It’s one thing to cram for that Spanish proficiency test, but it’s another to speak Spanish. I’m always amazed how many people who work as translators or ESL teachers, have Spanish degrees or do just fine with the written word remain unable to make conversation in Spanish at all or feel left behind when native speakers take off on a normal (if seemingly rapid) pace. Making the leap from classroom Spanish to actually jumping into Spanish conversations can seem daunting, but there are ways to make it natural. Most of bridging the gap comes from getting hands-on practice, so here are some ways to get your Espanyol into shape.
1. Read it.
Most of us make a little bit of leisure time for light reading or wish we did and reading is an activity that (obviously) forces you to use language. As a kid, I remember that the reason I did well in English class was because I spent most evenings reading before bed; the same applies for other languages. Jumping into Spanish literature might seem like too much, but try something light magazines are easy to fund, and a kid’s story book is a fun alternative. (Just don’t start with a noir detective novel like I did turns out real people don’t speak like a Mexican Dick Tracy.) Reading out loud can help with your accent, too.
2. Learn songs.
Different people learn different ways, and this can be a great way to sneak some Spanish into your vocabulary. If you find Spanish language songs that you like, they can be great learning tools. Of course, you’ll have to actually listen to the lyrics, not just tap your foot; I recommend learning the song by heart so you can sing it yourself.
3. Seek out conversation.
Everyone knows that immersing with native speakers is the best way to go, but that’s harder than it sounds. Most of us can’t just jet off to Argentina and even if we could we’d likely hang with the gringos. But even in your home town you can seek out a Spanish conversation group via Meetup, or organize one yourself.
4. Try creative writing.
Writing in a foreign language is a great way to practice your skills without the pressure of maintaining a conversation. Write super-short stories or blog posts and then have someone fluent in the language check them over for you.
If you can focus on putting your skills to use like this, you won’t just ace your Spanish proficiency test- you’ll soon become fluent.