Spanish lessons with a fluent, experienced tutor are by far the best way to learn Spanish. But you can’t always be with your tutor, so how can you improve your Spanish in your own free time? Here are 4 great, easy ways to do this that will ensure you get the most out of your learning and turn up to your next lesson just as sharp as you left the last one.
Watch content in Spanish
Watching shows and films is one of the main ways we’ve entertained ourselves for a long time in our own language, so why not apply this same habit to your language learning journey? In this era of streaming services, it’s never been easier to watch content from anywhere, and along with the new Netflix show in English that appears every day, there’s also a growing number of Spanish-language shows and films on popular streaming sites.
A fantastic way to improve your Spanish, then, is to swap the content of some of your usual Netflix sessions for content in Spanish. Even if you just watched one episode a week in Spanish, this would help you to greatly improve in your ability in the language as you’ll be putting your learning into practice rather than only practising your Spanish while in lessons. The great part about watching shows and films is that they’re entertaining, too – as long as you pick one based around topics that you’re actually interested in, of course.
If you don’t yet feel up to watching a whole episode in Spanish, you can find shorter pieces of content to watch that might be more digestible. Youtube is your best friend for this – just type in a topic that interests you in Spanish, and it should come up with plenty of videos.
For example, if I’m interested in football and the English Premier League, I might type in something like ‘liga primera inglaterra’. Or, if the topic is the name of something that would be spelt the same in Spanish, you can add ‘español’ afterwards: if I wanted to watch videos about the Oscar award-winning film ‘Joker’, I could type in ‘Joker español’ and I’ll get various videos, including trailers.
Listen to Spanish content on the go
The only problem with watching content is that you often have to be able to see what is going on to fully understand and appreciate it. Using only audio to improve your Spanish allows you to get beyond this hurdle.
There are many times a day when we’re doing things that don’t require our full concentration: when we’re brushing our teeth, making our lunch or doing housework, to name just a few. Many people at these times will put music on in the background that they’ve listened to many times before. Try to make the most of these times by listening to some Spanish-language music instead.
Hispanic music has been on a complete rise over the past few years, led by figures such as J Balvin, Rosalía and Nicky Jam, to name just a few. This has led to Latino music being consistently in the charts, and there are more and more new releases every week. Whatever platform you stream your music on, there’s guaranteed to be plenty of Spanish hits, so make the most of them.
One of my favourite playlists on Spotify is the Viva Latino playlist, which is updated regularly with the latest Spanish music. There are many others out there and you can find music for all genres and moods (it’s not all reggaetón, like some people seem to think).
If you’re not really a music listener and prefer to listen to podcasts – no problem! There are plenty of Spanish-language podcasts available online for you to stream as your heart desires. I recently wrote a post all about how you can use podcasts to improve your Spanish.
As in English, you’ll be able to find podcasts covering all types of topics, so find one that matches your interest and start listening to it now. As with shows and films, finding one that matches your interests means you’re more likely to power through if the understanding does get a bit difficult.
Our podcast, the ESpeak Spanish Podcast, is great in that it is designed with Spanish learners in mind, rather than just being a podcast made for native Spanish speakers. Each episode covers a different topic to provide interesting content for you, and each one is also accompanied by a transcript in both Spanish and English to help you improve.
Follow Spanish-language accounts on social media
I think this is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re practising your Spanish on a daily basis, as it requires so little extra effort. We already spend so much time scrolling on social media, looking through our friends’ and celebrities’ posts, so why not start following some Spanish-speaking accounts to make your daily scroll more beneficial?
As they’re social media posts, they’ll be very current, which means they’re likely to be interesting. Because they’re on social media, they’ll also use vocabulary and slang that you might not hear in your early lessons, which means you’ll open yourself up to new realms of Spanish learning. Plus, they’re like to be quite short, which is ideal for a Spanish learner.
On Instagram, we put out content most days to allow you to improve your Spanish, inform you about Spanish-speaking countries and give you language-learning tips. Some of our content is short, minute-long videos of me speaking in Spanish, which allows you to practise a quick bit of Spanish without having to buckle in for a really long video. You can check out our Instagram feed at @espeak.online.
Find things to read in Spanish
Reading is the favourite pastime of a lot of people, with many reading first thing in the morning, on their way to and from work or last thing before bed. Alternating your current novel or non-fiction book with a Spanish book could work wonders for your Spanish.
To be able to fully grasp a language, as well as hearing the language spoken and speaking it yourself it is really helpful if you can see the words written down. By seeing words that you’ve come across written down in new sentences, you’ll be able to consolidate your learning of these words and pick up new vocabulary too.
So pop to your local library and see what Spanish-language books they have on offer. Nothing there? As with everything else, Amazon will be able to help you find something that you’ll enjoy.
The book doesn’t have to have originally been written in Spanish, either. It might even be better to find the translation of a book you’ve already read, as this familiarity will make it easier for you to follow the story and to grasp the understanding of certain words. One of the first books in Spanish that I read was ‘1984’ by George Orwell, as I’d already read and really enjoyed the English version of this novel.
Also, don’t discount children’s books. I’ve read some of the ‘Geronimo Stilton’ books before to improve my Spanish – you might think it’s silly, but I guarantee that you will struggle with a lot of the words. But the good thing is that you’re likely to struggle much less than with a full-length novel. Think about it: you wouldn’t give a young child a really complicated English book to read straight away, and in essence, you’re a young child in the new language you’re learning.
So now it’s over to you. I’ve given you 4 great ways that you can take the initiative and further progress in your Spanish learning. And you don’t have to start doing all of them at once. Pick the one that you’ll enjoy the most and watch your learning flourish from there.