I´ve noticed just recently that there are quite a few British people who live in Spain all year but still don´t have a good level of Spanish. I also have friends who lived in Spain and want to keep up the language after leaving the country.
Here are a few tips that helped me to improve my Spanish, I needed to be able to get a job in Spain so I had to work hard at the beginning to get my understanding of the lingo up to scratch. Learning the language well also makes it alot easier to adapt to Spanish culture and understand the people.
There´s a Spanish phrase Hablando se entiende la gente which completely backs my theory on language and culture up.
I hope you find the tips useful!
- Make it fun Link the language learning to a hobby or passion. Do you like cooking? Read culinary books and tapas recipes in Spanish. Do you love boats? Check out online articles about nautical events in Spain.
- Listen to Radio, the Spanish national radio is RTVE. Listen to RTVE online. Even if you are just picking out the subject of the conversation or understanding odd words, train yourself to hear the language. As you continue you will become quicker and it will be easier to hear. Another alternative is Los 40 principales. More music than talking, similar to BBC Radio One in the UK.
- Read magazines. Choose them about a subject that you are particularly interested in: cooking, cars, fashion, science, movies… Some examples of good publications are Muy Interesante, Hola, etc. You can access some of them Kiosco online at or buy them from your newsagent.
- Make Spanish Friends. (see below!) Whether they are collaegues, neighbours or even the waiter at the bar down the road, chat about the weather, football, whatever, you might not understand all the replies, but you´ll get used to the different peoples speech after a while and gain in confidence too.
- Watch films in Spanish with or without subtitles. You may think that you need to read the subtitles, but unless the film has a particularly complicated plot, you usually get the idea from the music, the tone/volume of the voice and the imagery. Choose Spanish films, well known directors are Pedro Almodovar, Fernando Trueba or Alejandro Amenabar but there are many more. I can´t get used to watching USA Films in Spanish, it´s just not right.
- Watching TV, it´s not first on the list as the quality isn´t the best. Quiz shows can be good for listening as the questions are generally read out clearly. The news and weather are factual and should be good to see as you learn vocabulary as well as current affairs that affect the area where you live.
- Find in your area a Language exchange evening. There are many which are free, held in bars or cafés. You may not feel comfortable at first, but when you see different locations and different groups, there will be one that you actually enjoy. Another possibility is to participate in a Student exchange if you have children at school. Having a foreign student at home for a week can give you an opportunity to practice English as well as your children. Keep your sentences short and simple.
- Lose your Fear / shyness The most important part of learning a language is to be brave. I am fluent in Spanish and only became fluent after making MANY mistakes. I had to suffer several embarrassing moments while learning Spanish. The mistakes are part of learning and improving. Don´t worry about it too much, if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying try to structure the sentence in another way or by using different keywords. You may think the process is slow but you will soon improve and gain confidence if you are constant and insist.
- Here´s a video of me Nottingham born and bread ; ) speaking Spanish recently. If I can do it you can too!