99 Ways To Improve Your Language Skills While Living Abroad

They say the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself – but does this immersion guarantee fluidity?

Unfortunately even while on a designated ‘I must learn Spanish by living in Argentina’ year abroad it is apparently not possible to improve one’s Spanish by magic.  In one year in Chile with absolutely no Spanish I learnt language however it wasn’t until at least 6 months in that I could successfully form more than 10 basic sentences. Since then I’ve spent two years studying Spanish grammar which you would think would give me a better shot at fluidity this time round. However there appears to be one minor hurdle in my path: as you can see from this video, my students English is incredible:

Therefore, if I’m feeling lazy it’s all too easy to slip into my native tongue especially since they want to practice their English too.

The bottom line though is that I’m simply not trying hard enough. There are countless ways to improve your Spanish while living in a Spanish speaking country and not all of them count on the locals. Here are 99 different ways to improve your Spanish – but really most of these methods can be applied to any language in any country!

  1. Read Spanish blogs like http://viajandoporahi.com which is one of my favourite travel blogs! But if you’re more into sports or cooking maybe find one suited to your interests
  2. Read books that you’ve already read in Spanish – this means you’re already familiar with the plot and are less likely to get lost which is a great starting point! (my starting point is always Harry Potter!) 
  3. Bookswap with a Spanish speaking friend or one of your students
  4. Find a library nearby
  5. Read the news in Spanish
  6. Read new books in Spanish – take every recommendation you can get and note down all the new vocabulary
  7. Read biographies in Spanish
  8. Read Spanish poetry
  9. Read Spanish Bible verses, Quran verses and other religious texts
  10. Read Spanish magazines
  11. Read Spanish newspapers
  12. Read Spanish short stories – http://www.fluentu.com/spanish/blog/spanish-literature-short-stories/
  13. Cook from Spanish recipes eg cookbooks/online recipes
  14. Make Spotify playlists of your favourite Spanish music and listen in the background
  15. Listen to the radio in Spanish
  16. Follow Spanish artists on Spotify such as Maluma, Callejeros, Manos Arriba, Los Bunkers, Javiera Mena <3
  17. Shzam Spanish songs when you hear them out and about
  18. Look up the lyrics to your favourite Spanish songs – if you can learn Reggaeton lyrics like these ones you’ll be doing better than most Argentinians https://www.buzzfeed.com/gustavoserrano/suave-suavecito?utm_term=.deyAXxMpj#.xpoxd7gjR
  19. Go to zumba classes
  20. Go to salsa classes
  21. Go to bachata classes
  22. Go to merengue classes
  23. Go to tango classes
  24. Sing kareoke in Spanish
  25. Join a Spanish choir
  26. If you play an instrument learn to play some Spanish songs
  27. Better yet, try composing in a Spanish style with Spanish lyrics
  28. Listen to the news in Spanish
  29. Watch Netflix in Spanish
  30. Watch Amazon Prime in Spanish
  31. Watch films in Spanish
  32. Watch Spanish/South American television: whether its a Turkish novela, Manos al Fuego (Chilean reality tv about cheating partners or ancient re runs like Destinos; watching real TV will improve your slang vocabulary and your listening skills
  33. Watch films from Spain and South America
  34. Watch Spanish/South American documentaries – not only can watching something like… improve your Spanish but it can also increase your cultural knowledge of the country you are living in
  35. Watch Netflix with Spanish subtitles
  36. Watch Amazon Prime with Spanish subtitles
  37. Watch Spanish and South America comedians
  38. Watch sport games with Spanish commentary – great for improving your sports vocabulary!
  39. Go to see plays in Spanish
  40. Go to see the opera in Spanish
  41. Go to see musicals in Spanish
  42. Put your phone in Spanish
  43. Put your computer or laptop into Spanish
  44. Put all technological devices into Spanish
  45. Use daily Spanish apps such as Babble or Duolingo
  46. Read Buzzfeed in Spanish
  47. ‘Read’ Spanish memes and save them even if you don’t understand them
  48. Follow Spanish speakers on twitter – great for following a range of politicians, journalists, musicians, models, actors and with a 120 character limit there is only so much to misinterpret
  49. Follow Spanish speakers on instagram – you can follow Buenos Aires designer @camitalpone ; an architect in Barcelona called @stoptheroc and whomever else your heart desires
  50. Then follow Spanish speakers on facebook
  51. Follow Spanish speakers on snapchat
  52. Then ollow Spanish speakers on tumblr
  53. Follow Spanish youtubers like Duclceida, or the Cuelca! comedy sketches from Argentina
  54. #Hashtag in Spanish
  55. Whatever you teach in English, teach to yourself in Spanish
  56. If you are teaching a book or film or news article in English to students; do the same exercises with yourself with the Spanish version
  57. Don’t get behind on your grammar: break down the topics you struggle with and use user forums and online grammar pages to study as often as you can
  58. To say nothing of spelling: if you can spell in English, you can spell in Spanish. Learnt the cognate words to give yourself a  headstart: https://www.thoughtco.com/improve-your-spanish-spelling-307836
  59. Keep a daily list of new words that you learn 
  60. Put sticky notes with Spanish sayings around your home
  61. Put sticky notes with Spanish nouns on the corresponding objects
  62. Don’t over rely on translators to get through conversations
  63. That said, find a translation app that doesn’t need internet
  64. Write daily lists in Spanish
  65. Organise your planner in Spanish
  66. Organise your calendar in Spanish
  67. Research and make travel plans in Spanish
  68. When making trips around the country – use Spanish tourism websites
  69. Do crosswords in Spanish
  70. Write a blog in Spanish – like mine! 
  71. If you keep a journal in English, keep one in Spanish as well
  72. Ask the people you speak with to correct you
  73. Make sure any English pupils you have speak to you in Spanish outside of the classroom
  74. Speak in Spanish with English speaking friends or acquaintances, especially around Spanish speakers
  75. Try to get into arguments about things you care about in Spanish
  76. Date Spanish speakers
  77. In addition, get yourself a Spanish girlfriend/boyfriend/partner
  78. Spanish is one of the sexiest languages in the world so why not make use of that and write love letters in Spanish – it will sound better in Spanish than English anyway!
  79. Work or volunteer with Spanish speaking children
  80. Whatsapp or facebook Spanish speaking friends in Spanish which will undoubtedly improve your slang
  81. Go to a Spanish church or mosque or other religious service that you would normally attend in English
  82. Talk to people you don’t know – this is more acceptable in cities that aren’t Edinburgh or London
  83. Try to convince at least one person that you are a native Spanish speaker
  84. Pronounce all place names in Spanish
  85. Learn and practice as many Spanish tongue twisters as you can
  86. Read out loud
  87. Participate in some Spanish drama or theatre
  88. When you meet people who may want to speak English with you, lie and say you speak Gaelic, Irish, Welsh, Polish – a language they don’t speak and then you will have to continue in Spanish
  89. Play a sport
  90. Dine out
  91. Go to the supermarket
  92. Play Spanish board games such as scrabble or monopoly or bannagram
  93. When travelling, don’t stay in hostels or hotels full of English speakers – try couchsurfing or airbnb
  94. Stay with a host family
  95. Get lost and ask for directions
  96. Learn to laugh at yourself
  97. Visualise in Spanish
  98. Think in Spanish
  99. Everything you do in English – do in Spanish