IMPROVE Your SPANISH CONVERSATIONS SKILLS:  Tips

IMPROVE Your SPANISH CONVERSATIONS SKILLS: 14 Tips

Want to get to fluency in Spanish really fast? Use these 14 amazing tips to improve your Spanish conversation skills today! 

I’m Spring Spanish teacher Maura, and here is tip number 1: 

1. Listen to as much as possible 

Este tipo de consejos me molestan, porque suenan tan simples, que es difícil transmitir la importancia real que tienen. (This type of advice annoys me, because it sounds so simple, that it’s difficult to convey the actual importance it holds.) 

The reality is that I can’t stress enough how game changing it is to listen to as much Spanish as possible. Doing so will help you to:

  • Ampliar la cantidad de sonidos que puedes reconocer. (Expand the number of sounds you can recognize.)

Es exactamente como ejercitar cualquier otro músculo. (It is exactly like exercising any other muscle.)

  • Conseguir la sensación de lo que está bien y lo que está mal. (Getting a feeling of what’s right and what’s wrong.)

Lo que te ayudará, probablemente más que nada, a hablar correctamente más adelante. (Which will help, probably more than anything, to speak correctly later on.)

  • Asimilar el ritmo o la musicalidad del idioma. (Take on the rhythm or musicality of the language.)

Lo cual es aún más importante que la pronunciación y ciertamente ayuda a ello. (Which is even more important than the pronunciation and certainly helps with it.)

  • Aprender chunks de uso frecuente. (Learn frequently used chunks.)

Some chunks do appear more than others, and the more you listen, the more natural they’ll become. That way, you’ll start using them like a true native. 

I remember when, after spending some time in the US, I started saying “right?” and “you know?” as much as the natives. Definitivamente, aumentó mi sentido de pertenencia a la lengua y amplió mi sensación de libertad dentro de ella. (It definitely added to my sense of belonging with the language and expanded my sense of freedom within it.)

Make sure to stick until the end to get some useful advice on how to approach the psychological aspect of all of this, which is certainly a defining one! 

What you can do to practice listening:

By all means, usa tanta creatividad como quieras con el cómo y cuándo practicas escuchar. (use as much creativity as you want with how and when you practice listening.) To give you a little push, though, here is my top advice:

  • Añádelo a otra parte de tu rutina. (Add it to another part of your routine.)

En realidad, esto funciona con cualquier cosa que quieras incorporar a tu rutina. (This actually works with anything you want to incorporate into your routine.) 

The easiest way is to link it to other things you already do, like: 

  • Conducir (Driving)
  • Ducharse (Taking a shower)
  • Hacer ejercicio (Exercising)
  • Pasear al perro (Walking the dog) 

Put something in Spanish: a TV show, a podcast, one of our listening videos, even music! And while you do what you do, pay attention to it. Tu cerebro hará el trabajo por ti. (Your brain will do the work for you.)

  • Siempre escoge algo que te interese auténticamente. (Always choose something you’re authentically interested in.)

We instinctively know that to teach children anything, it is important to make it entertaining and fun. No sé cuándo decidimos que los adultos son diferentes. (I don’t know when we decided adults are any different.) We’re not, so keep it fun.

  • Mira episodios repetidos de tus programas favoritos en español. (Watch reruns of your favorite shows in Spanish.)

If you watch an episode of Friends in Spanish, for example, that you’ve watched a million times before, it’ll be even easier to understand, and you’ll be creating a ton of associations in the process. Además, seguro que te echas unas risas por lo raro que suena en otro idioma. (Plus, you’ll sure get some laughs at how weird it sounds in a different language.)

  • Juega con los subtítulos primero en inglés y luego en español. (Play with subtitles first in English, then in Spanish.)

Si te son cómodos los subtítulos, ¡juega con ellos! (If you’re comfortable with subtitles, play around with them!) Watching something in Spanish with English subtitles first, then with Spanish subtitles, and finally without them. It’s a great way to continue to create associations without much effort. Remember that what you’re doing is making up for an entire upbringing of constant Spanish. ¡Por eso la cantidad sí importa! (That’s why quantity does matter!)

  • Apréndete una canción entera de memoria. (Learn an entire song by heart.)

If you're into music, please do this. Es exactamente como yo aprendí inglés. (This is exactly how I learned English.) I just loved to learn songs in English, practicing a million times with the lyrics, translating them, and fully understanding them. 

La sensación de poder cantar la canción y saber lo que estaba diciendo, ¡era súper motivadora! (The feeling of being able to sing the song and know what I was saying, was super motivating!) Plus, now you’ll know how to say everything that’s said in that song and your pronunciation will get so much better.

2. Practicing speaking

Speaking is the other face of listening, but it does make sense that it comes after it. Tal y como fue naturalmente con tu lengua materna. (Just as it naturally was with your native language.) To start practicing, though, take the following into consideration: 

  • La práctica hace al maestro. (Practice makes perfect.) 

Again, a simple oldie but goodie. It’s necessary to practice a lot of speaking in Spanish in order to get to a good level. ¡No hay por dónde! (There’s just no way around it.)

Chunk alert!

No hay por dónde is exactly how you would say: “There’s no way around it.” in Spanish. It’s quite similar, really, since the idea of no hay por dónde is that there’s no path you can take to avoid it. Check the link in the description to access our free Essential Spanish Chunking Kit if you feel like getting some even more common chunks we natives use every day!

Ahora, tu siguiente consejo para practicar hablar es: (Now, your next advice to practice speaking is:)

  • Repite para ti. (Repeat to yourself.)

Just as you did as a child in your native language. Repeat chunks, words, or even whole sentences when practicing listening. 

  • Acumula la práctica que sí haces en varios días seguidos. (Accumulate the practice you do in several days in a row.)

If you know how to drive or ride a bicycle, or have trained in anything, you know there’s an accumulation effect. Lo mismo pasa con el habla. (The same happens with speaking.) If you only do it for a few minutes a week, you’ll make it harder for your brain to accumulate knowledge and skills. 

So, even if you have to take breaks every now and then, intenta acumular la práctica que sí puedas hacer durante varios días seguidos. (Try to accumulate the practice you can do by doing it for a few days in a row.)

  • ¡Sé valiente y habla tú también! (Be brave and speak too!)

When speaking with a native, it’s important to speak yourself, at least, 50% of the time. Many learners enter a conversation and, because they don’t feel comfortable, they let the other person monopolize it. 

No te servirá de mucho y no se sentirá tan satisfactorio como podría si te atreves. (It won’t be of much help, and it won’t feel as satisfying as it could if you dare.) Mistakes are welcome!

  • Ve un paso a la vez. (Take it step by step.)

Not everyone will feel comfortable with speaking several times a week for an hour or so right away. Está bien aumentar la dificultad poco a poco. (It’s ok to increment the difficulty slowly.)

  • First sending chat messages back and forth.
  • Then voice messages.
  • Then practicing conversations by yourself.
  • Then short chats. 
  • Only then, longer conversations. 

Otra cosa que puedes hacer es convertirte en miembro de nuestro Inner Circle. Qué conveniente, ¿verdad? Lo sé, pero es cierto. (Another thing you could do is become a member of our Inner Circle. How convenient, right? I know, but it's true!) As a member, you can chat with other students, Spanish tutors, and come to the speaking rooms that we regularly organize to help you speak Spanish. Check the link in the description if you're interested!

3. How to approach it

El aspecto psicológico del aprendizaje lo es todo. (The psychological aspect of learning is everything.) So here’s a little pep talk:

  • No intentes entender palabras, piensa en las ideas. (Don’t try to understand words, think about the ideas.)

This is actually how we listen in our native languages. No entendemos todas las palabras todo el tiempo. (We don’t get every single word all the time.) We get the idea by getting some of the words and associating them with the context. 

  • Date tiempo. (Give yourself time.)

I don’t just mean in the long run, I actually mean in the short term. It’s totally normal that you hear something and only after giving it some thought and/or stopping for a second you understand what was said. 

Es como si nuestro cerebro se tomara un poco más de tiempo para procesar la información en un nuevo idioma. (It’s as if our brains take a bit more time to process information in a new language.)

  • Ríete de tus errores porque los vas a cometer. (Laugh at your mistakes because you will make them.)

The first real conversation will be stressful and hard, you won’t remember words, you will feel clumsy, you will forget everything, and you’ll feel exhausted, but that’s ok and to be expected. Por lo tanto, espéralo y no cedas ante la frustración. (So, expect it and don’t give in to frustration.) 

When you feel that self judgment coming, laugh it out! Your amazing brain is still learning from what you may feel is a failure. Mejorará con cada conversación. (It will get better with every conversation.) Regular practice is key, which is why it’s very important to treat yourself kindly and keep up the motivation.  

Con esto, deberías estar listo o lista para iniciar tu primera conversación. (With this, you should be ready to start your first conversation.)

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