Maybe you’ve heard the rumors. Learning Spanish is “so easy” for native-English speakers, right? Just by being in the world, you’ve already picked up on various Spanish phrases and even different ways to say hello. But if you want to get beyond “hola,” you have more work to do. Here are some of the quick ways you can practice Spanish today.
1. Read the News
100 of the most common English words account for 50% of all written English. So reading is a great place to hone your vocabulary in any language. Reading the news gives you the added benefit of picking up on colloquialisms and pressing cultural, social, and economic issues of the day. Go for a Spanish-language paper of record, such as El Pais or El Mundo.
2. Label Your Things
Make labels in Spanish for the items you use around the house. When you get used to seeing books, walls, cooking implements, and items on your desk in Spanish, you’ll learn these words in no time.
3. Make Small Administrative Changes
Can you change your phone instructions into Spanish? Your default email settings? What about the dashboard on your car? Can you buy a planner that says the days, months and holidays in Spanish? If part of your life’s admin can take place in Spanish, you’ll get accustomed to seeing it in common scenarios.
4. Find Online Flashcards
Just like back in high school, flashcards are a fail-proof way to pick up on vocabulary. There are tons of online flashcard games you can practice with, like the ones at Digital Dialects or 123 Teach Me.
5. Order Children’s Books
Spanish children need to learn to read, just like the rest of us. Start with the basics by reading children's books. Not only will you discover fundamental words and messages, you'll also familiarize yourself with common Spanish folklore. For extra credit, try writing a translation of the book into English.
6. Cook A Spanish Recipe
A huge part of Spanish-speaking culture centers around the kitchen table. So why not do as a Spanish-speaker does, and use a recipe written in Spanish to make dinner, with the measurements and ingredients all in Spanish? Just make sure you have a frozen pizza in your freezer as a backup plan!
7. Turn Off the Subtitles
Watch Spanish-language movies and turn off the subtitles. It may be frustrating at first, but you’ll start to notice how much you can infer by inflection, tone of voice, and other contextual elements.
8. Take an Online Group Class
Discussion-based learning is one of the quickest ways to learn. Luckily, Fluent City just launched online group classes in Spanish, where you can get the benefits of practicing conversation, without the hassle of having to be on-site in class.
9. Read Poetry Out Loud
The Spanish language has a rich tradition of storytelling and poetry. Getting a book of poems and reading it out loud can be wonderful for learning (might we suggest the works of Pablo Neruda?). You’ll see surprising words that aren’t in regular textbooks, and you’ll get a feel for how melodic and harmonious Spanish can be. Often, you can even find poetry that has Spanish on one side and its English translation on the other side. Plus, poems are short, and can feel less intimidating than novels or short story collections.
10. Journal in Spanish
If you’re not quite ready to have a Spanish-speaking pen pal, a journal is a non-judgmental audience for your thoughts. Practice your vocab and verb tenses by describing your feelings and what you did that day.
11. Call a Friend
You probably have a friend or acquaintance who is a native Spanish speaker. Ask them to have a short phone conversation with you each week, wherein you can practice your Spanish, make mistakes, and get a feel for stumbling through a conversation in front of a friendly mentor.
12. Play the Hits
These days, most music apps can let you browse the music charts by country. In Spotify, you can look at the top 100 songs from Spain, Chile, Argentina, and a bunch of other Spanish-speaking countries. Look up the lyrics as you listen. You'll absorb new slang and vocabulary before you know it.
13. Take Online Quizzes
What is the Buzzfeed of Spanish-speakers (side note, maybe it’s Buzzfeed)? Take some fun online quizzes that might be nonsensical, but will help you put your reading comprehension into practice.
14. Schedule Spanish Time
Like anything in life, from meditation to exercise to journaling, if you set aside time to do it each day, you’ll develop a habit. Schedule 20 minutes in your morning to play a Spanish vocab game online, or practice talking out loud to yourself.
If you’re ready to jump into conversation-based Spanish classes taught by experts, check out the offerings from Fluent City.