There are many ways to learn languages, as many as the number of people learning them. Some students go on holidays to where the language they are learning is spoken. They take immersion courses and are in contact with the language almost all the time. They learn to use the language in a huge range of situations, such as going shopping, buying a bus ticket, or having dinner in a restaurant. It’s like they spend their time in a language bubble.
This is a wonderful way to learn a language, but not everyone has enough money to spend on a language holiday, having to pay for the flight, the school, accommodations and the daily expenses.
But you can create your own Spanish bubble at home. Your bubble will be the place where you dwell (live) in to improve your Spanish-language skills. Of course, you’ll have to leave your bubble sometimes or you will “drown” in it, but you need to stay in your bubble as much as you can in order to progress. The only language allowed in your bubble is the language you are learning -- in this case, Spanish.
What can you do inside your bubble?
Watch films, documentaries and TV shows: Thanks to the Internet and new technology, this is not only possible but easy to do. It's not difficult to find DVD's, download films or watch documentaries or videos on Youtube. Although you may already do this, I'm going to give you a couple of useful tips:
- Start with short films: Ten or fifteen minute-long films won't tire you out. And, you’ll be able to watch a short film many times and discover new words and expressions each time you watch it.
- Repeat a whole film or segment as many times as necessary: Choose a film you really like and split it into a few viewing sessions. Turn the subtitles on and watch each session many times. Years ago, I had the chance to work in a cinema in central London, and I watched a certain film at least twenty times. Without knowing it, this turned out to be a great exercise to improve my English.
Set your digital life in Spanish: Whenever you’re in front of your computer, iPad, etc., don’t waste time. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, of course, italki look better in Spanish, and this way you’ll be in contact with Spanish some time every day. Follow Spanish celebrities on Twitter. Some of them post both in English and Spanish. Why not try to setting your OS, or your word processor in Spanish also? All the time that you are immersed in the Spanish language will help you reach your aim of becoming fluent. You could also set your mobile phone in Spanish. Every widget around you should be set in Spanish, or left out of the bubble.
Exchange your “native microchip” for a Spanish one: There are many things you do during the day in your native language that could be done in Spanish. Listen to music, listen to the radio (there are thousands of Spanish and Latin American radio stations on the Internet), listen to a podcast while you’re driving or to Spanish music while you’re running or exercising. Use Spanish to make your shopping list, plan out your schedule, write your to-do lists, write in your diary and use a recipe written in Spanish to cook a nice meal. There are plenty of things that you can do in Spanish. Do you have more ideas?
Read in Spanish: If you enjoy reading, then do it in Spanish. The same amount of time that you would usually spend reading, do it in Cervantes' language. Look for a book you like at your level or slightly above. There are readings available at bookshops and also online in ebook format. You can also read the news on the Internet: look for digital newspapers in Spanish. You may not be interested in news from Spain or Latin America, but you can always read the news in Spanish in the international section. It's good to have your dictionary close to you, but don't get obsessed with trying to know every single word in the text, as the reading will become boring, and you might quit. Try not to break the flow of your reading, so underline new words and look them up afterwards.
Get reports about something you like: This can be sports, art, history, gastronomy--any hobby you enjoy is welcome in your bubble. Here, you can use any of the ways already mentioned above -- podcasts, books, documentaries, newspapers, films or anything you use to get reports on in your native language -- as long as you switch them from your native language into Spanish. There is no better way to learn a language than by having fun doing it.
This is just a sample of the things you can do. Anything you can imagine in relation to the Spanish language will help you improve your level. In my next post, I will recommend to you some useful links and other tips to use in your bubble. You can make the bubble as big as you like and you can stay in it for as long as you want, but don't forget that you have a life (with friends and family) outside your bubble.
Edited by Ilene Springer