Fun ways to learn Spanish: mastering a foreign language beyond textbooks

Speaking a foreign language is a useful skill for a traveler, isn’t it? Although I have never visited a Spanish speaking destination, this charming language has always fascinated me and I don’t lose hope to set my foot on Spain and a good many of Latin American countries one day. Besides, learning a foreign language is a wonderful exercise for the mind, especially for a stay-at-home mom with small kids (here I’m speaking from personal experience 🙂 ) Also, it’s a great deal of fun.

Of course, I’ve had my fair share of sweating over textbooks when grasping Spanish grammar (oh, those verbs!), and it was extremely beneficial, but it’s not easy to stay motivated when learning a new language involves only that. As time went by, I felt I needed to take things easier and search for some fun ways to keep my Spanish alive. And this is what I came up with:

Reading fairy tales with Ilya Frank’s reading method

According to this unique method of reading a text in a foreign language, you don’t have to consult a dictionary every time you encounter an unfamiliar word. Each fairy tale is divided into brief with English translation and short explanations in brackets. This method allows you to read a text undisturbed and simply enjoy the process. As you encounter the same word over an over again through a story in different contexts and collocations, you remember it naturally, without a mechanical repetition and enforced memorizing. Here is an example of such text:

Érase (there was: «there lived»; ser — to be) una vez (once: «one time») un rey (a king) que tenía un hijo (who had a son; tener — to have) de catorce años (of fourteen /years/; un año — year).
Todas las tardes (all evenings) iban de paseo (went for a walk) el monarca y el principito (the king/monarch and the little prince) hasta la Fuente del Arenal (to the Sandy Spring/Fountain; un arenal  arenaceous/sandy terrain, soil).

After this, the text is duplicated without any explanations:

Érase una vez un rey que tenía un hijo de catorce años.
Todas las tardes iban de paseo el monarca y el principito hasta la Fuente del Arenal.

Here you can learn more about Ilya Frank’s method.

Fairy tales is my favorite kind of reading when learning a new language, by the way. I developed a taste for it when learning English long ago.

Reading Hans Christian Andersen’s stories in Spanish is so much fun

Taking live video lessons with native language tutors

It goes without saying that learning a new language alone is a daunting task. A real tutor can help one learn faster and more effectively. I found mine through the Justlearn community. Do you need a Spanish tutor to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation? Find your tutor at Justlearn today.

Finding a Spanish speaking penpal

I’ve been registered on one of the largest sites for panpals since forever, but at first, it didn’t occur to me to use it for improving my Spanish. But when people started contacting me asking for help with Russian and Ukrainian (my two mother tongues), I decided to acquire similar help with Spanish. And it worked! At the moment I have a few penpals from Spain, Argentina, and Peru to correspond in Spanish, and they are being as kind as to correct my mistakes and give suggestions. Of course, it doesn’t mean I burden them with endless questions about grammar and usage of words – I do try to make my letters as interesting as possible to keep our correspondence enjoyable and rewarding.

Using apps

With a plethora of language apps over there, it’s not difficult to find the most suitable one. Most of them allow to build your vocabulary at your own pace. Some of the most useful apps include Rosetta Stone, Memrise, uTalk, and Duolingo.

Learning Spanish with my kids

Another great way of mastering Spanish is to learn it together with kids. My three children love to read the same Spanish stories and watch the same Spanish cartoon countless times until we all end up knowing them by heart 🙂 More than that, they often repeat Spanish words and expressions throughout a day in different situations, so I have no choice but to remember them, too 🙂

Our favorite stories in Spanish 🙂

Do you speak any foreign languages? What methods did you find the most effective when learning? Please share in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Fun ways to learn Spanish: mastering a foreign language beyond textbooks

  1. “Quiero ser tu amor eterno
    Te había esperado tanto tiempo y tu
    Llegaste y mi mundo cambio…” – from incredible and extremely popular song “Cuidar nuestro amor” by David Bisbal (very talented and handsome Spanish singer)). I just fell in love with Spanish thanks to his beautiful, touching, romantic songs that I learnt by heart practically all. Eventually my Spanish interest was shifted to dancing bachata)). Music, songs can be huge motivators for learning language.

    • Katya! I’m scared of listening to such songs – they are bound to make me overly sensitive and start reflecting upon life. But I can imagine that a younger and fresher version of me would spend more than one evening listening to David Bisbal’s songs 🙂 What about Spanish movies? I didn’t include watching Spanish movies with subtitles in this post, because this method is pretty self-obvious, but I often do that at leisure. My last finding was Carlos Saura’s “Cria Cuervos” – a very sd movie, but totally enjoyable.

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