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Thursday, September 3, 2009

10 Everyday Ways to Improve Your Spanish Language Skills

This blog focuses on Spanish community service learning (CSL) students, but we cannot forget that they are first and foremost Spanish students. All the best practices for teaching Spanish still apply, you just add on more layers when you have them work in the community with native speakers to solve real-world problems. The following blog post by Rose Jensen (accredited online college; Rose.Jensen28@ yahoo.com) offers tips for all language learners. For more from Rose, I suggest her post on "101 Tools to Learn ANY Foreign Language for Free"--Ann

Learning a new language can be exciting and enlightening, but it can also be challenging especially when you’re trying to grasp the finer points of conjugation, pronunciation and pick up less than common terms. You can help yourself learn to speak more fluently and maybe even learn a little more about Spanish-speaking cultures by using these simple ways to flex your language muscles.

  1. Read newspapers and books in Spanish. Even if you don’t live in an area where print versions of these kinds of publications are readily available in general the online versions are free to look through and read. Check out sites like BBC Mundo, El País, La Jornada to learn language skills while reading the news.
  2. Talk to other Spanish speakers. There is really no better way to become a better Spanish speaker than to practice with others who are native speakers. Never miss a chance to speak Spanish when you can, even if it’s just to order some food or say hello.
  3. Ask for feedback. You can practice speaking Spanish all you like, but if you don’t get some constructive criticism you’ll never know what you’re doing wrong. Ask others to correct you when you make a mistake or inquire about things that you’re not quite sure about.
  4. Watch movies or television. Improving your Spanish skills can be entertaining when you simply flip on the TV and catch up with a telenovella or a movie being televised in Spanish. If you don’t get Spanish language channels, check out movies by Julio Medem, Guillermo del Toro, and Pedro Almodóvar.
  5. Use online language exchanges. With technology, people from around the world are literally at your fingertips. Sign up for a site like LiveMocha to chat with native Spanish speakers and in turn help them with their English.
  6. Repetition. There are few things that will drill those new words or concepts into your head like repetition. Make flashcards and review material several times a week to make sure it sticks and doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other.
  7. Sign up for a word of the day. Dictionary.com offers a Spanish word of the day delivered to your inbox, or if you have an iGoogle set up you can see it every time you start your web browser. You might be able to pick up a few terms here and there that can be pretty useful in conversation or writing.
  8. Make it fun. Learning a new language shouldn’t be a dreaded task—it should be something that’s fun and engaging. Seek out ways that you can learn without feeling bored, whether that’s playing games or watching movies.
  9. Learn root words. Knowing a little Latin can take you a long way when it comes to romance languages. Try learning some of the roots to words, or think of words you know in English that have similar prefixes or suffixes to puzzle out what words might mean.
  10. Immerse yourself in local culture. Whether you seek out a cultural event, take a trip, or join a club, there are few more fun ways to learn a language than learning more about the people who use it every day.

This post was contributed by Rose Jensen, who writes about the accredited online college. She welcomes your feedback at Rose.Jensen28@ yahoo.com

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