When I turned 19 I took a break from school to go explore the unique country of Ecuador. In roughly 4 months I received an Advanzado Diploma from the Univeristy of Salamancia Spain. Which basically means on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being fluency) I received an 8. Do I feel fluent? Hell no. But I was able to travel all over the country living in hostels by my lonesome self and have a Spanish-speaking girlfriend. To me that equals success, but fluency is a whole other ball game. For those currently traveling and looking to add some new things into there game or considering reigniting there language abilities try these 4 things.
1. Make Fake Friends
Traveling by yourself can have its advantages but loneliness sets in if there is not sufficient human interaction. Solution? Travel agencies and homeless people. Not only are salesmen paid to speak to you, they are practically begging for it. Foreigners are their biggest clients most of the time and they will be incredibly patient with your speaking ability. No judgment here. Only the insatiable desire to make you feel special so they can take your money.
Homeless people* also work great. Leaving the crazy ones aside most are a lot more approachable than you think and usually have great stories. If you’re not exactly in a flow with your language yet, go Dale Carnegie “How to Win Friends and Influence Others” on his ass and ask about his life. People love talking about themselves and homeless people are definitely no exception. They will control the dialogue leaving you with less pressure to talk and the possibility of making a new friend.
*The Bohemian kind
“Puedo creerme dios si escribo un nuevo verso
pero dime quien soy yo en proporción al universo”
“I can believe in myself god if I write a new verse
But tell me who I am in proportion to the universe”
While learning Spanish, listening to hip hop music in the language definitely increased my ability to understand faster speaking individuals. But to take this to the next level I began creating my own raps. This improved my learning process in a whole new way. It made learning verbs fun and strengthened my sentence formation powers. If spitting rhymes is not your thing, try writing poetry, a daily journal, a screenplay. Whatever it is go for it and read it aloud for more practice.
3. Pick up lines
The cheesier and more ridiculous the better. This is about improving your language skills so regardless if you actually get the girl or not your still winning.
Personal Favorite Include:
Estamos pobrecitos gringitos perdidos= “We are poor lost gringos (foreigners typically meaning americans but can be used for anyone from another country)”. This usually leads to asking the girl(s) to show us around the town.
4. Toungue Twisters
Pronouncing the double r in spanish is comparable to summiting Mount Everest. Both incredibly difficult due to our body working through movements were not used to. But only one makes you pronounce food items wrong leading to laughter of nearby south american children. Spend every morning reciting a list of tounge twisters you have trouble with. Good ones to work on are: rr, v, and J.
The ones I used:
“Un burro comía berros y el perro se los robó, el burro lanzó un rebuzno, y el perro al barro cayó”
Yo tengo una gallina pinta, piririnca, piriranca, rubia y titiblanca, esta gallina tiene unos pollitos pintos, piririncos, pirirancos, rubios y titiblancos, si esta gallina no fuera pinta, piririnca, piriranca, rubia y titiblanca, no tuviera los pollitos, pintos piririncos, pirirancos, rubios y titiblancos!
La sucesión sucesiva de sucesos sucede sucesivamente con la sucesión del tiempo.
Si tu eres tu,
y yo soy yo,
quien es el mas tonto
de los dos?
5. Passive vocabulary Exposure
You are guys are too awesome for only 4 so here is an extra exercise that really helped me. The concept of mere exposure is that the more times we are exposed to something, the more we learn to like it. This could be your annoying co-worker that doesn’t seem so bad anymore or the constant listening of a once painful song slowly becoming more enjoyable. We can apply these principles to learning vocabulary at increased rates by using a voice recorder or phone.
Step 1: Record your voice saying a a few sentences containing new words you are trying to learn
Step 2: Playback while you are walking to work or class on repeat
Step 3: Modify and add new phrases as you go on
You have now just added a passive stream of knowledge into your life
Remember learning a language is a lot easier than you think. Honestly all you have to do is follow Benny the Irish Polyglot’s advice: speak as much as possible. That’s really the only way to learn it. Coming from a C student who took Spanish for 4 years and never learned anything, Take a few months off and live that language. Cut all contact with English speakers and try something new for a couple months. I guarantee you will come back a different person.