Note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated to include more ideas!
It can seem hard to keep my Spanish skills up when I spend all day with Spanish 1 students, where I have to speak… super… slow… and… ee-NUN-see-ay-ted… Spaaaaaniiiiisssshhhh… ¿entiendes?
Have you ever spoken real Spanish to a native speaking student and had them be surprised that you *actually* speak Spanish? Not just that super slow enunciated Spanish they hear in Spanish 1 class?
I should back up and explain that Spanish is not my native language. If it were, then I wouldn’t be concerned about maintaining my skills. I also don’t have a Spanish-speaking husband I can go home to and speak Spanish with.
(Side note: If you know any single, attractive, Spanish-speaking men in the New York City area, feel free to send them my way…)
Now for 6 tips (updated from 4 tips!) to maintain your language skills:
To Spanish-speaking countries of course! Summer Break, Winter Break, February Break (if you have one), and Fall Break (if you have one) are all great times to go see a new place in the world or visit your favorite Spanish-speaking city (mine is Barcelona!) and practice your Spanish skills.
If you want someone else to do the planning for you, then go through a Tour Company – TourRadar.com, and Gate1travel.com are the first places I look for tours. Groupon also regularly has fabulous deals.
The down side to tour companies is that they are geared toward people who don’t speak the language, so you will spend 90% of your time speaking English.
If you want to spend as much time as possible speaking Spanish, then plan the trip yourself. You can stay in an AirBnB, a hotel or a hostel (you’ll make more friends in a hostel!) with people who will speak to you in Spanish, you can eat in restaurants where you can order in Spanish, and you can book experiences in the country in Spanish. It takes much more planning on your part, but it’ll be a better language workout for your brain.
2. Take Students Abroad
If you’re thinking “wow, I’d love to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, but I don’t have the money for that” then take students abroad.
You’ll go for FREE. I’m not kidding.
Spring Break is my favorite time of the year to take students abroad. It takes some planning and quite a bit of advertisement and recruitment of students, but you will go to the country (countries?!) of your choice for FREE.
I took students abroad twice through EFTours and I only have wonderful things to say about both experiences. I have a 4-part blog series on my Miss Señorita blog about everything you need to think about, plan for, and do in order to have a successful trip abroad with students.
3. Read Books in Spanish
If you ever see a woman in the New York City subway talking to herself in Spanish – it’s me and I’m reading my book quietly out loud to myself.
I like to hear the Spanish as I read it. Don’t judge.
You can get just about any bestselling book in Spanish.
I read the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish and IT WAS AMAZING!
In fact, if you haven’t read Harry Potter (in any language), then stop what you’re doing right now and go read Harry Potter!!!
I prefer to read books that were originally written in Spanish, so sometimes I google the bestselling books in Mexico and Spain. Or go to www.fnac.es and look through their book selections for bestseller ideas.
If you have a Kindle, then you can subscribe to Kindle Flash (for free!) and you’ll get an email in your inbox every day with deeply discounted Spanish books. The deals only last 24 hours. I’m talking $3.00 and under. Yes, please.
I have a library card (free!) and I take Kindle books out with my library card all the time – even in Spanish! I don’t even have to go to the library – it’s completely online. Check out your local library if you don’t have a membership yet!
4. Find Spanish Language Groups in Your Area
If you live in or near a city, you can probably find Spanish language groups on meetup.com that meet with some regularity and you can make new friends and also practice your Spanish.
Put in your zip code, how far you’re willing to travel, and if you choose the “Language & Culture” category, you’ll see what’s already going on around you.
And if there aren’t any or many options, then start your own meet up group!
Okay, honestly, I’ve never done this because the idea of sitting down with strangers and chatting in Spanish gives me heart palpitations, but in my dreams where I’m more outgoing, I totally do this.
5. Watch Spanish TV
Netflix is an obvious choice for watching Spanish TV and Elisabeth from Spanish Mama has a blog post about what to watch on Netflix in Spanish.
I strongly suggest Narcos. It’s about 90% in Spanish and it’s SO GOOD. Almost as good as Harry Potter. 😏
The website rtve.es has Spanish TV, news, sports, and pop culture videos. You can watch a TV show from Spain, or see their take on the disaster that is Brexit. All en español.
6. Listen to Spanish Podcasts
Okay, so #realtalk – podcasts are not my thing.
I do not own headphones. 😬
If you do like to listen to podcasts while shopping, driving, cleaning, or just plain existing, Elisabeth from Spanish Mama has some great podcasts for Spanish teachers that she suggested on SSS earlier this year.
If anyone knows of a Harry Potter themed podcast in Spanish, let me know. Because I would 100% get headphones for that.
There are probably a dozen more tips out there for maintaining language skills (besides acquiring the Spanish-speaking husband to practice with). What do you do to keep up your language skills? Please comment with other helpful ideas below!