This is really useful for, you guessed it, listening in Spanish. You can click on various videos and watch and do vocabulary activities too. You can search by level and topic as well, so it narrows down your search.
Nightmare, just a nightmare. Who the hell decided to change the ends of all the verbs depending on the tense? Well, this website is as good as any for a detailed definition, plus each of the verb forms.
Having problems getting to grips with the Spanish language? Pulling your hair out because your level just isn’t improving? Well, you’re probably not the only one. I battle hard every day with Spanish. I get laughed at because of my accent, use the wrong words which lead to embarrassing situations, and make silly mistakes which give the impression I’ve only been here for 11 weeks, not 11 years.
Saying that, I do have a few tips on ways to raise your level. The following tips are mainly for those people living in a Spanish speaking country. If you’re not, then just use your common sense on whether they can apply to you.
Talk to yourself
I do this all the time, and no, not out loud, and yes, in Spanish.
It’s something that the average human being does 90% of the day. If you think about it, you’re probably chatting with yourself most of the time. You might be having a shower, eating your breakfast, on your way to work walking through the city, or stuck on the metro without your kindle or mobile. All the time you’re more than likely having a chat in your head. So, why can’t you just do that in Spanish?
These are some things you could do:
Go through what you have to do in your day.
Plan a conversation you might need to have in Spanish later on.
Describe what you can see; people, places, objects, funny looking characters.
Think about your life, or tell yourself your life story.
The possibilities are endless, but what I normally do is just speak to myself in Spanish. It sounds a bit nuts, but it’s free, you can recap vocabulary, and also improve fluency.
I used to do this a lot when I first got to Seville, especially if I had an important conversation coming up with a friend, my girlfriend, or with my students’ parents.
Try it, what have you got to lose? No one really knows what’s going on in your mind anyway.
Make / buy some friends, or find a partner
I definitely did not get a girlfriend so I could practise my Spanish. That would be a cruel, selfish, and horrible way to start a relationship, but it could work for you.
Communicating in Spanish is your aim, objective, and goal, and if you want to make some decent friends, or find a loved one, then you’ll have to communicate by using words and phrases, eventually. The quicker you get some local mates or a girl/boyfriend, the better.
Why don’t you check out the internet for some arranged intercambios in your local town or city, as there will certainly be plenty of people out there wanting to learn from each other. I did this when I first came to Seville. It was a great way to meet people, practise Spanish, and also get to know more about the culture.
One word of advice. Try to get someone who has a similar level to you in the other language though. I tried this with people who had a high level of English, so the conversations just went to English most of the time because it just felt silly me struggling on in Spanish. If you have a similar level, you’ll also have the same level of patience, in theory.
Watch films and series in Spanish
This is probably my main way of widening my vocabulary at the moment. I pick up a lot of Spanish at work, listening to students speaking, but these days I get more from a decent film or series. Unfortunately there aren’t many decent films in Spanish, so I prefer series. It’s not only entertaining, but also adds to your knowledge of the Spanish world and you get to become more cultured.
I tried to watch Isabel, a series about the Reyes Catòlicos here in Spain. I gave up though as it got a bit complicated, plus I found the old way they spoke in the series a bit useless for me in everyday life. But if you like Spanish history then it’s a great series to watch.
Watching a series will also help you get exposure to a range of accents as the series will be based in different parts of Spain, or even South and Central America.
Here is a list of series that I’ve watched over the years with links.
This is a humorous, but also dramatic and romantic series based on a clothes company.
Los Hombres de Paco was my favourite series, but I can’t find it anywhere officially, maybe you’ll have more luck than me.
Alternatively just watch the TV in Spanish. The news is normally a great way to gain more vocabulary and practise your listening.
Keep a vocabulary notebook
I force this issue with my English students, but it’s only the best ones who really make an effort and record notes on new vocabulary.
Since living in Seville, I’ve had to learn vocabulary with so many different areas in life. I’ve had to learn how to rent flats, go shopping, get married, buy a house, and bring up children. Each life event provides you with obstacles where you’ll have to learn, and pick up the vocabulary.
It’s so easy to forget new words though, so unless you have a system of writing them down and studying, there’s no way you’re going to convert the new knowledge to memory.
I even think widening your vocabulary is more important than perfecting your grammar. The best way, if you have time, is to jot down any new words in Spanish, with a Spanish definition, and also maybe an English translation to begin with, but the less English the better.
Listen to music
Another entertaining, free, and fun way to learn Spanish is by listening to music. Nowadays you can just search for Spanish artists on YouTube, Spotify, and even get up the lyrics on the screen to help you. Lyrics training is also a useful website to practise listening.
I picked up a lot of vocabulary and improved my listening skills from Spanish music. You can also heighten your experience abroad as you’ll build up memories connected with certain songs.
Notice this is my last on the list, mainly because I’ve only done a 2 month course. I’m not a massive fan of learning Spanish in a class. Firstly because of the cost, but also because I found everyone ended up speaking in English a lot of the time.
The best way is pure emersion. Get involved in the Spanish society in some way and make it difficult, force yourself with a way of picking up Spanish as the only option, and you should have more motivation to learn.
I’m not saying they are not useful for preparing for official exams, or for people who need well-structured guidance, but they weren’t for me. Obviously they are the first thing to do if you’re not in the country as well.
So, those are my best ways to learn Spanish. My level is okay, but I could always improve. I’ve finally managed to pronounce the rolling ‘r’ after loads of practise, and I’d like to be more fluent.
What about you? What do you think are the best ways for learning Spanish?
I miss watching live flamenco. Only this morning I was chatting with a couple of students, one of them is a real, true fan of flamenco, and he was telling me about all the best places to see authentic flamenco. “Not any of this guiri rubbish,” he said, laughing.
Now that I live out in the sticks, the only live flamenco I can see is on youtube. Here’s my favourite compilation of Spanish guitar, which has inspired my writing a lot.
I miss those nights when my wife and I used to go out for tapas in the centre, then go to watch a free show.
I miss the sweaty vibe, the cheeky glasses of sweet sherry, seeing familiar faces of the flamenco dancers and guitarists, and staying up late watching live shows.
I miss seeing the dancers faces express their emotions, scrunching their eyes as if in pain, twisting their bodies, making slamming sounds on the floor, and showing their passion to the crowd.
I miss the wailing, the stomping, and the plucking.
Flamenco has been a huge influence on my life here in Seville. Not only the inspiration for my first novel, which is festering away on my hard drive, waiting for me to read again soon, but also a great influence on my Spanish knowledge.
Being out in the suburbs, maybe my neighbours won’t complain if I picked up my guitar again, something I haven’t done for a few years since I realised I was just pants at playing. Maybe I’ll try again in the New Year, play a song or two for my kids, and watch them dance.
If you are thinking of coming to Seville to see flamenco, then check out this article I wrote a while ago about the best tablaos to see flamenco. These are more touristy places though, perhaps I’ll get more names from my student tomorrow and do some research into newer ones. But for now, have a look at this article on Simon Seeks, called Feel the Duende from flamenco shows in Seville…
It will make you believe you are saying one thing, but are actually saying another. It will force you to realise just how little you know about your native language. It will drive your dream brain when you are asleep, and jolt you awake because you’ll be shouting out random vegetables using foreign words.
PEPINO, CALABACIN, COLIFLOR.
It’s happened to me.
In short, it will mess your head up, but I’d still recommend the challenge.
There are many reasons to put yourself through this painful learning process. If you hadn’t guessed from my blog already, I speak Spanish. My abilities are a total mix though. My listening is probably C1, speaking B2, reading B2, and writing an A1, because all I do with regards to writing is scribble down shopping lists, and send the occasional sweet poem on What’sApp.
When I was doing a CELTA qualification, way back 13 years ago, I had a chat with a bloke who was going to live in Ecuador. It went like this.
“So why have you chosen Ecuador?” I asked.
“To learn Spanish.”
“Why don’t you just go to Spain?”
“I don’t know, I like turtles and I think I’ll have fun chatting with them on the Galapagos Islands.”
“I guess you will.”
“I’m going for five years, you know.”
“I do now. Why’s that?”
“Because that’s how long it will take to really master the language.”
“It will if all you’re going to be doing is chatting with turtles.”
I’ve decided to bring back my monthly list of the best blogs and posts about Spain and Expat life. Here’s a list of the best ones I’ve read in the last month.
Southern Spain a Desert
This summer has been the hottest for me in the last 10 years, so it’s no surprise that people are saying Southern Spain will turn into a desert by the start of next century. I guess that means I don’t need to worry anymore about the local government wanting to build a park in front of my house.
You can’t live in Spain for long without becoming a slight addict to this medicinal liquid. I used to think it was vile and expensive, but I now see the benefits of using it over traditional sunflower oil. Check out this blog on Lindsey O’Connor’s website, titled Can I get more olive oil please.
Have you heard of a cake shop in Seville called Mr Cake? Well, me neither. Check out this post by Jordan, a university student, who is also writing about his adventures in Seville. The post is called Seville Series, Mr Cake.
That’s all for this month. Hope you enjoyed these posts.
Author of From Something Old, The Road to Zoe, You Then Me Now, Things We Never Said, The Bottle of Tears, The Other Son, The Photographer's Wife, The Half-Life of Hannah, the 50 Reasons Series. And more...