Before I came on my year abroad to Granada I was under the impression that I was going to be immersed in the language everyday and encounter learning situations without seeking them out. However, this is not the case in Granada, especially if you are studying as I am. It’s extremely easy to go days without speaking the language, especially for me because I couldn’t find a flat with Spanish speakers. Also, there is a huge Erasmus community, which in some aspects is fantastic. However, in terms of Spanish language improvement it is very hard because a lot of these students can speak English and will tend to talk to you in English because its their second language. Some effort must be put into finding opportunities to speak the language and ultimately progress in your chosen language. So here are some tips to ensure that you are getting the most out of your year abroad and putting all those grammar tests into practice.
Live with a native Spanish speaker! Even though I am not currently doing this myself I plan to do this over the summer to really improve my language. You can’t beat having to communicate in your second language every single day to get by as great practice. The other advantage of doing this is that you learn all the colloquialisms and idioms that you are not taught in class or in textbooks, that make the language more exciting than it already is.
Go to intercambios. These are basically meet ups between native Spanish speakers and all other languages to practice their desired language and to help and encourage others to improve. Some of these are a little disappointing because some people don’t make any effort to make conversation and you end up asking all the questions. However, when you do find people that are really interested to talk it is GREAT, so don’t be put off if you have an underwhelming experience the first time round. I recommend these events because you can meet people from all over the world and it really forces you to make conversation. Its also a great feeling to know that everyone there, regardless of their level, is in the same boat as you and are eager to practice and help out others.
Join the Facebook page Auxiliares de Conversación en Granada. This page is used to promote loads of different things like what to do in Granada and where are the best places to go. However, it also allows you to ask or respond to native speakers who want a language buddy. I think this is a really good way of learning a language and you can guarantee a few times each week where you are going to be able to have a good, proper conversation. It also gives you an excuse to go and get a coffee and a cake.
Even though practicing your oral Spanish is very important, I feel I have learned a lot just by reading everything! Yes, it’s a good idea to read books and magazines etc. however, just by reading signs, leaflets, menus, napkins and even graffiti I have learnt something. This also guarantees that your head is constantly in Spanish mode and therefore your brain will respond faster to the language.
As tedious as it sounds, having a vocab book is very helpful. Don’t get me wrong, sitting yourself down and dedicating an hour or two to actually learn all the words you have gathered is hard, especially in between all the your other uni work. However, its worth it when you are listening to someone and they use a word and you can think, I just learnt that today, I know what that means, with a smug little smile on your face.
Another idea to enhance your language is to go on the Erasmus trips. Not only is it great to experience different places in Spain – and may I say at very reasonable prices – but you have great opportunities to put your language skills into practice. I feel that on these trips it’s easier to make conversation as there is more to talk about because you are in different surroundings and they are usually new to everyone. It’s not unusual to have had a couple of cervezas as well which really gets the conversation going. I think my best spoken Spanish has been after a couple of tinto de veranos.
So, don’t expect to be fluent in a month but there are many ways in which you can work towards that goal of mastering the lingo.