Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world with nearly 407 million native speakers. There are a plethora of destinations to which students can travel to practice their language skills in an immersive setting. Before or after they go abroad, however, there are 43 million people in the United States that are either native speakers, or have native-like proficiency in Spanish.
There’s nothing quite like being immersed in a native setting when it comes to language learning, but that doesn’t mean encouraging your students to practice speaking Spanish in your hometown isn’t a worthwhile endeavor. Whether you live in New York City or a small town in Wisconsin, here are ten ways your students can practice speaking and understanding Spanish in their hometown:
1. Join/Start a Spanish Speaking Group
Whether it’s at a local high school, college, restaurant or community center, practicing Spanish as a group by meeting on a semi-regular basis to chat about current events, culture, or Spanish grammar is one of the most popular ways to learn. Meetup.com is a great place to find groups to join, but if a search for your area comes up with nothing, encourage your students to start their own.
2. Interview a Native Spanish Speaker
Connecting with someone from a different cultural background is always a great learning opportunity, but it’s an especially great way to improve your language skills. Encourage your students to seek out people in their social network or their family and friends’ networks who come from a Spanish speaking country. If they can meet them for coffee once or twice a month at least, it will do a great deal for their confidence and conversational skills in Spanish.
3. Skype with a Native Spanish Speaker
If your students tapped their network and came up with noone available and willing to chat with them in Spanish, there are still plenty of ways to make meaningful connections with native speakers. Websites like Conversation Exchange and Language Exchanges are designed specifically to connect language learners with native speakers using technology to bridge distance divides.
4. Make a Reservation at a Spanish/Latin American Restaurant
Depending on where your students live, there’s a good chance there’s a Mexican, Columbian, Peruvian, or Cuban restaurant somewhere near by. Push your students to call them up and have a business conversation in Spanish by making a reservation. They’ll gain some valuable experience speaking and listening to Spanish in a new context, and it can be a great place to hold a meeting for their newly formed Spanish club!
5. Take a MOOC from a Spanish or Latin American University
MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are designed to make learning available to the masses. If you have an advanced level student who really wants to take their Spanish language learning to a higher level, MOOCs taught in Spanish are a fantastic way to learn from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Here are three to act as a potential starting point:
6. Download Language Learning Podcasts
Again technology comes to the rescue for any student claiming their location is keeping them from connecting to native Spanish speakers. Perform a quick podcast search for language learning and you’ll be overwhelmed with choices in no time. Here are few that come recommended to start out:
7. Download a Language Learning app
Much the same as podcasts, interactive language learning apps are abundantly available these days. Here are a few well-known options to start out, but there are plenty more only a quick app store search away:
Nulu.com – Nulu teaches you Spanish by reading the day’s newspaper to you. It’s a great way to supplement your Spanish knowledge through real world examples.
Duolingo.com – Duolingo is a social learning platform that emphasizes co-learning and motivates students with badges, points and awards for completing milestones. The gamification and socialization features make it a great way to learn as a group
Livemocha.com – Livemocha takes a different approach in that it pairs students up with native speakers seeking to learn a language as well. For example, a student looking to learn Spanish will be paired with a student looking to learn English so that students can make a cultural connection, teach and learn all at once.
8. Listen to Spanish Music
There’s an entire world to discover from a wide variety of countries and cultures making Spanish language music. Flamenco from Spain, salsa from Cuba, or merengue from the Dominican Republic are all fantastic genres to act as an introduction to Spanish-language music and culture. Attempting to translate the lyrics acts as a great language learning exercise as well as a cultural experience. Here a few artists as well:
9. Read a Spanish language book/Newspaper
Reading a book or newspaper in Spanish is another location-agnostic way for your students to improve their Spanish skills. They could start with a book they’ve already read in English like Twilight or Harry Potter as a starting point. They could also start with shorter childrens’ books before moving up to more advanced literary works.
Spanish-language newspapers gives students an opportunity to catch up on current events while practicing their comprehension. Most Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S. include both Spanish and English, so they’ll have a handy reference. If their city doesn’t have a Spanish-language publication, they can go online and read sources like Univision or CNN in Spanish.
10. Watch Telenovelas
Soap operas are a fantastic way to learn a language, especially because of the ease with which students can follow the plot due to the visuals. Encourage your students to check their local cable or satellite TV provider for a guide of Spanish-language television stations, or search online for sites that offer Spanish weather forecasts, sitcoms, and news, as well as soap operas. YouTube has hours and hours of content that will suit this purpose exceptionally well.
How do you encourage your students to speak Spanish in their daily lives? Let us know in the comments section below!