A couple of weeks ago a Speaking Latino follower asked me for advice on how to learn “Puerto Rican Spanish as well as proper Spanish”. He was proactively preparing for a Study Abroad Program in San Juan that will last up to 6 weeks. I privately answered his question, but then I decided that these tips are worth sharing with everybody.
My job experience as a Marketing Manager taught me that in order to succeed you need to set strategies and tactics. You can use these same “strategies” in any country and just change the “tactics” with a local equivalent from the country you are visiting.
But there is something you need to have before you start: It is crucial that you set your goal or objective first and commit to it. If you are not so sure of what you want, nothing will happen. In this particular case, he was clear: “I want to learn Puerto Rican Spanish as well as proper Spanish”.
4 Strategies to Learn Spanish Slang Abroad
Strategy 1. Learn basic Spanish first
Before you put a foot outside of your country you need to know the basics. You will need to reach the point where you can be understood and others can understand you too.
1. Take a formal group class for a couple of months. Since you might not have someone at home to practice with, class frequency is crucial at this point.
2. Hire a private Spanish tutor if you have the resources. This will be more intense and you can cut some time.
Strategy 2. Practice with locals
This strategy will help you build vocabulary. Having conversations in Spanish with locals will give you the opportunity to learn both regular Spanish and slang. If they switch to English when they see you struggling with Spanish; stick to Spanish. Don’t give up and tell them that you want to practice.
1. Identify a place where you can make local friends and get away from the touristy areas where everybody speaks English. This could be a bar, a farmer’s market or a group to go jogging.
Strategy 3. Immerse in Spanish in every aspect
To get the most out of your time you will need push Spanish in other aspects of your life. You have been speaking in your mother tongue your whole life, so make room this time for Spanish.
1. Watch local TV. Ask for a variety program, a game show, news, or a popular comedy and watch it with closed captions.
2. Read the local newspaper and gossip magazines. But look for the most scandalous you can find. The words used in these type of publications appeal to the mass population and are a great source of slang. Check out our Slang in the News posts for real headline examples using slang in Spanish.
Strategy 4. Build a personal reference library
I’m not talking about tens of books. Just 3 to 5 books and other resources that will help you clear your doubts along the way.
1. Take reference books for formal Spanish, like a dictionary.
2. Look for a slang guide like the Speaking Latino books for Puerto Rico, Argentina and Chile.
3. Have an electronic translator or phone App accessible. In case you get stuck with a word, use an iPhone App like iHandy Translator Pro or Google Translate.
Next step: Take action
My next suggestion is to write down your plan. Download the following template with the four strategies and write down your objective and specific tactics. The template includes an example from Puerto Rico.
Can you share with us your strategies and tactics to learn Spanish slang?
Check out these other Learning Spanish Slang articles.