Ah, Spanish. It’s one of the world’s great languages, with 400 million speakers across 21 countries. It’s second only to Mandarin as the world’s most spoken language. And in America, Spanish is hardly even a foreign language.
So, if you’re embracing the romance of Español for business or pleasure, you’re in good company. Here are a few tips to help speed along the process.
Keep a Notebook Handy
One of the beautiful moments in learning is when you’re going about your business and you realize ‘I could’ve said that in Spanish!’ When that happens, it’s nice to be able to jot the sentence down so you can double check the spelling later. You can also note down new expressions and vocabulary you hear.
Using a notebook also gets you writing, an important facet of language learning. Writing a phrase repeatedly, even if your mind is wandering, is a great way to internalize it. With Spanish in particular, writing helps you get the hang of the accent marks.
Founder and President of Day Translations, Sean Hopwood, now speaks five languages fluently and started his learning with Spanish. He would listen to Mexican music and try to jot down the lyrics as he heard. His notebook was an indispensable tool for improving his Spanish.
Focus on Relevant Phrases
As you’re learning general vocab, customize some useful Spanish phrases on the side. If you’re going to Latin America for a conference, for example, you’re going to be describing your company title a lot more often than you’ll be saying ‘lettuce,’ ‘apple’ or ‘his duck is red.’ Don’t skip the basics, but make sure that you are arriving with phrases that suit your needs.
Get in the habit of writing directions for taxi drivers, phrases about your dietary preferences, greetings, or whatever you think will come in handy. As you write them down, practice saying them aloud as well and try to get the hang of the accent.
Work on Enunciation
No, this is not when the clouds part and angels come down to tell you about a birth. It’s the practice of articulating your speech clearly! For a native English speaker, particularly Americans, it can be tricky to enunciate like a native Spanish speaker. But if you mumble, you’ll have a thick accent that’s hard to understand.
Warm up your mouth before each lesson. Stretch your cheeks, tongue, jaw and lips. Speak with the tip of the tongue and the teeth, pushing the notes forward with your lips. Spanish sits in the front of the mouth.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing Spanish is fun, but it still takes diligence. With these tools handy, you’ll stay motivated to practice every day and build on your momentum as you go. Whether you’re headed for the cafés of Barcelona, the beaches of Baja, or the bilingual workplace at home, your Spanish skills will take you far.
Brian Oaster is a Content Writer at translation services provider Day Translations. He has worked all over the world as an arts educator, English teacher, basket exporter, rare book dealer, fortune teller, and as the first mate of a private sailing yacht. Educated in the visual arts and an avid reader of news and literature, his focus is on international arts and culture, world religions and global politics. Follow him on Twitter @brianoaster.