Whether you’re learning Spanish for business or just for fun, your end goal is most likely to communicate with others — not just stare at a textbook! And to do this, you’ll need to practice listening and talking with real people. Here, Spanish tutor Joan B. shares some tips, and where to find conversational Spanish lessons…
If you’ve been studying Spanish but feel your conversational skills are lagging behind your understanding of grammar or your reading abilities, use these tips to make rapid, consistent progress while simultaneously having fun!
Note: These tips work for any language you’re learning. From Spanish to Japanese to French, conversation practice is key.
11 Tips for Improving Your Conversational Spanish
1. Attend social events geared toward Spanish speakers.
This could be a cultural event, a local gallery opening of Latin American art, or a community meeting regarding an issue affecting the local Spanish-speaking community.
2. Listen to material that is casual and conversation-based.
It’s great to listen to newscasts, but if you’d like to converse in Spanish, you can improve your comprehension of spoken Spanish by listening to podcasts and other recordings that reflect common usage of Spanish, rather than formal spoken Spanish. (Our Spanish podcast picks here!)
3. Combine your passions.
It can be hard to find time to improve your language skills when you’re balancing work or school, friends, and other hobbies. So, why not combine them?
If you like traveling, consider choosing a Spanish-speaking country, where you can practice your conversational skills and gain new ones. You could also consider doing volunteer or paid work in your field that would expose you to Spanish speakers. If you enjoy dining out, go out with a few friends who speak your target language — and try to go the entire meal speaking in Spanish!
4. Find a language exchange partner and work with a tutor.
Language exchanges are an excellent way to practice conversation, make a new friend, and learn all about the cultural aspects of speaking Spanish. This is a unique way to challenge your conversational skills, as language exchange partners are usually fluent, native speakers.
Keep in mind, though, if you’re making grammatical mistakes, your partner may not provide corrections. Because of this, it’s smart to balance your study by also working with a private Spanish tutor. Don’t let the word “tutor” scare you off — the great thing about private lessons is that you can set your own specific goals! If you’d prefer to spend the majority of the time practicing conversations, just let your tutor know! Many teachers specialize in conversational Spanish lessons.
5. Chat with a friend who is also learning the same language.
If you’re more comfortable with someone familiar, try chatting with a friend who is also learning the same language! Even better, take a class together. Even if you don’t live in the same city, online group classes are a great way to learn together and get structured conversation practice with others.
6. Use online forums and communities to your advantage.
The internet is full of helpful resources for language learners! The TakeLessons Blog, for example, features articles and guides from professional language tutors like myself. You can also check out forums, like WordReference.com. If you can’t find the answer to your question, you can post it and get answers from native speakers and other in-the-know Spanish speakers.
7. Set specific goals or niches you’d like to focus on.
Is there a certain topic that you would like to excel in conversationally? Identify what interest you, then look for resources (or ask your tutor) to help you build a specific set of vocabulary.
For example, if you like to discuss politics, you could read the newspaper in Spanish, follow Spanish and Latin American politicians on Twitter, or join a community political activist group where Spanish speakers are active. Soon you’ll find yourself conversing easily on a variety of topics in your niche interest!
8. Supplement real-time conversations with language-learning apps.
Language-learning apps are great to use on your own and during your downtime. Some apps focus on pronunciation and conversational skills. Others include fun games that can drill vocabulary and grammar rules that you’ve worked on with your tutor.
Here are some of our favorite apps for supplementing your conversational Spanish lessons:
9. Watch films and telenovelas.
Watch classic films or catch up on your latest telenovela to hear how Spanish sounds, what vocabulary is used, and how people express themselves. Try watching with subtitles to add another layer of reinforcement and understanding!
10. Get out in the community.
Volunteer to help Spanish speakers learn English, and you’ll learn about Spanish sentence structure and expressions by observing the ways in which they try to express themselves in English. Your knowledge of Spanish will also help when they are searching for an expression in English, but haven’t learned it yet.
This is just one of many ways to offer your skills as a volunteer and simultaneously improve your conversational skills. There are many opportunities for volunteering in the fields of law, social justice, nutrition, and more!
11. Host an exchange student or rent a room to a student.
If you have some extra room in your apartment or house, why not host an exchange student or rent a room to a Spanish-speaking student? In addition to making some extra money, you’ll get an enriching experience as you interact with your guest, learn various social customs, and engage in both Spanish and English. Your guest will appreciate your effort to learn his or her language, and you could also request that your guest does a weekly conversation hour with you in Spanish. It’s a win-win!
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Conversational Spanish can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding activities for language learners. Start with one or two of these tips, and then continue through the list as you improve. Most of all, enjoy the journey as you increase your knowledge, make new friends, and have new experiences.
Want some extra help? Search for a local or online Spanish tutor to get started!