Follow the tips you see here! They may seem small and simple, but they all add up and become powerful tools for helping you use/practice the Spanish you are learning !
Tip 1. Change your cell phone, computer and all electronic devices you use on a daily basis to Spanish!
Total exposure time=about 1 hr
This is a great simple start! You may not know the meanings of the words you are hearing or reading on the screen; however, your eyes and brain have seen the same prompts in English over and over again hence giving you the advantage! Your brain will naturally use common sense and will be able to “guess” what the prompts are asking you and what the screen is telling you based on what you have experienced and seen before when they were in English!
One of the most important jewels of knowledge I can give you is that what matters most is not what words in a foreign language mean but what they are trying to tell you. In other words, don’t focus on their individual meanings rather focus on the message they are trying to relay to you! You don’t have to know what each word means in order to understand the message! Ex: When you order food, it will come in a container or place etc… In this example, what matters is what’s inside the container or on the plate (the food) not the actual plate or container itself. This same example applies here! The “container” or “plate” here are the individual words and all these words help deliver your “food” the message! Some knowledge in life needs to be digested slowly for your brain to be properly nourished by it therefore read this a few times and eventually you will know what I mean! 🙂
The things you pay for every month and your surroundings can become your immersion program! You have the power to change your surroundings to create that immersion effect! Make your surroundings your teacher!
Tip 2. Pick Spanish when using an ATM!
Total exposure time=10 to 15 minutes
Remember you have used ATMs so many times that if you were to pick Japanese you would still be able to guess where the withdrawal button is, the deposit and the cancel buttons are etc. because in part you are using muscle memory and your brain is using memory from previous ATM visits to determine what the foreign words mean by remembering the English version of the same screen!
Sounds crazy right? Well, if you let your brain work, you would be surprised how much it does for you without you asking it to! It has an automatic system that is triggered when it is presented with certain challenges! A lot of people want to control or force this system to work because they think they have to when in reality they just have to let it happen naturally hence why a lot of people do well with immersion programs (if they are structured well!)
Ex: It’s like putting your clothes in the washer machine; you just have to add detergent, click a button and bam! The machine starts washing your clothes. You just have to wait for the machine to complete its wash cycle. It would be silly to put the clothes in the washer machine and then start use your hands to stir the clothes in the machine! Completely unnecessary right? Because the washer machine does that for you! The same thing happens with learning a second language.
Your brain will do about 30% of the work for you and the remaining 70% is done by conscious learning! You just need to follow these tips. You don’t need to know how they work or why they work—you just need to do them and I promise you will see results for free! Each person is different and has different “configurations” like a computer; however, on average almost all people do well!
Tip 3. Program two Spanish radio stations into your car radio station selector and listen daily also download free podcasts in Spanish- pick topics that are of your interest!
Total exposure time= 45 to 90 minutes
The best way to train your ear is to just listen to Spanish or to the foreign language you are learning! Just listen to the spoken language like you would music! Don’t try to understand what the words mean or what is being discussed! Your job is not to focus on the words but the sounds!
There is something extremely powerful about just listening to the rhythm and “melody” of a language—since your brain can’t understand what these beautiful sounds mean yet, your brain starts to focus on their sounds. This is a natural process your brain goes through! Your brain then starts to sort out the sounds and rhythm of the language. Eventually your brain starts to notice a phonetic pattern, it starts recognizing familiar rhythmic patterns and identifying repetitive phonetic combinations.
After approximately 2 weeks to 2 months of listening to Spanish, your brain will have successfully downloaded the phonetic structure! All of this without you even realizing it! You should listen to Spanish everyday for at least 2 hours. The more you listen the faster your brain will comprehend what the phonetic structure of Spanish is, thus helping you know what sounds like Spanish and what doesn’t. Use your daily commute as your mobile school! You are stuck in your car anyways, right? So, listen to your Spanish podcasts, radio stations etc….
Ex: Haven’t you heard people say that they can read Spanish, but they can’t speak it or they say hmm… It just sounds right to me but I don’t know how to read? Part of the reason for this is sound memory and/or your brain’s knowledge of the phonetic structure! This can be achieved by just listening to the language and “hanging out” with it! If you are going to be stuck in traffic anyway why not maximize your use of time by multi-tasking Spanish ear training? 🙂
Tip 4. When you turn on your T.V. select the SAP option
Total exposure time =30 minutes to 2 hours
Select Spanish audio for the program you want to watch. This is a very good exercise! I suggest you do this with a favorite program or movie you have seen many times because your brain will remember the English version of the program or movie thus helping you naturally understand what the Spanish version of the same program or movie is. This won’t happen overnight of course but it will happen!
If you have direct tv or you can simply press the green button on your remote and bam! Your tv show is now in Spanish! Not all shows or channels are available in Spanish audio but quite a number of them are. Ex. One of my favorite shows “How I met your mother,” “Reba” and even “Frazier” are available in Spanish! 🙂 And yes, even though I am 36 years old, I sometimes like watching cartoons and I know I am not the only one :-). If you do and/or your kids do, then go to Cartoon network; they have Spanish audio on a lot of their cartoons! I watched “Popeye” the other day in the Cartoon Network channel in Spanish!
Doing this will help you develop your ear and eventually some vocabulary as well! You can use your cable, dish or DVDs—don’t buy extra stuff! Most DVDs have Spanish language audio options and even subtitles but first use the Spanish audio option without the subtitles.
Tip 5. Iphone and Droid users
Total exposure time=30 minutes to 1 hour
Total cost= $0
You can download a free Spanish radio station app. Don’t pay extra; search and try to find a free Spanish radio station. Listen to the pod casts or interviews—pick interviews that talk about things you naturally like talking about and just play it in the background as you cook, do laundry, drive. Jog, etc…you get the picture! 🙂
Tip 6. Do your grocery shopping at a Spanish supermarket!
Total time spent= 90 minutes
total cost=depends on your eating habits
You can try this one time just to experience it. I know usually people go to Publix or Kroger etc.. but try a Spanish shop! Google them, or visit my website and ask me what places you can go to in Georgia. I live in East Cobb Marietta so if you live somewhere else I may not have the 411 on the area but usually Google or any search engine can be of great assistance!
These Spanish shops usually have bi-lingual cashiers etc… but mainly they speak Spanish and little English sometimes so it will force you to have to use the Spanish you do know to communicate! A lot of the items will sometimes be in Spanish, the fruits and vegetables, the directions etc… so this will be good for you to experience and see!
Again, I can only speak for the places I know of here in Georgia, and I am not guaranteeing that you will find an all Spanish experience but at least it is an excellent option.
Tip 7. Get a free Spanish newspaper at any Spanish store or supermarket, and compare it to an English newspaper covering the same news for the day!
Total exposure time= 30 minutes to 1 hour
This is an excellent exercise! One of my favorites! I know, I am such a language nerd right? 🙂 Well, you can be one too! You don’t even have to buy the newspaper because a lot of Spanish stores carry free community newspapers or newsletters just like regular English speaking stores! You can go to your local Spanish shop (or google them) and visit the store, buy an empanada or two and get yourself a free publication! 🙂 read a little. Again, don’t stress out if you don’t get any or much of what is being discussed but rather enjoy the experience of reading it and comparing it—that’s it for now!
You can also google known Spanish newspapers online and read the headlines for the day. First read the news in English and then read that same news article in the Spanish news paper and you will start identifying words and making educated guesses of what the words mean (and you can also use your Spanish/English dictionaries to reconfirm the meaning of a word).
You can take it a sep further and listen to the news in English first and then find a Spanish channel covering the same news story! If you don’t want to flip channels, then you can listen to the news in English and then read the Spanish version of that same news story. You will start identifying words, which in turn will help you develop one of the most important skills in any language—the ability to speed hear! (more on that later! Hey, I can’t give you all of my goodies all in one post now, can I? 🙂
Tip 8. Go to Dance clubs and restaurants that have a Spanish night!
Total time Spent=2 to 4 hours
Total cost=$10 to$20 (depends on how many drinks you chug :-))
Some of you may not be dancers, but come on! 🙂 At least try it once! 🙂 Have a mojito, relax and don’t take life too seriously! A lot of well known night clubs in Atlanta have Spanish nights and even other Counties and Cities! And guess what? Most of them give free salsa lessons!! Yes, free! 🙂 One of my favorite words!
Typically from 9 to 10 p.m. most clubs offer free salsa lessons Ex. Sanctuary in Buckhead, Tongue & Groove in Buckhead, Loca Luna in Buckhead , Eclipse di Luna in Dunwoody, Atlanta & Buckhead etc.. to name a few! Most clubs seem to charge a cover; however, if you come before 9 p.m. or 8 p.m. (depends on the club), you get in for free—no cover! If you get there late, then yes, you have to pay sometimes $10 or even $20, which is ridiculous in my opinion!
Havana Club in Buckhead likes charging $20 to get in; don’t know about now, they may have changed their fees—needless to say it’s not one of the places I typically like going to 🙂 but to be fair the few times I have gone, I had a blast. Google it and you will find places to go to! This is good because aside from learning a language you are experiencing the culture, you’re practicing your Spanish, you are meeting other Spanish speaking people or students etc..
TIP 9: Try out a Spanish meet up group in your area!
Meetup.com is a place you can go to, if you want to find groups that share common interests. Put in your zip code and see if there are any meet up groups that get together to practice Spanish.. Some groups are good some are not; most of them are free so try it out. You will meet others and practice your español!
Total Time Spent: 2-4 hours ( depends)
Total Cost: $2-$25 ( depends on what you eat or drink)
Tip 10: Make your laptop, smart phone or tablet read to you in Spanish!!
Probably my favorite sensational tip!! Most of these devices have Text to Speech capabilities. Highlight any text and have your computer read it back to you in almost ANY language!! What? This is free people!! You can create your own electronic Spanish tutor. This feature will help you develop strong auditory comprehension, not your speaking ability but it is a phenomenal FREE TOOL to use! 🙂
Highlight an Ebook in Spanish, Highlight emails, online articles or Spanish newspapers and just listen to it! You can also read with the computer that way you can work on your pronunciation and your reading skills! 🙂
Total Time: 1-5 hours
Total Cost: $0
The only way these tips don’t work is, if you don’t use them! 🙂