How to learn Spanish fast in Spain: activities and socialising in the Spanish culture

fast5A handsome dark stranger smiles at you from across the dance floor and before you know it, he walks up to you. Your heart beats faster as his gorgeous brown eyes lock into yours… and then he says something really fast, in Spanish.

You blink.

“Er… perdón?”

He repeats himself, but you’re none the wiser. After a few attempts, disappointed, you watch as he shrugs his shoulders… and asks the girl next to you to dance!

Socialising in Spain

Not understanding what native Spanish speakers say to you is the daunting reality language immersion students face when visiting Spain for the first time. This may apply not just to students at beginner level, but also to more advanced learners. Hearing Spanish spoken fast, often in strange local accents, is not the same as listening to carefully worded castellano in class.

That’s why, if you’re travelling to Spain for the first time to attend an intensive language course and want to get the most out of it, it’s a good idea to be prepared.

How? By doing some research before you travel.

Learning a few key words or phrases about your hobbies, your studies or your job, your likes and dislikes, as well as asking questions – combined with a big smile and a quality phrase book or pocket dictionary – will help you maximise the learning you do outside of the classroom while in Spain. It can also reduce the number of those embarrassing moments when a Spanish speaker talks to you and you don’t understand a word of what they are saying…

Language school activities

Many language schools in Spain, like for example the Gran Canaria School, are very focused on extra-curricular fast5activities. Welcome events (where new students get to meet teachers and existing students), culture classes, historic and sightseeing excursions and opportunities to explore the local nightlife or cuisine, are all deemed an extremely important addition to the structured learning that takes place during the day.

These typical language school activities give students infinite opportunities to put their listening and verbal skills to use. You can practice a variety of phrases and key vocabulary at…

  • Parties and school social events – introductions, discussing jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, as well as why, where and how you decided to learn Spanish or visit Spain
  • Cultural excursions and sightseeing – asking questions; discussing places and dates in history; directions
  • Cooking classes or gastronomic excursions – discussing food and drink in Spain and comparing it to cuisine in your home country; learning food related vocabulary
  • Night-life, bars and parties – small talk, fun conversations about what music you like or movies you have seen, where you have travelled, current news and other light topics
  • Culture classes – more in depth and serious cultural discussions on topics about Spain and Latin America, as well as international culture comparisons
  • Dancing and sports activities or classes – understanding instructions, left and right, the human body, movement and specialist vocabulary related to the activity or sport

As you can see, the more activities you take part in, the more well rounded your language skills will be at the end of your stay in Spain.

Typical past time activities in Spain

Some language schools do not offer many organised activities for students. This can be particularly true for universities, because of the sheer number of students in every class and the impossibility of arranging events for such a large crowd.

Barcelona University, for instance, is probably Spain’s best organised, efficient and popular higher learning institution, especially when it comes to offering Spanish classes for foreign students. But whilst the academic offering is top class, there are not many programmed events for foreign Spanish language students, who are mostly left to form friendships and find pastimes independently.Leadership with education

But there is no reason why you cannot enjoy an excellent course offered by Barcelona University, and still speak Spanish in your free time. Daily chances to speak Spanish can be found anywhere.

Here are a number of things that you could do for an improved chance to immerse yourself in real, local language and culture. Be sure to look up the vocabulary before you dive in, to increase your chances of participating in conversation and for improved understanding.

  • Football – Spain is football mad, even more so since the “Red Team” recently won both the European and the World Cups. This is a conversational subject that brings people of all nationalities together… or encourages spirited debate! If you cannot afford tickets to the Nou Camp in Barcelona or the Bernabeu in Madrid, don’t worry. All you need is a local bar or a cafeteria and a football match that is televised. Important football games are always shown on the TV sets found in Spanish eateries. Get there early to get a seat, order a local beer, and participate in the passionate cheering as the commentator shouts Gooooooooool!
  • Get your hair done – One place you are bound to get chatted at, a lot, is at the local hairdressing or beauty parlour. Prepare to reveal everything going on with you, your family and your love life, as well as answer questions about where you are from and what you are doing in Spain. Never mind all that juicy neighbourhood gossip!
  • Do Almodovar – OK, so this one is not great for conversation skills during the film, but you can talk about the picture in Spanish afterwards, with just about anybody else who has seen it. Just make sure the film’s original language is actually Spanish. In Spain, foreign films are mostly dubbed over, but you’ll find it better for your language skills to follow native speakers and the way their mouths form the words.
  • Karaoke – make it your aim to learn a really well-known Spanish pop song word by word – then stun your classmates by singing it at the local karaoke bar and telling them about what the lyrics mean afterwards. Songs by Efecto Mariposa, Mekano or Fito y Los Fitipaldis will go down a treat.

Finally, don’t worry about getting it wrong

In UniSpain’s long experience with arranging Spanish courses for foreign students, we have found that immersion learning is the most effective way for both children and adults to learn and foreign language. This is why the most important thing about going to Spain on a course, is to say to yourself, “Only Spanish allowed!”

Don’t fret about making mistakes. Everybody says things wrong and from silly errors, we often learn more than throughfast7 careful memorising. Instead, approach your Spanish learning wholeheartedly. Use only Spanish. Where your vocabulary (or your nerve) abandon you, use anything – a dictionary, drawing pictures or miming – to communicate.

Enjoy your time in Spain and esperemos que te lo pases bien – we have no doubt that you’ll return home a much more confident Spanish speaker than when you left!


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