How to Maintain your Spanish When Teaching Lower Levels

September 3, 2019 Miss Senorita by Jessica Hall
how i maintain my spanish when teaching lower levels

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 Spanish language skills:

1.  Travel

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.

how i maintain my spanish when teaching lower levels

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!

how i maintain my spanish when teaching lower levels

4.  Find Spanish Language Groups in Your A

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.

how i maintain my spanish when teaching lower levels

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!

jessica hall miss senorita
Miss Senorita by Jessica Hall

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  • Unknown December 21, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks for this! Exactly my situation!

  • Smart Teaching December 22, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Great ideas – thanks for sharing!

  • Miss Senorita December 23, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm glad I could give you some good suggestions 🙂

  • Miss Senorita December 23, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Señora Speedy December 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I watch TV shows in Spanish. If you don't like telenovelas (and I really don't) you can try rtve.es. My favorite series right now are El Ministerio del Tiempo, Los Misterios de Laura, and Isabel. But they have several others that I'm eyeing once I finish bingewatching my current shows. Netflix has Spanish language movies and shows too.

    And podcasts! NPR has a new one called Radio Ambulante that keeps me on my toes because they feature speakers from all over Latin American and the accents are very varied. Thanks for the tips on Amazon – My goal is to read more in Spanish this next year!

  • Unknown December 29, 2016 at 3:46 am

    This is a fantastic, thanks! I also watch Spanish television. Right now, I'm enjoying Gran Hotel, El tiempo entre costura, and Internado. I like to watch them with Spanish subtitles and jot down any new words: It's great to keep up with any slang!

  • Monica Fernandez January 2, 2017 at 12:00 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Monica Fernandez January 2, 2017 at 12:01 am

    I offer myself to Skype for some practise! I'm from Barcelona, so Spanish and Catalan are both my native languages.

  • Miss Senorita January 2, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Wow, rtve.es is such a great tip! Thanks so much for sharing! I also don't know why I never thought to check Netflix for any Spanish language programming. I certainly spend enough time on Netflix, so I'll have to add some Spanish shows 🙂

    I know there are tons of Spanish-language podcasts, but I myself don't really listen to podcasts regularly, so I didn't include that in my post. Thanks so much for bringing that up and suggesting Radio Ambulante! I'll have to check that out.

  • Unknown January 13, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Radio Ambulante is great! I also like rtve.es for the podcasts, especially "Nomadas." Also, for travel shows I like "Madrilenos por el mundo" on the telemadrid channel on Youtube. The hosts visit madrilenos living in other parts of the world to learn all about their city and life there. I read or listen to the news in Spanish and like to listen to my Julieta Venegas station on Pandora while doing housework. And since I haven't found a meetup or Spanish-speaking friends to get together with on a consistent basis, and I need to build/maintain confidence with speaking rather than just comprehension, this year I started investing in weekly tutoring sessions online.

  • Miss Senorita January 17, 2017 at 2:28 am

    Thanks for those tv suggestions!

  • Miss Senorita January 17, 2017 at 2:29 am

    Wow, these are all such great ideas! I love the weekly tutoring sessions online 🙂

  • Mel February 12, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Listening to Spanish music helps me too. If you have Amazon prime there's quite a few you can download to your device to listen while you commute. I just discovered Natalia Lafourcade and I really like her.

  • Miss Senorita February 15, 2017 at 3:44 am

    I didn't know you could download music with Amazon Prime! Thanks for sharing that 🙂 I'm gonna have to look into listening to more Spanish music!

  • Holly February 24, 2017 at 7:07 am

    I love listening to the podcast españolautomático! It's fabulous!

  • tarafarah7 June 15, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Wow! Thanks so mich, everyone!! Lots of great ideas here!!

  • tarafarah7 June 15, 2017 at 2:43 am

    And….that should say thanks so much, not mich! Hehee!

  • mi casa es su casa July 21, 2017 at 1:22 am

    Destinos (Annenberg) is a free university course in telenovelas format. There are 52 episodes to complete.

  • Unknown March 13, 2018 at 1:50 am

    When I travel alone, I use AirBNB for lodging. This automatically puts you in touch with a native speaker, which sometimes leads to great conversations. I've used it in Costa Rica, Cuba, and Spain.
    After 30 years of not doing anything with my Spanish degree, I decided to begin teaching. In order to help pass the PRAXIS, I used the United Nations website. They offer news broadcast in several languages, that includes a TRANSCRIPT. Having a transcript available when watching & listening to unfamiliar spoken language was so very helpful. (At age 64, I've now been teaching 6-10 grade Spanish for 3 years).

  • Unknown March 17, 2018 at 1:59 am

    If I still lived in New York, we would be twins! I am reduced to translating talk radio in my car instead.

    I would add to your excellent list veintemundos.com and "punto y coma," both audio magazines. Also, make a pack with a colleague that you will only speak Spanish with one another!

  • Unknown August 8, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Keeping up it a super tough thing. I agree with the reading and the watching TV. Because I'm at home with my 5 year old all summer, we watch some Netflix occasionally. I atleast put the subtitles on in Spanish. Keeps me fresh on more advanced grammar and tenses. Does not necessarily help with listening/speaking directly, but it's a great reminder!

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