With more than 37 million speakers, Spanish is one of the largest and fastest growing languages in the country. This might get you wishing you could add “Se habla español” to your list of qualifications, but no one really wants to spend time with a textbook, and a trip to language school in Barcelona isn’t in the budget. So what are you to do?
Try these 4 resources that help you to learn Spanish fast!
#4: Learn Spanish Fast by Binge Watching! www.Hulu.com/Latino
Admit it, you’ve spent a rainy afternoon watching 15 episodes of your favorite show in a row. And while everyone enjoys catching up on their favorite shows, adding some new ones might get you closer to that “Se habla español” goal.
“But all Spanish-language television is slapstick comedy and steamy novella soap operas, and I’m more of a “Lost” or “Glee” type of person.”
It’s true that slapstick comedy and romance dominate, and we highly recommend watching “El Chavo” on Hulu, as it’s a classic cultural icon and very understandable for beginners. But there’s more to Spanish-language television than gets broadcast on your satellite, and that’s where the glory of the internet shines through.
Fan of “Downton Abbey”? Try “Isabel” a historical drama set in 15th century Spanish court. Police drama more your style? Watch “Los Hombres de Paco”, following police unit in Spain. If “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is your favorite, you might like “Mi Vida en Sayulita” documenting lives of rich teens on the beach. Kids shows also abound. The point is, no matter what you enjoy, you can find a TV Show in Spanish to entertain you and help you to learn Spanish fast. Many shows have plot summaries and character lists online to help you keep up with what is going on.
Pro Tip: Avoid watching the news, which goes at a speed many native speakers struggle with.
#3: Learn Spanish Fast, Foodies!
I’ve met a few people in my life who just don’t seem to enjoy good food, but I’m guessing you aren’t one of them. At Confidence Learning Services, we enjoy a good meal, and it turns out that between bites you could be training your tongue to speak Spanish.
If you’ve been trying your best “Otra Cerveza, Por Favor” to impress your waitress at your local Mexican restaurant and gotten nowhere, it’s time for a new approach. Most Mexican food in the U.S. is Americanized Mexican catering to U.S. palettes, and if the rest of the diners in the joint are speaking English, there’s a chance that the food isn’t very authentic and the environment is English-dominant. And you definitely won’t learn Spanish fast or slow there. So what to do?
Start by looking for “Authentic Mexican Food” in your community, where staff and patrons are more likely to be speaking Spanish. It’s there, I promise, whether you’re in upstate New York or Middle Tennessee. A good place to start is a “Taqueria,” a taco-shop. Even better if you can find a store, a “Tienda” or “Supermercado” and restaurant combination. Not only are those places more authentic, but you get the chance to roam the aisles finding different products, pronouncing new vocabulary from the labels, and listening to other shoppers. You might be able to ask your cashier for recipe tips to go with your new ingredients!
But don’t stop there. Try searching for the cuisines of other Spanish speaking countries – Dominican or Cuban food, Argentinean, Colombian or Central American. Many of these places will be more authentic since their cuisine is less popular and less imitated, and may give you the opportunity to listen and speak in Spanish.
You can also encounter authentic Spanish-language eating experiences by searching out specific dishes. Finding a Mexican place that serves “sopes” or “tortas” in your area will likely be more authentic, and require more Spanish to be spoken, than someplace famous for their Nachos or Speedy Gonzalez combos. Likewise, finding someplace selling mofongo, pupusas, arepas or bocaditos will bring more Spanish language opportunities into your life, and put more delicious varieties of food on your plate.
While there, try to pronounce the names of dishes on the menu, ask for a paper menu to take home and look over, and ask questions about the restaurant specialties. Let your server know that you’re learning Spanish, and that you’d like to practice. Buen Provecho!
Pro Tip: When we say ask questions, we mean it. You may be surprised to learn that intestines and tongue are favorite taco fillings if you aren’t careful what you order.
#2: Reading kids’ books can help you learn Spanish fast!
I can count the number of times I’ve thought about brewing myself a cup of coffee, sitting on the couch, and poring over a chapter of the good ol’ Spanish textbook, and it’s exactly zero. Even if you’re an avid reader, checking out a paperback novel or biography in Spanish will likely be overwhelming. Wait, did we forget how we got so good at speaking English ourselves?
Never underestimate the power of children’s books. Reading was an important part of your first language development, and it can help you learn Spanish fast. Children’s books are colorful, written on an easy to understand level, and often hilarious. Many already familiar titles are available in Spanish, “Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo” and “Buenas Noches, Luna” are a couple, as well as books originally written in Spanish. Most libraries have a small section of Spanish language children’s books, sometimes with an accompanying Audio CD. Start out with books as basic as possible, with lots of pictures and few lines of text. You can slowly build yourself up to higher level books on elementary or middle school levels, like Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Harry Potter. For a list of suggested books with links to “Compre” (purchase), visit Colorin Colorado.
Pro Tip: Ask your librarian for suggestions for obtaining Spanish language books.
#1: Learn Spanish Fast by teaching English.
Say what? I’m trying to learn Spanish and you want me to go back to English?
The fact is, there are many churches, non-profits, or government organizations offering free ESL classes to Spanish-speakers, and many are looking for volunteers. Some organizations may be looking for mentors or tutors for Spanish-speaking school children. How does this help you learn Spanish? It puts you in contact with real people. People who speak Spanish. You might wind up using your limited Spanish vocabulary to help explain class instructions, or to confirm plans for next week, and you might be addressed with clarification in Spanish or questions when the English words are lacking. Either way, when you are in close contact with someone who speaks predominantly Spanish, that is the best opportunity for your Spanish to flourish. Call local Spanish speaking churches, your school district or library for more info on potential English classes targeting Spanish speakers in your area.
Some organizations even arrange for “Language Partners”, matching speakers who want to learn each other’s languages. “Round Table” type events are also often available for group conversation between Spanish and English speakers to better both languages.
Pro Tip: Check out your library or community center event calendars for info on language exchanges or English courses. You might even post flyers at Spanish-language stores or restaurants in search of a Spanish/English language partner!