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Ok. So the best way to learn a language is to practice as much as possible. Obviously, immersion is the best way to practice a language, but even if you can't afford to go to a Spanish speaking country, you can get some mini immersion right here in the states. Here's how:
1. Get an ‘intercambio' (exchange partner) right here in the US. Either through someone you know, or online, you can find a partner to converse with (or type with) in Spanish. This is excellent practice. There are programs across the country for volunteer exchange (check out your local college or university for their programs) where native Spanish speakers who want to practice their English are willing to split time between you practicing your Spanish with them and them practicing their English with you.
2. Date a native Spanish speaker. Whether you are living abroad or in the US the best way to practice Spanish is to date someone who is a native speaker. This is NOT a suggestion to date someone JUST because they are a native speaker. I do not presume to make suggestions about your love life. However, it is very useful as far as practicing the language goes. Even after living in Spain for a year, my Spanish would not have reached true native fluency had I not come back with a Spanish boyfriend. In fact, my Spanish continued to improve the entire time we were together, even once I was back in the states.
3. Speak with any native Spanish speakers you come across at work, at your school, at your kids' school, in the grocery store, etc. Most people are happy to help you practice, although be wary of insulting people by trying to speak to them in Spanish even once they insist that you speak in English, and that their English is better than your Spanish. As long as you make it clear that you want to practice your Spanish, and improve, people should be friendly about it. But, there are non native English speakers who will take offense if you insist on addressing them in Spanish when their English is perfectly good and your Spanish is not.
4. Talk to yourself and think to yourself in Spanish. Ok, I know you might feel funny talking to yourself in a language that is not your own, but it helps and it can be less embarrassing than trying to talk to someone else and getting flustered with your mistakes. When you talk to yourself you're the only one who hears you and you can correct yourself all you want without making yourself feel bad. Don't want to do it out loud? Then just think to yourself in Spanish, it's great practice too, and then no one else wonders why you're mumbling to yourself in Spanish. Ideally when you are truly immersed in a language you should be thinking in that language automatically. In the meantime, make yourself think in Spanish so that you can practice whenever, and wherever you want.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|