One of the greatest and hardest parts of studying abroad is being immersed in a new language. If you have the opportunity to live in a city that doesn’t predominantly speak English, don’t waste it! Learning a new language is not for the faint of heart. I know how difficult it can be, so I wanted to share a few tips and tricks that have helped me learn Spanish while studying abroad!
Living With A Host Family
Living with a host family while living abroad is one of the best ways to not only learn the local language but also monitor how much you are improving. I remember when I first arrived to Madrid, basic Spanish conversation and greetings were hard for me to communicate. Yesterday, I was eating lunch with my host dad and we had a whole talk about politics, current news, and the differences between social life in Spain compared to the US, all in Spanish. It’s so fun to see how much you can improve if you stick to it. Having a host family gives you a support system as you navigate learning a new language.
The best way to learn a new language is to make it fun. I can’t speak for everywhere, but Madrid is filled with Intercambio opportunities. Intercambio nights are typically hosted by local bars and restaurants with a designated time where people of all language levels are encouraged to come and practice the language in a low pressure environment while meeting new people who are in the same boat as you. Participating in Intercambio nights has especially helped me pick up the local slang! My all time favorite place for Intercambio nights in Madrid is a little place called J&J Books and Coffee. Located near the youthful neighborhood of Malasaña this is hole in the wall cafe is the perfect place to practice your Spanish while enjoying one of their famous bagel sandwiches.
Language Transfer a free app. It has, by far, been one of the most helpful language learning tools for me. Through the use of several, short audio lessons, Language Transfer helps you learn by listening to someone else learn the language and further push you toward fluency. I like to listen to the audio lessons on the metro in the mornings on my way to school to help get my mind and ears in Spanish mode before classes.
Read A Book Or Keep A Journal
It may sound silly, but going back to the basics of writing and reading can really help improve your vocabulary and help visually process and retain the language. I recently bought a middle school level mystery book in Spanish to help expand my vocabulary. It has been a far more productive use of my free time than binge-watching Netflix! Keeping a journal while abroad and only writing in your new language is a great way to practice and have a perfect keepsake to be able to look back on your memories and time abroad.