Studying abroad or simply visiting a foreign country is exciting, exhilarating and a little intimidating, particularly if you are going to a country and feel that your language skills are not quite up to par. One of the goals of On the Off Trail is to provide you with great information sources and ideas for traveling or studying abroad. Here are some great recommendations to improve your Spanish, but you can apply these techniques in the study of any language.
1) Speak at a conversation table or
The best way to get better at speaking Spanish (or any foreign language for that matter) is to do it. Speak, speak, speak, and make tons of mistakes! The sooner you start, the sooner you'll improve. In Madrid there are many
2) Watch TV in Spanish
In the states, I feel like watching TV is being lazy - a waste of time. Not if you're watching in Spanish! Start watching Spanish TV shows before you study abroad. In Spanish, TV shows are split into three main categories
3) Watch Spanish movies
Some movies you can find online, but if you've got a local library I recommend checking out the DVD copy. This way you can turn on the Spanish subtitles while you watch, which is the preferred way (if you need subtitles).
4) Listen to Spanish podcasts
Head to the iTunes store and browse their free podcasts. In fact, here's a link to Spanish-only podcasts on iTunes.
Notes in Spanish is a separate site that offers free real-life audio and video in Spanish.
5) Read Spanish newspapers
Start reading El País instead of spending time on Facebook or reading the news in English. Reading this newspaper will not only help your language skills, but it will ease the transition to your future community by increasing your cultural knowledge.
6) Listen to Spanish radio
When living in Madrid I would often listen to Cadena Dial (91.7 FM in Madrid) on my radio in my room. The station only plays music with Spanish lyrics. Again, not only did this help my Spanish, but I also felt a step closer to fitting in with my Spanish friends. If you're out and your fellow Spaniards are all singing along to a popular song, it feels really good when you know the lyrics and can sing along with them! Oh, the little things. Not in Spain yet? Listen to Cadena Dial in real time here.
Cadena Ser (105.4 FM in Madrid) is a talk show / news station that will definitely help
And here's an exhaustive list of Spanish radio stations that you can stream live on the internet to find your own favorite.
7) Play Lyricstraining
Lyrics Training is an online game where you watch music videos of popular songs as the lyrics appear on the screen. Every now and then there are blanks in the lyrics, and you need to type in the missing word as quickly as you can. I actually showed this game to my English students, but it was also fun for me to play in Spanish and French. Lyrics Training has songs in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, and Dutch.
8) Set electronic accounts to Spanish
9) Various Online Resources
This page from CEC Study Languages Abroad offers 10 free online resources for learning Spanish, and it's a good place to start. This BBC Spanish page is another.