While I do a lot of preaching against not speaking only textbook Spanish, I do think it’s really important. I spent 9 years studying in school, which set me up quite nicely for communicating on a daily basis. However, the lack of reading assignments and paper deadlines can be a little detrimental to that textbook Spanish you worked so hard to learn. How many times have you heard someone say “Oh! I studied Spanish in school but I don’t remember much of it now”?
Luckily for me, I still do a lot of freelance translating, editing, phone calls, emails, etc. in Spanish, so I get my Spanish fix most of the time. However, there have been times that I was not dealing with Spanish all that much, or only speaking it and never having to write anything. During these times, I used some of the following methods to keep my Spanish fresh.
5 Tips to Maintain What You Learned in Your Spanish Course
1. Find a favorite Spanish author or news source
I have a lot of my short story collections from my university days as well as my own small collection of poetry, novels, and articles by Spanish writers. I hate reading translations if I don’t have to and I love reading things in Spanish. You want to make it as interesting as possible for yourself so it doesn’t feel like work, so try to find some favorite authors or even a Spanish newspaper or online magazine. Some of my favorites are Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Ernesto Sábato, Jorge Luis Borges, Sabina Berman, Laura Esquivel, and Julio Cortázar.
Reading in Spanish really helps my keep my vocabulary bank strong. I speak with friends, colleagues and/or clients in Spanish all the time, but I rarely have to use much outside of a certain set of vocabulary, so the reading helps fill in the gap.
2. Write things down in Spanish
It could be as simple as writing your to-do list in Spanish or as complicated as reviewing a movie in Spanish. Either way, you’re forcing yourself to think about how to form sentences on paper without the help of a conversational flow. It can be hard to force yourself to do this for no reason, but it’s an important part of keeping your written Spanish well-tuned. Again, try to make it interesting to yourself. Your Spanish will remain strong by keeping a book-reviewing blog in Spanish or even just commenting on Spanish blogs. Just make sure you don’t go weeks without writing something in Spanish.
3. Get a pen pal to maintain your Spanish
I know in the age of Skype it seems a little silly to communicate with someone mainly through writing, but you can make it work. If you have a Spanish-speaking friend, start writing them weekly life-update emails and asking them to respond as well. If you can’t think of anyone who would do well with that setup, find a conversation partner. You can do a combination set-up where you meet or Skype to do your English/Spanish conversational exchange and also add on a weekly written email to work on your writing skills.
Even if you want to go the modern-day route, there are penpal-ish internet options so you are constantly in touch with native speakers. For free services, the trade-off is generally that in return for them speaking and writing to you in your target language, they’ll want the same help in English. Paid services are another option, and generally, these will not require quid pro quo with English.
4. Electronic gadgets are easy helpers
Most of the electronic gadgets in your life allow you to select the language they use. Just switch that default language over to Spanish (or any other you want to practice). Cellular phones, Ipads, computers, and even the occasional television will become part of your daily routine to maintain your language.
Have you ever thought about how many electronics-related words you don’t know how to use in Spanish? Do you know how to say text message inbox? Sound Settings? Unlock the screen? If you keep your electronics set to Spanish, you will!
One sure way to keep you practicing and even require you to study and maintain your Spanish is to teach it. Whether you are looking to make a few extra dollars or just volunteer to help someone out, teaching will provide you needed the discipline to keep the Rs rolling off your tongue.
When I took career tests in high school that told me I should be a teacher, I was appalled. I was sure it wasn’t for me. I was very wrong. I started out as a volunteer helping Spanish-speaking kids in an after-school program and fell in love with it. After spending time teaching in a bilingual preschool, I realized how much I loved combining Spanish and helping kids. When I moved back to the US, I didn’t want to go back to teaching full time, but I knew I didn’t want to give it up either. I took a couple of gigs teaching Spanish to kids once a week. I don’t make a ton of money, but it’s such a fun way to keep my Spanish pronunciation sharp.
How do you maintain your Spanish fluency?
Check out these other articles about Spanish Courses.