5 Tips for Learning Spanish in Spain
Learning Spanish in Spain doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. No matter what your Spanish language level is, or even if you don’t have a level yet (raise your hands, beginners), there are plenty of resources for language learning that can suit your personality type and learning style. My husband Eric and I know firsthand that even when living in Spain, you have to make an intentional effort to learn the language.
Best of all, to learn the language in Spain really enriches your experience of the country, its people, culture, and history. And, with Spanish as the second-most spoken language in the world, it will benefit you both personally and professionally. So whether you’re living in Spain or visiting Spain, here are our five tips for learning Spanish in Spain so you can enjoy understanding and speaking the language.
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#1 – Meet in Person for Learning Spanish in Spain
In our post-pandemic world, why not jump at the opportunity to also learn Spanish in person, not just online. After spending time limited to only online language courses, it’s no wonder that so many of us are eager to be with people in person again. And there really is a benefit to learning a language when you’re physically present with someone. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with learning Spanish online and we’ll talk more about that further below.
There are a wealth of options for in-person Spanish lessons in Spain. You can choose to do private Spanish classes where you meet one-on-one with a Spanish language teacher. Or you can opt for a Spanish language group class that is in a more academic setting. The bigger cities, like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville, have many options for Spanish language schools. Even most towns of a decent size can have more than one school to choose from, like in our town of Denia.
Another great option is forming a small group for learning Spanish from an instructor. In this case, private Spanish instructors are willing to focus on fewer students. This makes it more possible to meet in less formal settings like someone’s home or a cafe, which for some can be more comfortable than a classroom setting. For almost a year, my husband Eric was part of a small group of three adults who had Spanish lessons together twice a week with a private instructor. They enjoyed meeting in the home of one of the students or in a quiet cafe. The camaraderie combined with some one-on-one attention from the instructor, was extremely helpful for him.
Be Open to Learning from non-Native Spanish Speakers, as long as they truly have a good grammatical and conversational grasp of the language. Sometimes they can explain things in a way that is easier for native English speakers to grasp.
#2 – Practice Conversational Spanish when Learning Spanish in Spain
Above Image – Speaking Spanish has helped me get to know locals and share their stories here with you, like with this great couple of L’ham de Mercat in Valencia old town.
I always like to say that there are two aspects to learning Spanish: the grammar and the conversational. It makes sense that you probably should start with learning the grammar first, but that does not always have to be the case.
I grew up learning Spanish from my mother and her family, who are from the Dominican Republic. Simply being around it and having to speak it at times, caused me to learn it to an extent. However, the United States is where I was born and raised, so the older I got the less I spoke Spanish since we could only visit her home country every few years. While she tried to speak it with us at home, it simply did not happen as often. I was pretty stubborn and not as receptive to it then. I know… most definitely my loss. Fortunately, living in Spain these years has helped me improve my Spanish and I’m grateful for the foundational knowledge I do have from my childhood.
Going back to your story though… learning Spanish grammar is vital and will help you greatly. At the same time, practicing your conversational Spanish will put that well learned grammar to work and help you learn local phrases and build your confidence in speaking Spanish with others. They go hand in hand.
Above Image – Valencian local and friend Angels is a regular at the Denia Intercambio Group where I live. She’s great to practice conversational Spanish with.
Learn Spanish in Spain with Intercambio Groups
One of the best ways to practice your conversational Spanish in Spain is to go to intercambio groups. These groups are for native English speakers to meet with native Spanish speakers, to practice conversing in the language they are learning. They are also a great social experience where you can connect with locals and make new friends.
Taking part in an intercambio group can also lead to finding an intercambio partner, which in your case would be someone who natively speaks Spanish and who you meet one-on-one on a regular basis. In cases like that, you can plan to speak English together for the first half hour and then speak Spanish for the second half hour, for example.
And of course, simply getting out there, attending local events and making friends with the local Spaniards, are powerful ways to practice your conversational Spanish. If you’re living in Spain, this will help you to integrate with the local community and make you feel that much more at home. The same can be said if you’re visiting – learning and speaking Spanish will enable you to truly experience an area of Spain by connecting with the locals.
Some other great ideas for practicing your Spanish in Spain are:
- Volunteer at a local animal shelter
- Join a local walking group
- Take local art classes in Spanish
- When in restaurants and museums, ask for the menu or information in Spanish to practice reading and writing Spanish
#3 – Set a Schedule for Learning Spanish in Spain
Above Image – We love the illustrations in the Gymglish app.
Practice really does make perfect and even just 10 minutes a day of studying Spanish will improve your language skills. This should involve a study time that is in addition to the other efforts you’re making, like Spanish classes and attending an intercambio group. Maybe it’s looking over your homework every week day before dinner or practicing Spanish on an app while having your morning coffee or tea.
I find that the best routine is doing a Spanish lesson on my Gymglish language app each weekday morning while having my tea.
Pick a time to study Spanish at home that works well for you and make it enjoyable so that you’re more likely to do it on an ongoing basis. Another idea is to change it up now and again and make it fun by watching a movie that’s originally in Spanish and putting on the English subtitles.
#4 – Use an App for Learning Spanish in Spain
It seems there is an app for everything and fortunately there are some incredible ones for learning Spanish wherever you are. With all the choices, which do you settle on? Or perhaps you use more than one.
Eric and I both have tried the major ones, like Duolingo and Babbel. Their free level offers can be great. Yet in the past year we’ve settled on another game-changer in the language learning world, Gymglish. They really take Spanish learning to that next level.
With Gymglish, we love the use of creative imagery, storytelling, and cultural references that make it all so relevant (and easier to remember). What’s really amazing is the level of personalization within the lessons. Each day’s lesson, which gets emailed to you each morning, takes into account your answers and expectations from the previous lesson. They also use artificial intelligence to pick your story of the day based on your proficiency level as it changes.
Learning Spanish with Gymglish
With the Gymglish method of language learning, you can make great progress in your Spanish. Each of their lessons are around 15 minutes long and incorporate stories, dialogues, questions, ‘mini-lessons’, and revisions. Or, if you have only 10 minutes on certain occasions, even their micro-learning provides effective ways to keep you on track.
Once you’ve completed six months of lessons, you’ll also receive a diploma detailing your level, progress, and participation rate. This can be especially helpful to have if you need a language certificate for a certain job.
But don’t just take our word for it – click the image below to get one month free of Gymglish, so you can try it out yourself. Let us know what you think!
And here is another bonus tip, I also suggest being prepared to invest financially into learning Spanish. Especially as you get started. Spanish classes, language apps, and even possibly trips, are worth paying good money for having the best tools and experiences. Again, a lot like travel, being able to speak another language is truly priceless.
#5 – Set Realistic Expectations for Learning Spanish in Spain
I see so many people being hard on themselves for not learning Spanish within a matter of months. But for most of us who are even living in Spain, it can take years to become fluent in Spanish. I’ve met people who have been married to a Spaniard for years and sometimes even they can’t keep up with their Spanish family members. Remember, Spaniards can talk really fast.
Depending on your learning style, immersive programs that are one or two weeks long can be wonderful for learning Spanish in Spain. Some people even do these on an annual basis to refresh their knowledge and give them a jumpstart along their Spanish learning journey. Again though, even learning in an intense amount of time like that will not have you walking out of the classroom fluent in Spanish.
Now, I’m not trying to discourage you. I’m simply encouraging you to be kind to yourself and prepared. Learn what your learning style is, allow plenty of time and develop relationships with locals for learning Spanish in Spain. Most of all, realize that it’s one of those things that you will never stop learning and growing in. But then, that’s pretty much life in general!
In case you hadn’t noticed before, there are different variations of Spanish. In Spain, Castilian Spanish is spoken. It’s considered the original Spanish. Throughout Latin American countries, the Spanish spoken has some differences, even entirely different words. For example, in Spain you say ‘coche’ for car but in Latin American countries you say carro. In Spain we use vosotros when referring to you all, and in Latin American countries it is ustedes and they use usted for a more formal way to say you.
Are You Ready for Learning Spanish in Spain?
Learning Spanish is a lot like traveling – it’s really about the journey, not just the destination. It becomes a part of your lifestyle, enhancing and expanding your experiences and relationships.
If you are living in Spain, it can be easy to surround yourself with just English speakers. Sometimes even the local Spaniards want to practice their English with you and you can get into a routine of not speaking Spanish with them. It can be especially challenging if you work in English and from home. Trust me, Eric and I understand. We both work from home and our clients are English speaking. But that still is no excuse so we continue to keep at it and with time and these tips, we’re seeing improvement.
We know firsthand, by utilizing these tips, you can find yourself on the way to learning Spanish in Spain.
Are you interested in learning Spanish in Spain? What has helped you so far? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
¡Hasta la próxima!
Written by Amalia Maloney Del Riego
Fora Advanced Travel Advisor & Content Creator
I love living in Denia, Spain and traveling worldwide. My idea of a great time is ‘eating and drinking’ my way around a new place and meeting the people. As a Fora Advanced Travel Advisor, I specialize in custom travel planning for trips throughout Europe, as well as scouting trips for moving to Spain. Here on MoveToTraveling.com you can enjoy our Europe travel resources to experience Europe and live in Spain.