Powerful Ways to Improve Your Spanish Language Skills
Do you wish to improve your Spanish fluency? Considering that the language is spoken by more than a third of the world population, that’s a pretty handy wish to have! In order to expand your world and build friendships by speaking Spanish, you’ll need to learn practical ways to improve your ability to communicate and understand the language effectively. Let’s dive in and explore how to build your Spanish fluency!
What is Fluency?
Some of us set impossibly high standards when we think of what it means to be “fluent” in Spanish. Do you think of fluency as utter perfection? If so, you may feel like you’re on the bottom of Mt. Everest wishing you could somehow make it to the top. But the truth is much more relaxing: fluency is more like a spectrum of abilities than a massive mountain to climb. While the CEFR would say that Spanish learners at the upper intermediate B2 level are considered fluent, I would first have you ask yourself one question:
“Am I able to use Spanish in order to learn more Spanish?”
In other words, can you “go around” an unknown word in Spanish in order to describe it to a native speaker who will be able to understand you well enough to tell you the word you’re looking for?
If you can, then you’re officially within the spectrum of fluency!
Use Spanish to Learn Spanish
The entire purpose of language is to communicate, and if you’re able to do that (even if you’re not speaking like a native), then you are making fluent use of the language. To improve your fluency at this level, make sure you know words like la cosa, la acción, and la herramienta to help you describe (respectively) things, actions, and tools whose names you don’t know yet.
For example, you could ask: ¿Cómo se llama la cosa que usas para hacer el pelo?
While this question means “What do you call the thing that you use to do hair?” and doesn’t sound particularly native, it gets the point across and it allows you to learn a new word, since your listener will quickly respond with La cosa que se usa para peinarse se llama el cepillo (The thing you use to brush your hair is called a brush). In fact, you’d probably learn more than just one word since you may not have known the word peinarse. But again, you’re using Spanish to learn more Spanish, which is the cornerstone of being fluent!
As you seek to further improve Spanish fluency, you should focus on two areas of language acquisition: speaking and listening. Let’s see how you can move up on the fluency spectrum and improve your Spanish skills.
Improve Spanish Speaking Skills
One of the most important (and highly underestimated) keys to improving your speaking skills is to stay calm while speaking! We’ve all been there at one time or another when having a conversation in a foreign language: with your nerves on edge, your mouth going a hundred times slower than your brain, and suddenly you start to feel silly or self-conscious about talking.
Well, that’s in the past now—from here on out, you’ll feel confident in knowing that nobody is judging you. Most people don’t mind that you don’t know their language perfectly well; in fact, they often feel excited that you’re trying to speak it. So, give yourself some credit and take a deep breath!
Practical Exercises that Improve Spanish Speaking Skills
Aside from being calm and accepting that you don’t have to speak perfectly to have great conversations, you can also engage in some practical exercises to improve Spanish:
- When you read Spanish books, read them out loud to yourself or others
- Practice conversations on your own by inventing scenarios and acting them out with yourself (sounds silly, but I’m telling you it definitely works!)
- Memorize common phrases and conversation starters, including:
- Greetings and goodbyes
- Transactional phrases
- Write out a simple version of your autobiography in Spanish and memorize it so you can easily talk about yourself in conversation
- Repeat dialogues that you hear from native speakers
- Review your notes, Spanish videos, and resources again and again
- Make lots of mistakes and don’t obsess over self-correcting
- Accept whatever other people may think and stay calm in conversation
Accent and Pronunciation
As a seasoned Spanish learner myself, I will admit that having a decent accent contributes greatly to having quality conversations with native speakers. Honestly, most people don’t care if you make grammar mistakes, but they may enjoy the conversation more if you have an understandable accent. To make sure you achieve this, focus on the following:
- vowel sounds, including diphthongs, triphthongs, and hiatus
- accent marks and stress of words
- softening your t’s (don’t aspirate it) and d’s
- the r fuerte, where you roll your r’s
- linking your words without making unnatural pauses
- differentiating more difficult consonants, such as:
Improve Spanish Listening Skills
In order to improve your Spanish listening skills, you need to engage in active listening. This means that you can’t simply listen to Spanish music or watch Spanish TV and assume that you’ll automatically absorb a ton of vocabulary. Our brains don’t work like that! What you must do is listen while actively engaged with the content you’re hearing. The best way to do this, of course, is to have a conversation with a native speaker. But, you can do it with other content like songs, TV shows, movies, etc. if you insist on completing four main actions every time:
- Listen closely to the content
- Come up with questions about it and answer them
- Look up new words and write them in a language journal
- Summarize the content in your own words
Practical Exercises that Improve Spanish Listening Skills
To maximize the benefits of active listening, you can explore the following options:
- Build listening into your daily routine
- 10-minute drills on vowel sounds, speech pace, etc. (whatever your listening focus is, train yourself on it during this time)
- 10 minutes active listening (find something to listen to, then perform the 4 actions listed above)
- 10 minutes imitation practice (spend this time repeating everything you hear and creating new conversation scenarios based on what you heard)
- When you watch Spanish TV and movies, use subtitles in Spanish
- Listen to Spanish music that is slower and has clear lyrics
- Watch slow news in Spanish
- Find YouTube videos in Spanish that you enjoy listening to
- Change your GPS language to Spanish
- Find native speakers to talk to
- Record yourself talking and listen to it
Improve Your Spanish Faster!
The way to improve Spanish language skills is to speak it as often as possible and engage in active listening. The whole point of learning a new language is to be able to communicate with others, so it’s important to get started on having Spanish conversations right away. No matter your current level, you are guaranteed to improve Spanish fluency through talking, listening, and following the tips we’ve provided for you here!
If you’d like to start talking to a native Spanish speaker, sign up for a free trial class with us at Homeschool Spanish Academy, where our friendly, certified Spanish teachers from Guatemala are eager to meet you! Give yourself the best opportunity to improve your Spanish skills from the comfort of your home. ¡Hazlo ya!
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