Learning a new language is difficult, and although for some people it seems to come as naturally as nodding off on the metro (what’s that, you speak 8 languages?) for others (me) it’s a long hard struggle filled with mumbling nonsense and people laughing right in my face. But hey, what can I say, I’m a tough girl, I soldier on. When I envisioned my life in Barcelona it was filled with morning Spanish classes, paella and afternoon beach time, but let’s face it lots of us are far too busy, not to mention poor, to be doing intensive Spanish courses and if we can fit in Spanish lessons it’s once a week and we can’t find the motivation to do our homework (just me?) It took me a year and a half to find a good self-study solution that fits in with my schedule as well as my concentration capacity of an 8 year old, and I thought, if I can follow it, you definitely can too.
Here are a list of resources and sites, covering all the skills of reading, writing, grammar, vocab, listening and speaking, that I’ve found really helpful in studying Spanish on my own.
Skill Covered- Vocabulary
Time- 15 mins
Anki is a programme I discovered fairly recently and it has really helped me in terms of vocabulary practice. It’s a programme designed to help you memorise important information, and is a flashcard based system which prioritises words that you just can never seem to get right. The best part is that you can slot it into your morning coffee routine as with just 15 minutes a day you should see some improvements in terms of memorising vocab.
Skill Covered- All
Time- 20 mins
Duolingo is a site I would recommend, especially for beginners. It’s a site that allows you to practise all the skills and guides you through new vocab with pictures and lots of repetition. Best of all, it’s free. No, actually best of all is the cute little owl that cries when you get an answer wrong.
3.) Conversation Exchange
Skill Covered- Writing/Speaking
Time- 20 mins to 1 hour
I very recently discovered http://www.conversationexchange.com/, a site which takes us back to our pen pal days and allows us to meet new people and chat to them through an exchange of emails. The great thing about it is that you get the writing practice and your new found pen friend will correct it for you. You can also arrange Skype meetings if you want the speaking practise. And of course, it’s free!
4.) TV Series and Films
Skill Covered- Listening Comprehension
Time- 30 minutes to 1 hour
Watching films and TV series is a great way to improve your listening comprehension. I found that the best way to start is by watching films I had seen a million times already in English, that way following the story isn’t a problem, and I also get my fix of 90’s throwback. If it’s TV series that you’re after try rtve. May I recommend Gran Reserva, especially if you’re looking for murders, affairs and lots of dramatic glares.
5.) Lyrics Training
Skill Covered- Listening
Time- 20 minutes
Lyrics Training is another great site for listening practice. It allows you to listen to current music (in the language you select) and complete the missing words, whilst singling along so loudly and repetitively that your housemates think you’re weird.
6.) Grammar Practice
Skill Covered- Grammar and Vocab
Time- 30 minutes
Not one for hours of serious grammar practice, I opted for Gramática de uso del Español which you can find on Amazon, and comes in a range of levels. It takes you through all the grammar of the level with very thorough explanations, exercises, and an answer key (no peeking, you’re only cheating yourself) One or two pages should be enough for your daily grammar fix.
7.) Speak, speak, speak!
Skill Covered- Erm, speaking.
Time- As long as possible
For me, I found speaking to be the most difficult of all the skills, mainly because it usually went one of two ways a) people laughed in my face or b.) people spoke back to me in English. However, I eventually found that the more I tried, the more likely people were to actually respond to me in Spanish, with only a slight grin. If you’re living here in Barcelona, I would wholeheartedly recommend living with Spanish speakers to get your daily fix of speaking practice. I would also recommend going on Loquo and finding yourself a conversation exchange partner. You’ll be amazed at what just an hour a week speaking can do to your confidence levels.
Well, there we have it, seven little tips that I hope you can implement into your Spanish study. Although I still have a very long way to go with my own Spanish, I’ve found that just a little time spent doing these activities each day has really helped me to improve, and I hope you find them useful too!