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There’s no doubt that you can get more from living in Spain if you speak the language – even just a little. Firstly it’s easier if you can deal with all the daily situations such as ordering in a restaurant or bar, shopping, go to the post office, bank or doctor and asking for directions. But for me, the real benefit of speaking the language is the ability to take part in the culture of your adopted country and make Spanish friends. If you can break into the Spanish society, you will be able to enjoy this great country to the full!
Now this might seem like a tall order, but it’s surprising how much you can achieve by simply making an effort. As a foreigner on the Costa del Sol people are constantly impressed that I make an effort to speak Spanish and are very patient when I can’t quite find the word. The British have a terrible reputation for not speaking foreign languages, so you can make a great first impression even with just a little Spanish.
So, how to get started? Well there are a few great resources that you can use at home before you try out your Spanish on the real world. Here are my favourite materials:
BBC Spanish Steps – This is a great online course which will be emailed to you in weekly installments. It is very practical with dialogues, listening exercises, interactive activities and much more. It’s a quick and easy way to familiarise yourself with the Spanish langauge. Once you get more advanced the BBC has also got some excellent materials for Intermediate speakers.
Michel Thomas – This language guru has developed a language learning system with no writing, no memorising and minimal effort on the part of the learner. If you do it properly, this is a great way to learn how to construct sentences and talk naturally. I’m a real fan!
Spanish Podcasts – It can be very difficult to practice your listening when you first get started and the TV and radio just sound like a stream of sound! Notes in Spanish provide some great podcasts for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners. They deal with a different subject each week and you can also download exercises from the site to support what you’ve heard. They also share some great street-wise Spanish which will help you sound like a local.
Contact your local Town Hall’s foreigner’s department – Many local authorities in the more international parts of Spain offer heavily subsidised or even free classes for residents, so ask to see what’s available.
Practice, practice, practice – Once you’ve got some vocab and grammar behind you, get out there and speak. Go to your local bar and practice, ask for the Spanish menu and embrace every opportunity to use what you’ve learnt. We’ll be including some useful vocabulary in future posts, so please let us know if there are any areas you’re struggling with.