When you build a house, you start with constructing the foundations, then the walls, roof, doors and windows until it is wind and water tight. Then comes the fun bit: the interior design and furnishings that make it not just a house, but your home, a place in which you can feel comfortable and enjoy life.
You could say that learning a language is a bit like building a house: we lay the foundations by attending classes where we learn the rudiments of the language – grammar, reading, writing and oral skills – and as we progress to higher levels, we start to build the walls, developing our skills so that they become sound and, “wind and water tight”, as it were.
But how and when do we start to feel at home with a language? How can we add our linguistic interior fittings, furniture and pictures, clothes and belongings so that we eventually feel comfortable enough just being ourselves? We have thought up ten tips for anyone who wants to start feeling at home with the Spanish language…
1. Go to Spain.
For as long as you can. This isn’t a possibility for everyone, but it had to go at the top of the list because it makes sooo much difference. The advantages are numerous and obvious, and don’t need to be gone into, but the issue is, how do we go to Spain? How can we get the most out of our time there? It’s very simple: throw yourself into Spanish culture. Get to know your hosts.
This means that if you are an Erasmus student, try to make friends with your Spanish class mates (this won’t be hard as they tend to be very friendly) instead of going to the usual Erasmus events; if you go for work or spend time in Spain as a retired person, avoid expat circles like the plague and spend time instead with locals (if your feeling stuck, there is always a granny sitting on a bench with plenty to say); and if you are planning a holiday, DON’T GO TO MARBELLA!!!! Nor any of the usual “guiri” resorts, and don’t buy a package holiday.
An alternative could be to stay in someone’s house through Airbnb, visit a less touristy area and travel with car pooling, where you would be forced to interact in Spanish and truly experience the warmth of the Spanish people.
2. Form a language exchange
There are many Spanish people who have recently come to Edinburgh and are very keen to improve their English You could arrange to meet with them once a week, for example, to exchange your English for their Spanish. Spending time with them on a regular basis will boost your Spanish no end, and you might also make new friends. This website has been set up especially for that purpose.
3. Spanish Cinema
Relax and enjoy a Spanish film! Or watch a film in English with Spanish subtitles. Either way, this is something enjoyable and effortless, and you will find that you pick up vocabulary and accents while learning more about Hispanic culture. Here at SALT we have a library of DVDs for all our students, the catalogue of which can be downloaded from our student area.
4. Read in Spanish
It doesn’t matter what level your Spanish is at, you can always find a book that suits you. Reading is also a way to relax and enjoy the language. If you find a good book, it will capture your interest and make you want to read on. It doesn’t have to be a painful process of looking up each new word in the dictionary, but rather a case of guessing the meaning of words by the context. Amazon have more than 8000 books in Spanish, both in paperback and kindle editions, so there is plenty to choose from!
5. Get hooked on a Spanish series.
This means endless hours of entertainment without feeling guilty – your’e not waisting time, your learning Spanish! Also, some series can teach you a lot about the history and culture, for example RTVE’s “Cuéntame como pasó” or “Amar en tiempos revueltos“, which portray life in Spain before, during and after the Civil war. By drawing you into the lives of their intriguing characters, these series also teach you about 20th century Spain.
For the next five suggestions, keep a look out for our next blog, Ten ways to make your Spanish come alive: Part 2 coming soon!