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10 ways to improve your Spanish speaking

16 Jun 2013
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A must read!!

  • Do your homework. Bring questions to the class. We do know you have a busy week but we encourage you to do homework every week as it is the only way you are in contact with Spanish, it takes time to speak a language! You could do all the ‘tarea’ set for the next class, more or some, it really depends on you. Being able to do your homework is part of the course. I don’t have to tell you, it also helps you improve: you need more exposure to Spanish than an hour and a half a week, ideally.
    At first doing your homework takes a long time, as you may have to check the dictionary all the time but the more you do, the more familiar it is for you. Most of the homework implies writing activities but those are helping progressively building  up your Spanish. In following levels like Beginners 3 or Pre-Intermadiate courses you will be ask to share your opinion on the topic read at home.
  • Use words you know! asking for the translation of certain words to say what you want to say in Spanish, may not always work. As you know, one word in Spanish is not always translated to one word in English and the native speaker may not understand the meaning anyway. If you find a word in the dictionary for all the things you want to say in the class, how many do you remember at the end of the class?
    Our classes are planned so you can recycle the vocabulary, grammar and expressions: recycling the vocabulary means to able to use it again and again so it helps you remember it and eventually you will produce it – you will say it yourself rather than only know what it means.
    How frustrating is it to know you know the phrases you want to use but being unable to say them at the time you what? Practise makes them available to you the same way you have them ready when you want to say something in your language.
    Little by little, your vocabulary will enlarge. We know it is hard especially in the Beginners’ levels but learning meaningfully is better than trying to memorise isolated words, I don’t know about you… but it is hard for me to remember things in a list! Have a look at the use of our verb flashcards here.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be shy, you are responsible for your improvement. Your time to speak is in the class!! so make the most of it. Do not worry if you make mistakes, you are all in the same level and learning so it is likely your mistake is everybody’s mistake. Speak to your partners in Spanish too. The others will think the best of you and will be thankful to have the chance to speak with someone else but the teacher. Making mistakes helps the teacher be aware what you are thinking or where your weak points are. It is important  your teacher knows in order to prepare material to practise and also important for you to know as you can eventually be able to change it.
  • Text your teacher in Spanish, write comments on our Facebook in Spanish. Get together and have a coffee with your classmates.  As silly as it may seems, it is another chance to practise and especially texting and Facebook, I would probably say you can do that in 10 minutes or less. Don’t worry, we won’t make comments on Facebook about your mistakes!! I love to receive texts and emails in Spanish.
  • Watch short videos (5 mins). You don’t have to watch a whole movie to practise. YouTube videos are a good resource and they are free! I do agree, it could be frustrating to find something when you don’t know what you are looking for and there are thousands available. We have suggestions on our website for different levels. Check Classes Beginners, Classes Pre-Intermediate and Classes Intermediate. You will also find some help on how to use these videos. Please send us your feedback on an email or through commenting on the website.
  • Listen to music. If you like to play music in your car or listen to music when exercising, why don’t you have some music in Spanish. The idea is to pick up some words of it, and also have fun. These are some names to you can look up…
    Julieta Venegas – Amor y Sal (find her in itunes) mexicana
    Juanes – Mi sangre (find him in itunes) colombiano
    Bebe (find her in itunes) española
    Luis Miguel (find him in itunes) mexicano
    Mercedes Sosa (find her in itunes) argentina
  • Pronunciation and intonation are one of the keys to improve your speaking. The Spanish language has different sounds than English and mastering takes time and practice. Practice makes perfect!! Pick up the new sounds in the classes. Notice the intonation and liking of words in a sentence. You will soon start to do it on your own. Read 2-3 sentences a day and try to get the right pronunciation and the linking… /Nueva Zealanda/ tiene/ dos islas./ Yo vivo/ en la isla/ del sur/ en una/ ciudad/ llamada Christchurch./ The ‘/’ mark where the pauses should be.
  • Don’t give up, you know more than you think. The first thing we do in class is generally learn a new topic or grammar point, then you will have the chance to practise it and talk about it several times. The grammar content is seen again and again during your level and the next levels up. You don’t have to know everything by heart to move on to the next level. In the next level up you will have more chances to practise the old content and the new. If you wait to know it all to pass to the next level, you are missing the opportunity of talking and being correct in class. It is harder to study a language on your own when your purpose is to use it to communicate when travelling, let’s say.
    If you do really have problems, your teachers will talk about the different options available if you are truly struggling to make progress. 99% of our students move levels.
  • Try not to translate every word all the time. Often a word has a different meaning depending on the context.  Make notes of when to use certain verbs, for example. We use the verb ‘estar’ to talk about location, like in ‘Marco y Marta están en casa’. This is what you learn in the Beginners’ levels, you will then learn to use it in other contexts, for example ‘Estoy cansada, tengo mucho trabajo’ (you are using ‘estar’ to talk about your feelings).
    You are not coming to learn how to translate but how to speak. Translation is more difficult than what you think. It is not a one to one relationship and in my experience doesn’t help you to move forward. Of course, it is harder this way but it is a proven successful way to learn.
  • Learn words in association to other words. Do not learn words from a list!! Always have examples of those new words you learnt especially the verbs. It helps you broaden your vocabulary and remember the new words all at the same time. When I say “vocabulary’ I mean not only one word but chunks like ‘ir al teatro’, ‘cenar con amigos’, ‘trabajar en una oficina’ learning those chunks is easier than learning ‘ir’, ‘cenar’ and ‘trabajar’, don’t you think? The context gives you more information to make up what the main word means in case of doubt.

Image from Alberto Ruggieri.

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