we listen and then we try to mimic those sounds or words we hear. Why not doing the same to improve your Spanish level?
Many students have told me how frustrated they feel when they try to watch shows or videos online. They don’t feel as though they are improving at all.
Here’s the problem: They are trying to understand too much and too quickly.
In order to improve our listening skills, we need comprehensible input, that is, we should be able to understand at least 70% of the content.
Be selective and choose materials that are relevant and enjoyable for you. When listening, try to identify the key message and words. Keep calm and don’t expect to understand everything.
Why not check out the best Spanish series on Netflix? Here you have 10 amazing shows as a starting point. Watch with subtitles and then, when you feel more comfortable, watch without them.
Last year, I discovered LyricsTraining. This app aims to teach new words and improve your listening skills through the most popular songs. What I love about it: This app has got four different levels of difficulty that you can select. If you are a Spanish teacher, why not use this tool in your lessons? Your students will love it!
Tip #2: Do not be afraid to speak
One of the greatest challenges when learning a language is to actually speak it. Speaking tends to be the most feared of all linguistic competences. Speaking a foreign language needs consistency and practice. Here are a few tools to practice Spanish with other people.
Joining language exchange websites is by far the best strategy. Now, more than ever, we are communicating online. Language exchange sites, like iTalki or Conversation Exchange offer the opportunity to talk to natives and improve your language level for free. Aside for improving your Spanish, you will learn about culture and gain friends along the way.
What if your language partner is not available? How could you improve your speaking skills?
Have you ever heard yourself speaking in Spanish? No?
Recording yourself is one of the most powerful and effective strategies to improve your pronunciation. It will be a bit awkward at first, but it is the best and fastest way to improve your Spanish pronunciation. Find a video or a recording from a native speaker you want to sound like. Start with short sentences and record yourself reading the same words.
Tip #3: Immerse yourself in the culture
Another key strategy to improve your Spanish is to think just as they would. Culture is normally one of the aspects that is left out when learning a foreign language. In No Panic Spanish, we consider culture as one of the pillars to fully understand a language.
So, travel if you can. You don’t know how much Spanish you know until you need to communicate in real life. When abroad, don’t be tempted to talk in English to locals, even if you are in the most touristic area. Don’t expect them to speak your language. Make sure you learn the basics and give it a go. Overcoming this type of challenge will give you the greatest joy of all! You could start by ordering some food in a restaurant.
However, we understand that your vacation may have been cancelled in these unusual times. But there is always a silver lining! One way of travelling from the comfort of our own homes is through virtual reality technology and 360º videography.
HeadOut offers one of the best virtual tours. And it’s free! This website not only offers stunning views, but also recommends literary works and series that were produced in the city you are visiting! You can admire the splendour of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona, wander the Moorish streets of Granada and even get the best scenes at Santiago Bernabeu when visiting Madrid. We love HeadOut!
Tip #4: Taste the benefits of reading in Spanish
No Panic! We are not here to tell you to read Don Quixote. Before we were speaking about how you need to understand at least 70% of the listening content. In reading, that percentage is increased to 90%. Indeed, only 10% of the words we encounter in a text should be new to us.
The best strategy is to start with easy books that are appropriate for our level. Don’t be ashamed of reading children’s books or comics. The images they contain will help you understand even if you don’t know some of the words.
The collection Grandes Personajes is one of the best options for developing the reading competence in Spanish and learning more about Hispanic characters. The books use a not-too-formal language and contain many images and graphics that makes reading very pleasant. Discover the life of artists like Frida Kahlo or Salvador Dali or deep dive into the Spanish Civil War along with Lorca.
But let’s go beyond literature! Changing your phone to Spanish is also one of the top strategies to improve your level. But don’t worry, if you don’t feel ready yet to switch all your phone, try changing it on a few apps, like Facebook or Instagram. These apps tend to be very intuitive and by switching it to Spanish, you will absorb new vocabulary and key phrases.
When reading, look also for visual clues and cognates to help you when understanding a written text.
Tip #5: Vocabulary is your best friend
Retaining new vocabulary is one of the key aspects of learning a foreign language. Using lists or flashcards with visual clues to store new vocabulary helps you revise it frequently. Have you heard about Quizlet? This app makes simple learning tools that will help you study anything.
Another strategy to retain new words can be sticking post-it notes around your room. Try it for a week and you will be amazed at how you learnt key vocabulary effortlessly!
Also, when watching a film or listening to a song, don’t forget to note down the expressions you hear more often!
Remember: Learning Spanish requires effort, practice, and commitment. In No Panic Spanish we try to make the process more enjoyable and rewarding. These 5 strategies are designed to improve your all linguistic competences in the most authentic, effective way. As we know, exposure to the target language is key and, more importantly, fun!
¡Hasta la vista!