How to immerse yourself in Spanish - tips for incorporating language learning into your daily life
Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and also one of the most popular ones to learn - if you're learning Spanish, you're in the good company of millions of others. The popular online language learning programme Duolingo alone has over 20 million learners on their Spanish course for English speakers. But however you've been learning so far - formally on a university course or casually through one of the various mobile apps available, for example - everyone can deepen their language skills by integrating Spanish into their daily lives. There are many fun ways to start reading and writing, listening and speaking more Spanish and you can get started right away.
Use social media to maximise your learning.
Approximately 1 in 4 people use some kind of social network regularly. Facebook, Twitter and many other social media websites are popular methods of keeping in touch with friends and family, networking with people who have similar interests and keeping up to date with what's happening locally and globally. Social media can also be a fabulous tools for language learners. For a daily dose of news and fresh content in Spanish, try following El País, Revista National Geographic en español or BBC Mundo - and participate in the discussions if you're feeling brave! Search also for interesting blogs, authors, musicians and interest groups to follow and watch your vocabulary skyrocket. And while you're signed into Facebook or another social media website, hop over to the language settings and switch to Spanish for an extra dose of practice.
Incorporate Spanish into your hobbies and interests.
What are your favourite pastimes? Can you incorporate Spanish into them? Maybe you're an enthusiastic cook or a baker - challenge yourself to find your next recipe online in Spanish and absorb the vocabulary as you're preparing your dish. Do you enjoy reading comics? See if your favourite laughs are available in Spanish! Do you like to play online games? Look out for games in Spanish, especially the ones where you rely on written clues, like point and click games. See how quickly you can solve puzzles - and learn new vocabulary along the way. Or maybe you're a fan of board games instead? Some, like Guess Who? can be played in any language, including Spanish! Are you're an avid reader? Perhaps your Spanish skills aren't yet advanced enough to read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabrial García Marquez or The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende in their original language, but you don't need to be that ambitious right away. You could start by looking for bilingual books, such as poetry and short story collections, that allow you to check any difficult phrases or expressions as you go without needing to resort to fumbling through a dictionary. Have a look around your local library or bookstore or see what you can find online. And if you prefer to listen to your books, you can download audio books in Spanish on various sites such as Audible. Children's stories are especially good for beginners with their familiar and easy to follow storylines. Or why not get a Spanish magnetic poetry kit and create your own (silly or serious) poems on your fridge?
Keep your ears open.
For many people music is an integral part of their lives - whether as a background to daily activities or work, an indispensable motivator during a workout or the essential ingredient in social gatherings. Music is also a scientifically proven language learning tool. A study by University of Edinburgh showed that participants who were trying to memorise phrases in a foreign language fared much better when they listened to the phrases when they were sung as opposed to set to a rhythm or spoken. Listening to music (and singing along!) is also helpful in improving pronunciation and picking up colloquialisms and slang.
With digital downloads and online streaming, accessing music in Spanish is easy. Curious about what the top hits are in Spain or Mexico? Head over to Spotify to find out. And while you're there you could create your own playlist just for Spanish language music. Then check the world music collection at your favourite music downloading site, or visit your local music library to see what they have in their collection. For a mix of music, talk and news in Spanish, there are many radio stations that can be streamed online.
Learn on the sofa.
Watching films in Spanish is probably one of the most rewarding ways to learn the language. There are lots of films to choose from - have you seen Volver, Like water for chocolate or Pan's labyrinth? Check your local cinema or a DVD rental/online streaming service for any films that tickle your fancy. You might also want to check your existing DVD/Blu-ray collection for any films that have an option for Spanish subtitles for a whole new learning opportunity.
Youtube also contains many gems in Spanish. Extra en español is a lighthearted series featuring a group of friends in Barcelona, especially created for Spanish learners. Watching children's programmes such as Pocoyo can also be a fun and relaxed way to pick up new language skills.
Which Spanish skills are you better at?
Mix with native Spanish speakers.
Nothing beats interacting with native speakers when it comes to learning a language. But even if travelling to Spain or Latin America is not possible for you at the moment, there are several other ways you can interact with Spanish speakers right where you are. Language exchange communities, such as Conversation Exchange, match up speakers of different languages who either want to meet in person, write to each other or chat online using Skype or other software. You may also find Spanish speakers willing to do a language exchange advertised on notice boards in cafes and community centres. To meet with other learners keen to practise their skills, look out for local Spanish conversation groups on sites such as Meetup.
And most importantly:
¡Diviértete! Have fun! :)