Raise your hand if you have a busy schedule. Yeah. That’s what I thought. So many of us have filled our schedules to the brim – not always voluntarily. As a working mother with a couple of side jobs, I completely understand having a busy schedule. However, I am a language addict. Every time I meet someone from a different country, I want to learn their language. I currently have nine languages on my practice list. Nine! To be fair, though, I am only working consistently on two – German and Chinese. Still, that is a lot to put on an already overflowing plate. How does one find time to study another language?
Before we talk about making time, we need to establish what language is the most practical to learn. Let’s be honest. If we are already extremely busy, why waste precious time on a language that we will hardly ever use? I would like to make a strong case for learning Spanish. If you would like a more extensive list of why Spanish is the best language to learn, click here. For now, I will just leave you with this – Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. There is no need to worry about never using Spanish, as there are about 500 million native speakers worldwide – about 100 million more than native English speakers.
So, we’ve decided that learning Spanish is worth the time and effort. How much effort are we talking about, though? If you are serious about learning Spanish, you will need to be consistent in your study habits. You cannot expect to make progress if you think about Spanish once every month. When you learn a language, you must actually retrain your brain how to think about things. It requires consistency and repetition. However, it does not require hours of extensive study each week. There are several ways that you can study on-the-go or for just a couple of minutes a day. Everyone’s schedule looks different, so I will leave you with several different ideas that you can choose from.
This is probably the easiest way to fit Spanish into your crazy schedule because you can dedicate as much (or as little) time as you would like to your studies. Most of the best apps have a feature where you can determine what your daily goal is – 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. They keep track of your progress, reward your dedication, and remind you when some of your vocabulary words have become weak. My personal favorite is Memrise, but there are several other excellent apps to learn Spanish on the go. The application Drops actually limits you to only 5 minutes of learning per day, so you don’t overwhelm yourself with vocabulary.
In this technological age, most people don’t leave the house without their phone. We depend on our phones for everything – directions, transportation, games – which ensures that it is always with us. Instead of browsing Instagram the next time you look at your phone, start with learning a bit of Spanish. Find a time you have available every day that you can dedicate five minutes to studying. For example, I often study on the bus or in an Uber. However, if I want to use the pronunciation feature, I prefer to be alone. I have two 15-minute breaks at work, and I usually dedicate one full break to language learning with an application. So, find a couple of minutes in your daily schedule that you can spend on your phone – doing something productive instead of browsing social media.
2. Surround Yourself with Language
Where do you spend most of your time? Maybe you often find yourself in the kitchen, your cubicle at work, or perhaps even your car. Wherever that place is, look up the vocabulary for the objects that surround you and make small labels. These can be either handwritten or typed out, whatever works best for you. Tape the labels onto each object so that every time you use that item or walk past it, you see the word. This will help you relate that object to the word in Spanish.
A big step in language learning is being able to immediately relate an object to its corresponding word in the target language instead of having to translate it in your mind. Basically, when you start learning Spanish, you start by thinking about what you want to say in English, translating it to Spanish, then producing it. The goal is to eliminate any English go straight to Spanish. To get to that point, you need to repeatedly see the object and connect it to the Spanish word, which is where our labels come in; every time you use a labeled object, you will be reminded of its Spanish name. This will create new pathways in your brain and rewire it to associate objects immediately with their Spanish names.
Once you’ve moved past objects and would like to start forming sentences, you can do the same thing. For example, once you’ve learned the words ‘sartén, olla, and estufa,’ you can label those objects with phrases like ‘yo uso el sartén y la olla para cocinar en la estufa.’ This method may take a bit of time to get started, but you will be learning Spanish while doing your daily tasks, which will save you a lot of time.
3. You May Say I’m a Dreamer
Now, this one may sound a bit crazy, but it has greatly helped my progress in various languages. Talk to yourself in Spanish! Whatever you are thinking about, try to express it in Spanish. Instead of stumbling over words and phrases when you are in an actual conversation, practice with yourself first to make sure the words flow!
I studied Spanish for several years, but I just could not speak it for the life of me. I traveled to Peru, thinking I could speak fluent Spanish, but as it turns out, I could barely get a few sentences out. There is a big gap between understanding a language and actually being able to reproduce it – those are even two different types of fluency. So, to help me get used to thinking in Spanish and quickly forming sentences, I tried to think in Spanish, and I spoke out loud at times to make sure I could pronounce what I was imagining. I specifically remember one morning at home. I was doing laundry and talking to myself in Spanish. If you had seen me, you may have thought I was a bit on the crazy side, but this really helped me when there were no native Spanish speakers around to talk to. You can still flex those speaking muscles by yourself while doing one of the million tasks you have for the day.
If you spend most of your day around other people, I wouldn’t recommend speaking out loud. However, you can still work on thinking in Spanish. Try and remember how to say a certain phrase in Spanish that you just said to your coworker. Look up some words if you need to. Practice it in your head. Remember, learning a new language is retraining your brain, and training takes consistent practice.
4. Classes with a Native Speaker
All of these previous choices do not give you the ability to actually converse with a native speaker. They are great tools to supplement but to reach fluency you need to actually communicate with someone else who speaks the language. However, that would involve hours of classes a week, loads of money, and lots of travel time to get to the class. What if I told you there was a way to learn Spanish wherever you are (in your home, at a café, on your lunch break) for a fraction of what normal private tutors charge. It is possible!
Here at Spanish Academy, we offer online Spanish classes at a cost you can afford. If you don’t believe me, click here or here to see our price comparisons with some of the other leading companies. Our company is located in Guatemala, so all of our teachers are certified, native Spanish speakers. That means that instead of relying on the conversations you have with yourself, you can ask someone who actually speaks Spanish for some help with your pronunciation and sentence formation.
Even if you have a crazy schedule and only have a half hour free during your lunch break, you can take a class then. Our flexible scheduling ensures that you get to take a class at the best time of day for you. You can even choose from over 50 teachers to find one that best suits your personality and learning needs. As I have learned, nothing beats immersing yourself in the language. I have done all of the above practice habits and they have definitely helped, but they are more of a supplement to my real-life conversations with a native speaker.
Now it’s up to you. You have four methods to chose from to make sure you fit learning Spanish into your busy schedule. You can’t use the excuse that you’re too busy anymore! Choose which of these options above would be best for you…or do them all! Take a Free Class with us today to see how our program can meet your specific needs and start supplementing with the other methods mentions. You’ll be speaking Spanish before you know it! ¡Estarás hablando en español antes de lo que piensas!
If you are looking to get a good handle on Spanish in just a short amount of time, check out our video and accompanying PDF!
A big part of communication happens through spoken language. As opposed to written language, or the words we read and write, spoken language is everything we speak and hear. Another type of language we utilize is body language, or nonverbal communication. You may be wondering, what does this all have to do with TV and learning Spanish? Well, keep reading & you’ll find out how to learn Spanish by watching TV!
To learn more about the different types of communication and how they impact our interactions with others check out this blog post.
If we think of spoken language, we can divide it into two parts:
- What goes out – the words we say
- What goes in – the words we hear
We know that language learning is a skill like any other, and to get better at it, practice is key! If we are learning to speak Spanish, we need to actually speak Spanish. Before we can have a conversation, though, we need to understand spoken Spanish. One way to better our comprehension is consistently listening to Spanish! The thing is, Spanish has numerous sounds that the English language doesn’t, so we need to train our ears to get accustomed to this new world of sounds. And why not learn Spanish by watching TV?
Fun fact: did you know that some languages only exist in spoken form? In some languages, there are no written words to the spoken ones! According to Ethnologue, almost half of the over 7,000 spoken languages around the globe have no written form. Isn’t that fascinating?
Mashed Potatoes vs. French Fries
Let’s be honest. When you’re just starting to learn Spanish (or any language), and you hear people speak, it’s hard to point out where one word ends and another begins. At first, hearing the language feels more like mashed potatoes when in reality every word is a French fry! The more we listen to Spanish, the easier it will become to recognize the different sounds, and where words begin and end. It will be easier to pull the French fries out of the potato mash!
Now, how can we use all this knowledge to our advantage when learning Spanish? We’re very lucky to live in an age when technology offers so many different options that we can use differently depending on the level of our language skills. Let’s learn Spanish by watching TV! Series, movies, documentaries, cartoons…anything with spoken words will be of great help on our path to becoming fluent Spanish speakers!
Talking about technology, why don’t you check out our blog post on the Top 4 Spanish Apps of 2019!
Learn Spanish by watching TV
Let’s go back to words being French fries! Some fries are only seasoned with salt and pepper, while other fries are so heavily seasoned you can barely taste the potatoes! That’s exactly what happens with Spanish and all its different accents! While some are very easy to understand because the speakers pronounce words very clearly, other accents are an entirely different story!
Spanish is my native language, and there are series and movies in Spanish that I’ve watched with English or Spanish subtitles. Why? Because sometimes I want to focus on the plot instead of on trying to understand what people are saying. This is entirely normal: my ear is not accustomed to such an accent! If you need subtitles as a Spanish learner, don’t feel bad because even I as a native speaker need them sometimes too. You and I are definitely not alone on this!
Speaking of different accents, this blog post will help you improve your own accent.
Where to Start
¡Empecemos! Go to Netflix or your preferred streaming service. Pick out your favorite cartoon, series, or movie. Yes, that one you’ve watched at least once (but probably more times than you’d like to admit) in English. Choose to watch the Spanish dubbed version with English subtitles! Wait a second. What?! The original is in English and I’m saying you should choose to hear it in Spanish with subtitles in English? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Why? Well, there are two reasons for this:
- You’ve watched this before, and you know what to expect. You know the plot and the characters so your brain already has an idea of what it will be about. This means you’ll have a fun time watching something you like even if you don’t understand everything you hear. It also allows your brain to focus on learning these new sounds with everything you hear!
- The language used on dubbed versions is a lot more neutral than the one from series or movies originally filmed in Spanish because it’s meant to cater to different audiences in various regions. Therefore, this is a great place to begin!
Where to Continue
Once you are past level 1, any of the following combinations will be great to continue learning Spanish by watching TV:
- Spanish audio with English subtitles: This will help train your ear to the sound of Spanish.
- Spanish audio with Spanish subtitles: You’ll hear and read very similar information. Therefore, you’ll start connecting spoken words to written words!
- English audio with Spanish subtitles: This will help you get used to Spanish spelling and written language.
And what should you watch? I don’t want to recommend anything in particular because whatever you watch should be fun for YOU! Learning Spanish by watching TV is educational without you even realizing it because it is so enjoyable! My only recommendation on this aspect is to start with series or cartoons, as movies are way longer and you don’t want your brain to be overwhelmed! We want this to be a fun ear-training activity!
My Personal Experience
Very often, people ask me where I learned English. This is not an easy question for me to answer because English is the only language other than my native tongue I didn’t primarily learn in a classroom – as was the case with German, Italian, French, and Latin. Instead, I learned English in a very organic way. I watched TV and played video games in English! What did I watch? I chose cartoons, series, documentaries, and movies! And even though it never felt like learning, I was learning English and training my ears to the sounds of the language.
It’s simple this time: pick a show you like and have fun while learning! And why not try a FREE CLASS with us to tell us about your experience learning Spanish by watching TV!
Nothing beats the smell of a fresh textbook, newly sharpened pencils, and a bright, clean eraser. At least, for those of us who liked school. But you have to admit – even if you didn’t like school, brand new school supplies always seemed to bring a sense of fresh beginnings. You had the chance to start over – a new you, new classes, new friends.
Now, maybe you’re still in school, or perhaps those years are well behind you. Either way, the fact remains the same that online learning is surging in popularity – despite missing out on those exciting new school supplies. How can you get the same level of quality that in-person classes offer while studying online? Let’s be real. There may be classes available near us, but our hectic schedules and thin wallets don’t always allow us that privilege. So, logically, we turn to online tools but get overwhelmed by the options.
Lucky for you, we’re here to help you discover how to learn Spanish online!
Pick a program that is right for you
Before you get bombarded by the thousands of results that come up when you google ‘how to learn Spanish online,’ you should decide what type of online classes will work best for you.
Why do you want to learn Spanish online?
Of course, we all want to learn Spanish for different reasons. Maybe you want your children to learn Spanish from a young age, or perhaps you want to travel to Latin America on your next vacation. You may even need Spanish to finish school or for your work. Whatever your reasons, clearly defining your learning goals will definitely help you pick the perfect program for you.
- If you are looking to learn Spanish online as a supplemental tool to your regular classes, then I would definitely recommend an app or programs like Memrise or Duolingo. These programs will not get you to fluency, but they are a great supplemental tool to practice Spanish (or any other language, for that matter) while on the go or in short periods of time.
- One of the most important aspects of language learning is actually speaking. If you are looking for a platform that has an extra special focus on pronunciation, I would have to recommend Pimsleur. This program sells packages of audio lessons that you can listen to at home or on your way to work. Every time a word or phrase is introduced, the teacher breaks down the pronunciation for you in a very simple, straightforward way.
- There are a couple of courses that are specifically designed to help with conversation to make sure you are equipped to travel abroad. Pimsleur does this through their audio courses by utilizing relevant conversation phrases and prompting the listener to respond appropriately. Another tool is Babbel. Similar to Duolingo and Memrise in its setup, its software directly focuses on dialogue and conversational skills.
- Rosetta Stone is a very well-known language program for both students and adults. It teaches the student Spanish through a more natural method, just like how kids learn their native tongue from their parents. Instead of translation, it focuses on teaching implicitly. Another option for school Spanish would be Homeschool Spanish Academy, or HSA. This course has programs specifically designed for students if all ages – especially those looking for high school courses. Instead of sitting in a large class, listening to a non-native speaker teach Spanish, HSA offers live one-on-one classes. The classes help each student reach fluency while learning the same material offered in most schools.
- For those of you looking for courses specifically for kids, I found two great programs expressly geared towards your little ones. The first is Panda Tree. While other platforms offer various languages, Panda Tree offers only Spanish and Chinese, giving it expertise in those two languages. The programs are designed for children to have live teachers and interactive dynamics. Similarly, HSA also has classes just for kids, and only teaches Spanish. This is great for those of you wanting to learn Spanish online because you know you’re working with experts in the language. HSA has its own curriculums for each age group, and the teachers work with the children to create fluency using the curriculum and engaging activities.
- Honestly, you could use any of these options mentioned to prepare for your trip abroad. It all depends on how serious you are about learning Spanish online. If you just want to know a couple of phrases to survive on your trip, I would recommend sticking with the free apps. However, if you plan on staying for an extended period of time, or if you want to be able to converse with the locals, a program like Babbel or HSA is the way to go. Although HSA’s classes are structured around its own curriculum, just mention that you want to focus on travel, and the teacher will accommodate accordingly.
Cost to learn Spanish online
But…how are you going to choose between one of these courses? Well, the price is normally the deciding factor. Each program sells its classes and software differently, but let’s compare the costs.
Both Duolingo and Memrise have free or Premium options. While you can learn a decent amount just with the free account, there are benefits to paying a little extra. For example, with Memrise you can get extra practice with all those difficult words that you just can’t quite remember.
- Duolingo – $9.99/month
- Memrise – $5.00-$8.99/month
Although it may seem that Babbel is also mainly free, you actually need a subscription to get access to the lessons.
- Babbel – $6.95-12.95/month
Those are the cheapest programs to learn Spanish, and if you want a more intense program, you will have to pay more.
- Rosetta Stone – $179 for 1 level, $479 for 5 levels
- Pimsleur – $550 for 5 levels, or $15-$20/month for a subscription
Of course, none of these courses have a live tutor. So, how much more do you have to pay to learn Spanish online as if you were in a real class? If you opt for private tutors, such as those offered through Italki, you could be looking at $30 per class. Likewise, the classes from Panda Tree can range all the way up to $45 per session.
- Panda Tree – $19-25 per class of 25 minutes, $34-45 per class of 50 minutes
Is there any way to get quality classes with a live tutor without breaking your wallet? Well, the classes with HSA come as low as $6.65 per live class! That’s over half the price of Panda Tree for live, one-on-one classes that can be tailored to your student’s needs.
- Homeschool Spanish Academy – $6.65-9.93 per class of 25 minutes, $9.98-14.60 per class of 50 minutes.
Start learning Spanish online
Alright! We’ve given you the basics for just a couple of the online Spanish programs. There are many more options, of course, but these are just a few of the more popular choices.
If you are looking for high-quality, live classes that actually get you to fluency, we would invite you to try our Free Trial Class. These classes are tailored to your needs and won’t send you into bankruptcy. ¡Pruébalo!Read More
Learning a new language is a long process. For example, when I was learning a second language, it took a lot of time with memorizing vocabulary and doing different practice exercises. It takes a lot of practice and studying to truly master another language. If you are new to learning Spanish or you have just been practicing it for a little bit, or even if you’re an advanced learner of Spanish! I bet you’ve had moments where someone has told you something in Spanish and you have no idea what they just said. It happens! There are some Spanish Phrases you won’t understand. It’s okay to have these blank moments.
Now, I put something together for you beginners to avoid situations like these. Here is a list of the 25 most used Spanish phrases. Practice them. Memorize them. Use them. You can check also out our previous blog Spanish for Dummies. Hopefully, with these, you will successfully avoid those awkward moments.
Greetings are important because they are our conversation openers. You probably already know ‘hola,’ but asking how someone is doing is also an important skill to have. You can greet someone in Spanish in many ways (check out our previous blog on Spanish Greetings for more information), but here are the basic Spanish phrases for greetings:
However, these last three Spanish phrases can be used as greetings and also as a way of saying goodbye. Surprisingly, they mean the same in both situations.
Responses to greetings
Saying hello is important. On the other hand, being able to respond to a greeting is fundamental if you want to avoid those awkward pauses. These responses help to keep the conversation flowing. Here’s the list of short, basic responses that are super easy to learn:
Likewise, farewells in Spanish are good to know so you don’t leave a conversation hanging open. Just like not being able to respond, leaving without saying goodbye would be very awkward. To avoid that, here is the list of Spanish phrases to say goodbye:
Polite Spanish Phrases
People in Spanish-speaking countries are very kind and polite toward tourists and people that can’t speak the language fluently. If you are traveling aboard, for example, the locals will gladly help you with anything you need. Therefore, you need to know some Spanish phrases to respond to their politeness:
In addition, ‘Perdón’ and ‘Disculpa’ can also be used for ‘excuse me.’
Questions are half of a conversation. For instance, they help when you want to get to know someone, but also if you don’t know something, or if you want to ask for help. This is why earning to say those questions in Spanish is very important.
Questions in Spanish start with one of these phrases: Cómo, Cuándo, Por qué, Quién, Qué, and Dónde. In English, these are: How, When, Why, Who, What, and Where. To clarify, here is a short list of Spanish questions:
Other Useful Spanish Phrases
All of the Spanish phrases above are very useful and important to know if you want to have a fluid conversation in Spanish. There are many other phrases you can learn, but here are the last three I consider useful so you can learn:
I really hope these 25 Spanish phrases that I have listed are useful to you. I can guarantee that if you learn these you will not have that many moments where you don’t know how to respond. These phrases will help you understand what others are saying and how to respond to them. Also, learning these phrases will help you further your studies of the Spanish language. If you are looking for more phrases and important things to know in Spanish, check out our blog on how to Learn Spanish in 5 months!Read More
We talk to people every day – on the street, in the store, at home – and rarely think about how amazing it is that we can actually communicate with them. We constantly take for granted our ability to converse with those around us.
Now, 58.9 million of our neighbors here in the States are Spanish-speakers. Imagine that for a moment. There is an impressive language barrier between us and almost 20% of the population. How can we bridge that gap and begin to communicate more fully with our neighbors? Well, we can start by perfecting our Spanish-learning process.
Why the Traditional Methods of Learning Spanish are Flawed
Let’s think about how most of us have tried to learn Spanish…
- Workbooks with reading and writing exercises
- Large classroom settings
- Non-native Spanish speaking instructors
- Software (free or paid) with audio recordings
- Classes only 1 or 2 times per week
Did one of these methods work for you? More than likely, they did not because these techniques utilize the wrong parts of the brain.
Flaws in the Traditional Methods
Remember the list we made of the different ways we normally try to learn Spanish? Those are what we are going to call ‘traditional learning methods.’ Let’s explore further to see where exactly they went wrong.
If you’re like me and went to public school, the norm was that you took about a year of foreign language in middle school before it became a requirement in high school. Since I studied in Texas, Spanish was the most logical choice of a second language. However, it wasn’t like I had much of a choice since German and French were my only other options. So, I began to study Spanish only because of its practicality. Now, on a personal level, Spanish was my least favorite class. I was a pretty good student overall, but matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do better than a B- (yes, I know – I was an overachiever).
At some point, I owned the fact that I wasn’t good at learning languages and just gave up. I stopped trying, which was quite contrary to my personality.
Looking back, I can point to several things that probably held me back.
Common Learning Errors
- Large Classes: I was in a 5A district, studying at a high school of 5000+ students. My graduating class was about 1000 students. In other words, the classrooms were consistently filled to capacity.
- Limited Attention: Due to the high student count, how much attention could one teacher realistically give to any one student? How does anyone stay focused when they’re just another face in the crowd?
- Limited Practice: Our classes, if I remember correctly, were approximately 50 minutes. They later shifted to an hour and twenty minutes in high school. Within those 80 minutes, I experienced about 10 minutes of actual application time. However, we weren’t speaking with actual native speakers. Instead, we stammered broken phrases to other non-Spanish speakers for a couple of minutes until we got distracted by a more interesting topic.
- Workbooks: Given the limited class practice time, most of the actual Spanish work was assigned as homework. This meant that we mainly learned about the reading and writing rules of the Spanish language in class, and perfected them (or at least attempted to) outside of class. I would actually argue that my reading and writing got pretty decent, but I couldn’t speak the language if my life depended on it.
In hindsight, it’s clear that my Spanish journey was flawed since day one. I was learning how to read and write in Spanish, but I barely flexed my auditory & speaking muscles. The lessons, activities, and practice works were constantly reinforcing reading and writing in Spanish, nothing else.
Now let me be clear. I’m definitely not saying that software and textbooks that focus on those learning areas are insignificant. I truly believe they can be helpful. However, I’m simply saying that they are only one part of a much bigger picture. We need various tools to activate the key areas of the brain that will help us effectively learn Spanish fast.
Before we can begin to learn Spanish fast, we must have a better understanding of how the brain functions when learning a language.
How the Brain Works
The brain is a very complex organ in the human body. It controls everything we do. Whether that’s reading, writing, or speaking, the brain has to be trained, over time, to know how to complete those tasks.
Although the brain is much more complex than what we can delve into here today, it is clear from looking at this diagram that different language functions are primarily controlled by distinct areas of the brain.
What this shows us is that when we try to learn a language with just reading or writing exercises, it isn’t very effective because we aren’t exercising the part of the brain that controls speech. We are learning only half of what we need to become fluent in Spanish.
In other words, as a learning audience, we have been studying and learning Spanish incorrectly.
In a nutshell, our brain accomplishes any task by firing or sending electrical signals to different regions of the brain. These signals then travel through the body to the muscles that you want to use. Let’s say, for example, you want to say something. Your brain would first send out signals to different parts of the brain to recall the words and sentence structure you need. Then, it would signal your muscles to move correctly and get your vocal cords to produce the correct sound. All at the same time. Whoa! That’s a lot of tasks! No wonder it’s a hard thing to learn, huh?
Becoming More Efficient
These electrical signals we just talked about travel along something called ‘axons.’ However, the further the signals have to travel, the more energy they lose. Luckily, our axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin, which helps maintain energy. You can think of axons like the coaxial cables of the brain.
When we’re younger, this myelin fatty substance is quite thin. The more we ‘practice’ specific tasks, though, the more resources your body dedicates to that axon and thickening the myelin. This, in turn, produces a very well insulated pathway for that particular electrical signal. In this TED video that explores the idea further, they refer to it as something “similar to an information superhighway.”
Logically speaking, as a signal becomes fast and more efficient, the result should appear quicker and better, right?
Targeting the Correct Objective
The answer is yes. But to make that signal faster, we need to practice the right tasks. If we want to create efficient pathways in our brain for speaking Spanish but never say a word, those pathways will never develop. We must target the correct objective when we learn Spanish.
At this point, I can probably conclude that I did not excel in high school Spanish because the curriculum and activities were creating and reinforcing axon pathways in my brain specifically for reading and writing. Had I been able to converse and develop pathways for speaking, I would have been more proficient in communicating in Spanish. There’s a common saying, “practice how you’ll execute,” and it rings true for language learning.
More Than Practice: Quality and Effectiveness
The video I previously mentioned goes on to point out that although practice is necessary to build up the myelin along your axons, it’s not the only thing needed to develop mastery over any skill, including speaking Spanish.
This explains why repeating a bunch of words randomly or without context, often does NOT lead to Spanish fluency. So, we have talked about how traditional learning methods are ineffective. What’s the correct way to learn Spanish quickly, then?
How We Do It:
At Spanish Academy, we’ve developed a unique method of teaching Spanish that centers around five key concepts represented by the acronym RAMMA. These letters stand for:
Our classes are either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1, giving you the ability to talk about things that are relevant to your life. This does a couple of things. First, it gives your brain a point of reference and allows you to contextualize and process what’s going on. It also aids in pushing the information into your long term memory.
Because the information is relevant to your experience, you’re naturally more engaged in the class. Studies show time and time again*** that when you are attentive, your brain is more likely to retain the information.
Now that your classes are relevant to your experiences, you can learn Spanish through a lens you are familiar with. This gives meaning and perspective to your Spanish learning journey. Instead of just learning a bunch of generic words and phrases that you might never use, you will actually learn useful and meaningful vocabulary, grammar, and conversation skills.
Just like being attentive allows you to store information in your long-term memory, giving meaning to the context allows you to do the same. All that context, perspective, and meaning lets you process and store this information a lot faster than if you were to just try and memorize things a list of words.
Of course, repetition plays an important part in language learning. That’s where the last letter comes in: A for accountability. To continue with something that’s difficult, you need guidance and direction – or accountability. This is one of the most important things that people forget about or don’t include in their learning regiment because they don’t think it’s important. However, it can actually shorten your learning curve by avoiding mistakes that you would otherwise make. Think of your Spanish teacher (or some accountability partner) like Google Maps. You’re still able to get to where you need to go without Google Maps, but it’s a lot faster if you have it guiding you along the way.
Learn Spanish Fast
In my travels, there’s a joke that I’ve encountered many times over – as I’m sure many of you probably have. It goes something like this…
“What do you call someone that knows three languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows two languages?”
“What do you call someone who knows one language?”
Crazy right? But, there’s some truth to the joke. In many parts of America, there are people who feel that other languages should not be spoken or used in public.
Without getting political, I think one of the reasons for this, is that people find it really hard to learn Spanish or any other language. And it is challenging, don’t get me wrong. But it can be easier than people make it out to be if they practice and learn Spanish correctly.
So, it’s time to throw out those traditional methods and start learning Spanish effectively today. Click here to learn even more about how our program can help you learn Spanish fast, or go ahead and sign up for a free class. We can’t wait to see you in class!
About the author
Ron went from zero to Spanish fluency in 3 months after he left his high-paying consultant gig to become a director of a school for impoverished kids in Guatemala in 2009 – dove into the deep end. In 2010, he saw an opportunity for a real business and began his company in his tiny apartment. As the CEO/Founder of Homeschool Spanish Academy & Spanish Academy TV, he loves making an impact in students’ lives and also really loves chocolate.
If you’d like to learn more about how the brain works, check out this TED video. Or watch this one to discover how to learn Spanish in only 6 months! These videos go more in-depth with the ideas discussed in this blog.
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So, you want to learn Spanish. Maybe it’s even one of your New Year’s resolutions that you said you wanted to do but haven’t got around to yet. Nowadays, there are so many different resources we can use to learn Spanish. Applications, though, have a special draw to those of us who want to learn quickly and on the go. Maybe you’re looking to start from scratch, or perhaps you are already in Spanish and just need extra support. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the best Spanish apps of 2019 to learn Spanish for free! Check out which one will work best for you.
There are four key areas of language learning: listening, speaking, writing, and reading. The most passed over and avoided area is reading, probably because it requires patience and time. However, reading can astronomically improve your language skills because you are subconsciously learning language structure and patterns while also absorbing new vocabulary through context. The only issue is…how can we make it fun and appealing? With Beelinguapp! This is by far the best app to practice your Spanish reading. With the free version, you have access to a variety of reading material. You can choose from different categories, such as travel, kids’ stories, and science. In addition, you can select your level as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. However, I will say that the beginner material is not for true beginners. You will need some basic Spanish knowledge before using this app.
How does it work?
After selecting your language, level, and category, you can choose which item you would like to read. Then, download it and begin reading either on your own or with the narrator. As the narrator speaks, the app highlights the text so that you can both hear the pronunciation and see the written word. Another cool feature of this app is that you can read the Spanish part only, or have the Spanish and English versions open at the same time to compare them. Finally, you can build your own glossary by adding new vocabulary words to your account.
This Spanish app was quite a pleasant surprise. It’s called ‘drops’ because you learn just a couple words at a time. In the free version, you can only study 5 minutes every 10 hours, which is perfect for those of you who are trying to squeeze language-learning into your busy schedules. If you’re looking for something more intensive, or already have some Spanish experience I would not recommend Drops. However, if you are just starting to learn, this is one of the best Spanish apps available.
How does it work?
Drops has great visual effects, with a drawing or animation accompanying each vocabulary word. After each word is introduced, there are exercises and games to help you truly learn the vocabulary. The app tracks your progress by how many words you have learned and then calculates your level accordingly. Additionally, the vocabulary is separated into categories, and the first level of every category is available all at once for your perusal. The categories include everything from science to business, from food to fashion.
In my opinion, Memrise came in as an extremely close second after Duolingo for the title of ‘best app to learn Spanish.’ While the other Spanish apps are limited to their own specific style of learning, Memrise combines them all into one app. Not only can you learn multiple languages at once, but you can learn from multiple platforms. For example, you can learn Spanish from the multiple Memrise Spanish courses, or from different programs that users themselves have created. Some of these other courses even include all the vocabulary from the corresponding Duolingo courses.
How does it work?
This app looks at language learning like growing a plant. When a word is first introduced, it is just a seedling. The more you practice, the more the plant grows until it flourishes into a flower. When the flower wilts, it means it’s time to practice that word. Depending on the course you choose, you can learn both phrases and vocabulary. Instead of a placement test, Memrise offers different levels of Spanish that you can choose from based on your experience. The Memrise courses themselves offer both vocabulary and phrases, while some of the other courses focus on different vocabulary, conversational skills, idioms, etc. In the learning process, you can find a variety of exercises, from watching videos of native speakers to practicing your own pronunciation. The app even includes both direct and literal translations so you can understand the structure of words and phrases.
Of course, you’ve probably heard of Duolingo. It has become so popular lately, and it continues to hold it’s title as one of the best apps to learn languages. What makes this app doubly amazing is that the founder of Duolingo is Guatemalan! Since our teachers are located in Guatemala, the country holds a special place in our hearts (learn more about Guatemala here). However, Duolingo isn’t in the number one best app spot because of any bias. To the contrary, its content speaks for itself.
How does it work?
You can either start at the very beginning or take a placement test to score out of some lessons, which makes this app perfect for all Spanish learners. As you progress through the lessons, you learn both vocabulary and phrases. Additionally, grammar is taught by showing it in sentences instead of a formal grammar lesson. If you would like more explanation, you can hover over the word or words. Like Memrise, you can reach different levels and goals, which encourages the user to keep practicing. To reinforce what you have learned, there are interactive exercises that test all areas of language-learning: pronunciation, writing, listening, and comprehension. Duolingo and Memrise are very similar in the way that they present and practice vocabulary, but Duolingo takes it a step further by giving grammatical explications, user forums, and supplemental learning features.
Get Practicing with the Spanish Apps!
Now that you have all the information, try out some of 2019’s best Spanish apps. Let us know which one you found to be your favorite!
Of course, the best way to utilize these Spanish apps would be to use them as a supplemental course to real Spanish classes. Take a Free Trial Class with us today and see how you can learn Spanish with a live instructor from the comfort of your home.
Have you ever wished you could improve your Spanish accent so others could understand you better? Spoken Spanish has 39 elemental sounds, or individual speech sounds produced by vocal organs. You can easily master these through exposure and regular practice. Without forming this habit, however, we are doomed to repeat pronunciation mistakes for the rest of our lives! How can we sharpen our speaking skills, even if we only have five extra minutes a day? The answer lies in the power of Spanish tongue twisters, or trabalenguas.
(To see the tongue twisters, scroll to the bottom!)
Why are Spanish Tongue Twisters Useful?
Choosing a Spanish tongue twister that focuses on a particular pronunciation issue will give you the ultimate learning tool. First of all, you can practice it at any moment, anywhere, until you have mastered the sound. Furthermore, Spanish tongue twisters will train the muscles in your mouth to move correctly, creating authentic pronunciation. Once you have learned one sound, you can then move on to harder trabalenguas that combine different sounds. Before long, you’ll be able to speak Spanish without tripping over your tongue!
Quite often, pronunciation problems lie in the physical – where you place your tongue. In American English, for example, we are used to relaxing the tip of our tongue while the center is raised halfway up in the mouth. This creates that typical hard /r/ sound we find in the word ‘red.’ If we attempt to do the same exact movement when pronouncing a Spanish word, such as pero, we quickly hear a striking difference between our pronunciation and that of native speakers. This is because the phonetic usage of /r/ in Spanish is physically different from that of the English language. For correct pronunciation, you must “flick” your tongue against the roof of your mouth, producing a very quick and light sound similar to a soft /d/ in English. With continued practice, you will notice a drastic improvement when you pronounce Spanish words containing the single r.
To practice this tongue movement, try the following Spanish tongue twister:
Tres tristes trapecistas con tres trapos troceados hacen trampas truculentas porque suben al trapecio por trapos y no por cuerdas.
Build Muscle Memory to Improve Pronunciation
Think back to being young and wanting to learn how to ride that shiny new bike in the driveway. When you started out, you fumbled quite a bit and lost your balance. You may have even fallen over and ended up with a scraped knee or two. Likewise, learning how to pronounce words in a new language is a process of learning a new physical skill – without the scraped knees. Instead of simply copying what you hear and attempting to copy the sounds native speakers make, you can take the time to study the actual movement required by the tongue to produce such sounds. Once you isolate a certain sound and begin to practice it, you can look for an appropriate Spanish tongue twister. Search for one that forces you to repeatedly practice the desired sound, especially in conjunction with other sounds.
Some accents may be almost impossible to mimic at first due to weak facial muscles since not every language uses the same muscles to create sounds. However, you can overcome this through extensive practice and awareness of how to strengthen those specific muscles. Thankfully, Spanish tongue twisters are the perfect answer because they provide repeated practice with certain muscles and sounds. Do yourself the biggest favor by creating a daily routine of pronunciation practice. First, identify which sounds are the most difficult for you, then find the corresponding Spanish tongue twisters that work those muscles. In no time, you’ll see how easy and efficient it is using Spanish tongue twisters to enhance your pronunciation!
A Collection of Spanish Tongue Twisters
Here are some of the best Spanish tongue twisters that children giggle over and adults remember fondly from their school days. Many are fun to try and will certainly get you smiling over how hard – and silly – they can be.
For Practice with Vowels:
- Lado, ledo, lido, lodo, ludo, decirlo al revés lo dudo. Ludo, lodo, lido, ledo, lado, ¡Qué trabajo me ha costado!
- ‘A’ – Si Pancha plancha con 4 planchas, ¿con cuántas planchas plancha Pancha?
- ‘E’ – Esteban es escalador escala y escala, Esteban el escalador, de tanto escalar, en una cima quedó.
- ‘I’ – Tengo una gallina pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda que tiene tres pollitos pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos. Si la gallina no hubiera sido pinta pipiripinta gorda pipirigorda pipiripintiva y sorda Los pollitos no hubieran sido pintos pipiripintos gordos pipirigordos pipiripintivos y sordos.
- ‘O’ – Un dragón tragón tragó carbón y el carbón que tragó el dragón tragón le hizo salir barrigón.
- ‘U’ – Cuando cuentes cuentos, cuenta cuantos cuentos cuentas. Porque si no cuentas cuantos cuentos cuentas, nunca sabrás cuantos cuentos cuentas.
For Practice with ‘b/v:’
- Juan tuvo un tubo, y el tubo que tuvo se le rompió, y para recuperar el tubo que tuvo, tuvo que comprar un tubo, igual al tubo que tuvo.
- Nadie silba como Silvia, porque si alguien silba como Silvia, es porque Silvia le enseñó a silbar.
- Un ave pensaba mientras que volaba, que sentía el pez mientras que nadaba. Y pensaba un pez mientras que nadaba, que sentía el ave mientras que volaba.
For Practice with ‘c/ch:’
- La casa de Casique muy casicada es y si Casique no limpia la casa de Casique yo no la veré.
- Yo compré poca carne, poca carne yo compré, como la carnicería carne tenía al carnicero poca carne le compré.
- María Chucena techaba su choza y un techador que por allí pasaba le dijo: María Chucena, ¿techas tu choza o techas la ajena? Ni techo mi choza ni techo la ajena, que techo la choza de María Chucena.
For Practice with ‘p:’
- Pepe Pecas pica papas con un pico, con un pico pica papas Pepe Pecas.
- Compré pocas copas, pocas copas compré, como compré pocas copas, pocas copas pagué.
- Pedro Pablo Pérez Pereira pobre pintor portugués, pinta pinturas por poca plata para pasar por París.
For Practice with ‘q:’
- ¿Cómo quieres que te quiera si quien quiero que me quiera no me quiere como quiero que me quiera?
- Yo no quiero que tú me quiera porque yo te quiera a ti, quieréndome o sin quererme, yo te quiero porque sí.
- Quique Queco Quicas quiere quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas, así que quintales de queso para quesadillas quebradizas quiere Quique Queco Quicas.
For Practice with ‘r/rr:’
- Tres tristes tigres comen en tres tristes platos de trigo.
- El perro de Rita me irrita dile a Rita que cambie el perro por una perrita.
- Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rápido corren los carros cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril.
For Practice with ‘s:’
- La sucesión sucesiva de sucesos sucede sucesivamente con la sucesión del tiempo.
- Si Sansón no sazona su salsa con sal, le sale sosa; le sale sosa su salsa a Sansón, si la sazona sin sal.
- La sucia Susana ensucia suficientemente el suéter de Sonia.
For Practice with ‘z:’
- Tengo un durazno muy desduraznador, el que me lo desdurazne, será un gran desduraznador.
- Un zapatero zambo, zapateaba zapateados de zapata, de zapata zapateaba zapateados un zapatero zambo.
- Baza, come calabaza. Baza, calza zapatas y come calabazas.
Advanced Spanish Tongue Twisters:
- Doña Panchívida se cortó un dévido con el cuchívido del zapatévido. Y su marívido se puso brávido porque el cuchívido estaba afilávido.
- El volcán de Parangaricutirimicuaro lo quieren desemparanguatizar y el que lo desemparangaritutimice, un buen desemparanguatizador será.
- El otorrinolaringólogo de parangaricutirimicuaro, se quiere desotorrinolaringaparangaricutirimicuarizar, el desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador que logre desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuarizarlo, buen desotorrinolaringaparangaricutimicuador será.
How to Use Spanish Tongue Twisters
- To make the most of your experience with Spanish tongue twisters, try writing them down while memorizing them. Although native Spanish speakers likely learn these silly sayings verbally, it may be harder for you without writing them down. When learning any other language, it’s beneficial to practice both spelling and pronunciation. Not only is it important to train your tongue to pronounce words correctly, but it is good to know how to spell what you are saying.
- Do not waste your time trying to understand every word in a tongue twister! The words will often be from particular regions of the Spanish-speaking world and will not have a meaning outside of that area! They were also meant to be fun to say, not to have a deep meaning. Remember when you were a kid learning tongue twisters in your native language? You were not concerned about the meaning of what you learned, but instead tried saying it faster and faster! Keep this in mind as you expand your volume of memorized Spanish tongue twisters. What’s most important here is using it to enhance the quality of your pronunciation.
- If you are learning Spanish with a friend or classmate, turn the tongue twisters into a game. You can play telephone, where you say a tongue twister as fast as possible and your friend repeats what they heard. Similarly, you can also try playing Pictionary with Spanish tongue twisters both you and your friend know. One person draws the basic idea from a tongue twister with the other tries to guess it.
Most importantly, have fun! Learning a language can be hard, so don’t forget to take a step back and enjoy the process. ¡Disfrútalo!
Do you need help pronouncing these Spanish tongue twisters?
Check out our video to see our very own teachers pronounce some of the tongue twisters mentioned above! Comment with your favorite one.
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Do you love setting goals, taking ownership of your language learning, and building a following? If so, you will benefit from keeping a language journal. A basic record of your progress in Spanish class can be the difference between simply attending class to blowing it out of the water.
Even if the thought of a daily journal doesn’t appeal to you, there is a way to make this practice work for you. HSA wants to see you succeed, so here is a quick guide to help you set up and use your new language journal.
Designate, Decorate and Design your Journal
Your journal practice should be easy and fun, so keep your habits in mind. Think of how you record items for yourself or your work and let that inform your journal. Don’t force yourself into something new; keep what you like at the forefront to help you stay active in your practice.
Here are three fun choices to think about:
Invest in a notebook with a beautiful cover and nice heavy paper that has bonus features like pre-written dates, space for images, and/or a calendar at the top. Get yourself a nice pen you love to write with and some good pencils for extra notes. If you live for office supplies, go for highlighters, organizational tabs or stickers to use as you like.
If you love to draw or paint, go for an unlined book or choose a large pad that can handle heavy ink, charcoal or paint. Turn your entries into comics, illustrated images or fun doodles to help you record what you want to save.
A Journal App
Note-taking apps have become more popular because they help people do more than write; they can add photos, audio, and video to what they want to remember. If you love music, you can record live performances in Spanish and notes about where you heard it, your favorite lyrics or what the song reminded you of as you listened. If you live on Instagram, you can recreate your posts in your journal and caption them in Spanish.
For phone journals, you can try several apps. Google Keep is good for lists and adding images. Penzu is an online, private diary you can access from your phone and can share with a teacher. Microsoft OneNote is a nice choice for longer entries with additional media attached.
Find one you like and keep it on your home screen to remind you to update it often.
A Published Blog
Set up a blog by writing articles in first-person about your real progress as a Spanish learner. It’s an interesting twist on a journal because with this option you can gain followers and get comments on your writing.
Not for the faint of heart, a blog can be a great tool, but only if you’re prepared for it. It requires maintenance, special tools to block spammers, and regular updates. Good bloggers post at least once a week and only fully-developed, polished pieces.
The benefit of publishing your journey is that you can interact with readers. You can ask for comments on a theme (in Spanish, even!), share it with a classmate, and use it to share other parts of your life. Be ready for the critics and enjoy the fans. If it’s your goal to improve as a writer, a blog is a great place to start.
What to Write and Why
You have your journal of choice. Now, you need to write something.
The more organized learner will want to create sections within their journal. Consider adding multiple items like
- reflections on your class experience
- your learning patterns and habits
- lists of new vocabulary
- personal progress and goals
If you aren’t much for organizing or subsections, use these ideas to get you started:
The reflections section is to help you cement in what you learned at your last lesson. The idea is to find a place to journal right after class and then note down things you remember. Get out your workbook or class notes to help you along. What joke did the teacher make about a certain phrase? If in a classroom setting, which classmate had the best pronunciation that day? Did you speak up in class or hide in the back?
Don’t judge yourself here. Record what happens so you can look for patterns in your learning habits. Maybe you’re more open to language lessons on Tuesdays rather than Fridays or you perform well in class if you switch out your morning coffee for water. It’s easier to notice these things if you keep a record of your own experience.
Vocabulary is where you can take note of words to ask your teacher about, words you’ve heard but don’t understand or confuse with similar words. This is also a great place to practice verb conjugations and tenses. Building words is a valid practice that many language experts recommend, so add it to your regular entries.
Track Your Progress
Personal progress is an important section. This is where you can set goals for yourself like
- Order an entire meal in Spanish
- Tell a joke to a Spanish-speaking friend
- Set an appointment in Spanish
- Speak Spanish for 10 minutes straight
If you write your goals down, you are much more likely to strive for them. When you achieve one, write about it. Show yourself that you can speak Spanish. Remember, confidence is half the battle—build it with your journal.
The beyond section is where you can go further than the learning in class. Translate a song to or from Spanish and record yourself singing it. Illustrate vocabulary words into a beautiful story. Do anything you like that helps you stay excited about Spanish.
The Benefits of a Language Journal
Journalling alone is great—it helps you keep a clear head, organize your thoughts, and develop ideas. Most importantly, a language journal has a laser focus that empowers you in your language acquisition. How does a language journal benefit you?
- It helps you remember new words to ask your teacher about or to look up later. This builds your vocabulary faster and easier.
- It gives you a record of your learning style. Notes on your favorite exercises, songs, and readings can be collected in the same place. When you analyze these reflections, you will know how to practice on your own and optimize your homework time.
- Your journal is a physical reminder of everything you learned in class. When you have off-days and feel frustrated, you can look back at all of your accomplishments. That’s enough to motivate you on any day.
- It provides a safe space to record your mistakes. An effective way to avoid repeating the same mistake over and over is to pay attention to it, make a note of it, and reflect on it in future use. If you throw an s into deporte or switch the number tres with trece, write it down. Once you record that mistake and see it on paper, you’re less likely to make that flub again.
No matter how you keep a language journal, the key is to use it in a way that feels natural and helpful. Make it fun, keep it personal, and let it grow into a true expression of your linguistic journey.
Do you have a great language journal? Please comment below and tell us how it’s helped you in your quest to learn a foreign language!Read More
Using the 5 human senses can be extremely advantageous when learning something new, like Spanish or another foreign language. Teachers can use experiences, meals, and experiments to get students excited to use their new language. Want to try some sense exploration at home? Here are some fun activities you can do with things you already have at home.
Sight or Vista
There’s no question that some learners are more visual than others. For those that are, there are plenty of ways to explore the sense of sight to aid in learning Spanish.
You can start by playing a sight-word game with your child. Sight words encourage students to memorize and recognize the way words look and how they are spelled. Jump for the Words is a fun sight word game that also spends some energy. First, write 5-10 Spanish words on paper and attach each word to a piece of yarn hanging from a doorway (or entry way). Make sure the words are just out of reach for you child and start calling out the Spanish words. Your child will have to listen to what word you’re calling out, recognize that word on paper, and jump to grab it. You can take this game to the next level by adding a friend or sibling for some friendly competition.
If your learners are younger, try using a prism for some fun visual effects. Hold it in the sunlight to make a rainbow on the floor. Use them to warp your view of patterned paper or to inspire a work of art. Have your little learners point to and call out the colors they see in Spanish.
Smell or Olfato
The human nose is amazing. There are so many ways to explore our sense of smell can be that it’s hard to choose just one. Here are three to get you started.
Try painting with spice paints. Before you start, let your child decide which colors should go with each spice. This is a great chance to smell everything in the spice cabinet and learn the names of the different spices in Spanish. Then stir one spice into each color, take the easels outside and paint in the sun. The air will bring out the scents in the paintings and make your little artist want to create all day.
You can also grab a blindfold and then collect different foods from the kitchen with distinct smells. Try onions, lemons, cilantro, cinnamon sticks and vinegar. The kids put the blindfold over their eyes, then try to identify each food through smell only. For each food identified, be sure to identify in one language, then the other. Switch up the order of identifying in English and Spanish to truly master each word.
Finally, you can add on to the smelling game by adding a matching challenge. Double up on your food samples and then see if your learners can find each cup’s exact match using only their sense of smell.
Hear or Oido
Listening activities are a chance to listen to new kinds of music, audio books and play games like “Marco, Polo” in the pool. These are all solid activities, but you can also play some fun games that explore the sense of hearing in a new way.
A fun way to practice a new language is playing a game of old fashioned tin can telephone. Use any clean, empty cans and carefully punch holes in the bottom. Connect them with a long string. Each person should stand just far enough apart for the string to be tight. Then tell a secret, riddle or joke (in Spanish!) into the can. Your kids will love listening with this low-tech phone. Have the listener repeat what they heard out loud in Spanish and then try to translate into English. Then, switch turns.
Feel or Tacto
Use this sense as a chance to run barefoot in the grass, splash in the pool or compare the feel of different fabrics. Exploring your neighborhood can be a good way to use the sense of touch (or feel) for learning. Design a Scavenger Walk using a list of Spanish words that describe how things feel. Then, go word by word and see who can find the most examples for each word. You can give points or make this more of a discussion.
Need to stay indoors? Try some homemade finger paints. Based on your student’s level of Spanish, make a list (in Spanish) of things to paint. Using Spanish, have them call out each color they use and write the word in a sentence below each picture before moving on to the next.
Taste or Gusto
There’s a big opportunity in using the sense of taste to promote learning. Whether it’s trying new flavors or enjoying a bite of our favorite foods, there are many memorable ways to practice Spanish while doing so.
Set up a taste test using 5+ foods with various flavors and textures that can be classified as any of the following. Sweet – sour -bitter – salty -spicy (stick to mild level) – dry – crunchy – moist – chewy. Have your student identify the food in Spanish, then try the food and identify the flavor and/or texture. You can use a blindfold and make this a blind taste test if your little learner is feeling extra adventurous.
You can also try baking one of your child’s favorite sweet treats or get together and cook a favorite family meal at home. Have your student translate the recipe from English to Spanish, then talk through each step in Spanish. For example, when it’s time to set the oven, your student should tell say, Poner el horno a 400 grados. If you’re not too familiar with Spanish yourself, be sure to check the translation before starting so everything turns out just the way you like it.
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Conversation is a great way to practice the skills learned in a Spanish language class, but many kids switch back to their native English the moment class is over. How can you keep them practicing beyond the classroom?
Conversation Techniques with the Textbook
A straightforward way to show your child you want him or her to speak Spanish with you is to get out the book and review. Here are quick review techniques that your kids can use anytime.
1. Turn Exercises into Quizzes
This one lets you take a short, five-question practice section about a topic and use it as a quick, verbal check. Find a section where your son or daughter filled in the blank for their vocabulary, then turn each one into a question. For example, if your child is studying nouns for objects around the house, you can go to the window and ask, in Spanish, “Is this a window or a door?” Do four or five more and be sure to celebrate correct answers with a high-five.
2. Fill in the Gaps
Students are sometimes shy to ask their teacher for a breakdown of a concept or grammar rule. That’s where you can come in. Go over each section and be sure to ask, “Is anything unclear? Can I help?” Make yourself available as an additional tutor to show your child he or she is free to speak Spanish with you.
3. Become the Student
One of the most fun ways to help someone review is to ask them to teach you. When a student gets to switch roles, it helps them organize their thoughts and break down an idea. For fun, you can get a small chalkboard or fake pair of glasses for your son or daughter to use when they’re in teacher mode.
One of the best ways to learn and internalize new information is by having fun. So take advantage and be sure to play and laugh in Spanish with your kids.
4. ¿Que Es? (What is it?)
For this game, you need the Spanish name of different objects written on individual cards or flashcards. Separate them into the categories of your choice, such as Things Mom Likes or Things that Make a Mess.
The first player holds up a card so the rest of the family can see it, but the player can’t see anything. Then, the player has twenty questions he or she can ask, in Spanish, to guess what’s on the card. If the player guesses correctly, they keep the card for a point. An incorrect guess ends the turn and cancels out the card. The person with the most cards wins.
5. Verbal Tic Tac Toe
This one requires planning on your part. You must make a set of cards with Spanish verbs, get a whiteboard or chalkboard for each player and then a reference sheet to be sure your conjugations are correct.
The players write a subject in each square. For example, one square reads ellos and another says yo. Each square should be different. Then you let the first player pick a verb like comer. Players have to tell you the correct conjugation for the square they want. If they want the ellos square, they have to say “Ellos comen.” A correct answer wins them the square, a wrong one gets a pass and the opponent has a chance to steal. Wins need to be marked with an X or O and three in a row win.
6. ¡Simon Dice!
This is a simple twist on the classic game Simon Says. Lead your kids, (and their friends if they’re available), in a simple game of commands in Spanish. These can be “Toca tu cabeza” or “Doble sus rodillas.” However, no one is allowed to move unless you start with “Simon dice…”
Anyone who moves without permission is out. Keep going until you get down to just one player and then make them the leader for the next round or next game.
7. Sports in Spanish
A lot of kids are more open to a conversation once they get outside and start moving. If your son or daughter has a sport they love, grab a ball and invite them to a game. Before you start, explain that speaking in English will earn them a penalty. Decide together what the penalty should be. You can make it fun like a silly dance in the middle of the basketball court or they have to sing “Cucaracha.”
Your child will love that you took some time for them and you’ll love hearing their cheers in Spanish.
Other Fun Techniques
We don’t always have access to games or textbooks, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing Spanish. Here are some additional ways to get the conversation going.
8. Tell a Story
Sharing a story with your children opens them up to the possibility of sharing with you. Tell them about how you learned a language, a time you embarrassed yourself in class or a time you made a mistake. Be sure to tell it in Spanish or, for a twist, sprinkle in Spanish words and ask your child to translate them for you. After you finish, ask your son or daughter to tell you a story about their day, about their earliest memory, anything you feel is appropriate to the moment.
9. Tell Jokes
Something funny happens when we tell jokes in a new language – sometimes they’re funnier! Of course, not every joke translates, but that means you can use them as a challenge. If a joke isn’t funny, look at why it doesn’t work and how it can be edited to make a Spanish speaker laugh. This is also a great chance to talk about cultural references from other countries, what they mean and why they’re funny.
10. Draw Together
If your child is a burgeoning artist or on the younger side, try having some Spanish drawing time. Get down on the floor or get some easels up and talk about colors, memories, scenes, anything. You can also let your artist have some space to create and then have a conversation about their work in Spanish afterward.
Have other conversation starters to add to this list? Share with the HSA community by commenting below.
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