By Y Yates
Sure, an upcoming vacation to Ecuador is great inspiration for learning Spanish. But for most people it’s unrealistic to be globetrotters all the time! The good news is that there are lots of ways to practice your Spanish without even leaving the U.S. After all, you’re already in the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
Check out some ideas we’ve come up with for how to practice your Spanish right here at home:
Plenty of people you interact with are probably interested in learning a new language, and it’s common knowledge that most activities are more fun with other people, so why not start your own Spanish club? Invite some friends who are also learning Spanish — or use a networking site like Meetup to connect with new friends with the same interests — and get together regularly to practice speaking Spanish. You can read poetry in Spanish, watch a Spanish-language film, or even just dedicate the entire evening to speaking only in Spanish. Using the language regularly and practicing your conversation skills in casual settings will help you feel more confident in your Spanish-language abilities.
Another good way to make Spanish a bigger part of your life is to volunteer to teach English to native Spanish speakers in your community. You’ll be able to create real relationships and stay motivated to improve your Spanish skills as you help your students improve their English skills. Volunteer opportunities are often posted on community websites, or you can visit a volunteering website such as VolunteerMatch.
You’re surrounded by opportunities to improve your Spanish–all you have to do is listen in. Pick up a Spanish-language newspaper or listen to Spanish-language radio or television stations. You can also switch up your online environment by changing your Facebook language to Spanish, and when you call a company’s customer service line, oprima dos to hear the instructions in Spanish. All these little things will add up, and they’ll help you see the language as more than a list of vocab words or a verb conjugation table.
Learn more about Spanish-speaking countries and their cultures by joining the Instituto Cervantes. Established by the Spanish government in 1991 and named after the acclaimed Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, the Instituto Cervantes is the largest worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and the Spanish language. Becoming a member of your local Instituto Cervantes chapter will keep you in the loop about events and lectures on Spanish culture, readings, film screenings, and more. If you don’t have a local chapter, you can connect with a nearby university’s Spanish language department to learn about future events.
Classroom lessons or lectures aren’t the only way to learn about Spanish culture. It might seem obvious, but the best way to learn about Spanish culture is to find ways to actually experience Spanish culture! If you live near a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, go check it out. You can learn a lot just by reading the business signs and listening to the conversations happening around you. Go to a restaurant or a grocery store, and read ingredient lists and menus. Ask lots of questions, and order a dish you’ve never tried before. You’ll learn some new words, and maybe even discover a new favorite food in the process.