Once upon a time you were practically fluent. You could ask for directions and order something to eat while in Central America without worrying about what was coming to your plate. But, as the old maxim goes, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. And now you can barely get through the Taco Bell Menu. Don't worry my friend, we all lose a little of what we learn, but the good news is that it can come back!
I've compiled different ways that you can keep your Spanish skills alive and fresh.
There are three main ways to develop language skills:
- reading and writing
Below are some suggested ways to keep Spanish fresh for each category. No matter what approach, remember to make it fun and be fearless.
WAYS TO LISTEN TO MORE SPANISH
Watch Spanish television or movies. Take an hour a week. Get caught up in a soap. Watch the news. Or choose a kid show. Maybe start with subtitles, but only for the first month or so. Also, most DVDs have Spanish voice-overs, try listening to your favorite flick in Spanish.
Attend a Spanish-speaking church instead of your usual one. Most of the material is familiar, so the amount of new vocabulary will be limited. It's also a really neat spiritual experience.
- Listen to Spanish radio/podcasts, or buy Spanish music. If you are really ambitious, head out to the local salsa club and do some dancing! Or try Zumba, nothing like working out both your mind and your body at the same time.
HOW TO READ AND WRITE MORE SPANISH
- Subscribe to an online Spanish newspaper, blog, or newsletter.
- Surf the web in Spanish. Try setting your search engine language settings to Spanish. (In Internet Explorer, go to Internet Options->General->Languages->Add Spanish as an option)
- Check out books in Spanish from your library. Mix it up a bit and try some poetry. I love Neruda and Lorca. They'll also have children's books for beginners and translations of well-known titles and best-sellers written by English speakers.
- Connect with a pen pal. Or possibly sponsor a child through a charity like Common Hope.
- If you're spouse or significant other speaks Spanish also, start writing love notes to each other in Spanish.
HOW TO PRACTICE MORE SPANISH
- Volunteer for a group that works with Hispanics and/or Latinos. If you are a beginner, find something that works with children or is bilingual. Teaching English as Second Language in a foreign country is an extreme case, but it will definitely help you learn.
- Offer to tutor introductory level Spanish students. This can be at a high school or college level. You may not even have to leave your house!
- Check out local community groups. That could be hispanic chamber of commerce, latino interest groups, or just Spanish clubs.
- Spend time shopping or dining in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. Try getting your groceries at the local latino grocery store.
- Audit university or community college courses
- Travel to places where Spanish is the native language. Mexico can be pretty cheap.
- Skype chat! of find an online refresher
- Go back to the library. Some libraries have language resources you can get free.
- Host an exchange student. Look to your local rotary club for guidance.
- Enroll your child in an immersion program. Work together to learn and practice the language.
You never know when the ability to speak a second language will come in handy. Keeping up on the language doesn't have to take a lot of work, but it's important to do it.
Beuna Suerte Amigos!