language learning | my tips and journey to fluency ~ spanish
Amara Amaryah | travel + books + poetry. a platform for story-telling, visuals, positive self-talk and empowerment | language learning - my journey to fluency
hello loves orrrrrr
hola mis amores
i feel like including my journey to fluency here on the blog. i have been growing in my spanish to some degree for almost 8 years now (?!) and i haven't written much about why and how i managed that. so here lies a new series or maybe just the start of something i will come back to every once and a while. lets see how she feels. either way i am very serious about progressing from intermediate to fluent in this 2020 of ours. i truly think that for a lot of us during this lockdown/time at home, learning a new language or brushing up on the languages we already had but couldn't indulge the time to improve, has been it. i'm making the most of this time to focus on something i enjoy and see as beneficial - being able to fluently communicate in spanish. comment below if you're on this journey too!
my spanish learning journey
i took spanish at a-level which meant that i was immersed in the language daily. i mean reading el pais newspaper everyday and translating, listening to spanish music, watching films, youtubers (shoutout to miss rizos, my halfway point between learning spanish and embracing my natural hair journey) and translating random articles from a magazine i picked up in spain. our teachers were also mainly spanish natives and very strict widdit so we were fortunate to have all of our classes 100% in spanish from day 1. in this way, i learnt enough about the kinds of habits i needed to maintain for free to get better /fluent one day.
as soon as i got my 'a' at a-level i tapped out and was very much exhausted with spanish. i pretty much never spoke it again during all of uni.
pero fast forward to 2019...
i had a sudden realisation that it was foolish to have not at least maintained my spanish (my uni literally offered free language classes). suddenly i had a gig at a literary festival and a trip planned to cuba and an unpracticed tongue. so i decided to pick it back up and take it seriously.
currently, i would place myself at level b (some kind of intermediate) using the CEFR standard scale (common european framework of reference for languages) because my reading and writing are at b2 (upper intermediate) and my speaking and listening are at b1 (lower intermediate) and i generally need to build confidence up more but have had smooth enough conversations with native-spanish speakers.
why spanish &
as someone who enjoys travelling, language and communication is something i have always been drawn to. ideally i don't travel without having some of the language to hand, if even it is saying thank you until the entire country is tired of hearing me say it. literally i was on my coach to luton airport at 4am to budapest learning the basics of hungarian on YouTube and yes, i do that for fun and enjoyment. not only is it just a good and decent thing to add to your travel habits and prevent you from being a basic traveller, it is also smart to travel with some means of communicating your needs/safety with locals should you need to. also, some of my best travel experiences have come from being brave enough to use another language. it is always worth it in the end, the friends i have made from having even half a language has made it worth it.
fluency is important to me because ultimately i know that my goal is to live internationally, to travel and write and buy a house somewhere that i choose to be home. i think fluency in spanish is really the first step to me showing myself that i'm serious about it. my preference at the moment is central america, the caribbean and south america because the culture has always interested me. so learning spanish fluently would help me navigate this part of the world (first) and feel, likely as a solo traveller, safer and able to meet people and dare to speak and exchange to learn. i hope that life will show me other languages that i should learn, one day beyond european languages. it isn't a goal of mine at the moment, but one day the goal might be to become a polyglot.
tips for language learning (for free)
here are a handful of language learning tips that i've been using to get fluent.
subtitles, subtitles, subtitles — i watch my favourite english speaking YouTubers and change the subtitles to spanish to pick up words or whole phrases. always sit with a notebook to hand and be ready to pause when necessary. normalise it and don't get annoyed by having to take notes for regular YouTube because this is your life until you're fluent x
watch shows originally filmed in the language — do this to hear rhythm and idoms etc. spanish netflix shows that i have enjoyed include money heist and la casa de flores. keep in mind that the spanish of spain has different sayings, rhythm and sometimes grammar compared to latin america.
watch polyglot YouTubers or ones that speak the language— this is super important because YouTube mostly consists of natural/nonscripted speech so you're able to get authentic dialogue and speech (mainly). they say listening to the radio is very good for listening to sporadic, fast speech to test your skills. i'm sure podcasts could work too. i list a few resources below for YouTubers that currently help me out.
i'm a bookworm so naturally my reading levels are disproportionately higher than my speaking, writing and listening skills. i read anything i can in spanish probably daily. when i come across a new word i have spanish dict downloaded on my phone and the actual spanish dictionary on my shelf for when i'm feeling analogue girl in a digital world. i recommend checking out a charity bookstore (if they're open now?) or online used books to find translations of your fave book. this way you know what roughly is happening but in the practice of translating. you can also subscribe to a blog (free), follow an instagram page (free), read reviews of whatever you're interested in (free).
language phone settings — my phone settings are currently in spanish (i understand the majority so it is safe) and this helps me to pay close attention to the everyday ways i might use the language like words within the context of the weather, spotify, notifications, emails all of it.
texting — in writing this blog post i have learnt that i spend the least amount of effort on improving my writing skills and less so my speaking skills. at the moment i regularly text friends in cuba or spain almost entirely in spanish. texting and thinking about how i am forming my sentences has helped me get more confident over the months. i've asked my cuban friend to correct every little mistake i make so that i can learn from my mistakes and get used to latin american spanish (rather than spain's spanish).
if you don't have patient friends to practice your language with (sorry for you) you can find them onlineee. apps like Tandem, HiNative and Bilingua allow you to partner up with a native speaker.
pronunciation — one thing (the only thing) i have been doing to improve as a spanish speaker is working on minimising my english accent while speaking spanish. i have a list of words/phrases that i learnt from my YouTube videos or readings or conversations and i practice those words randomly to get used to the intonation and sounds. much to the confusion of my neighbours.
good sources to save:
here are some youtube references that inspire me and have given me creative ideas to make my journey to fluency enjoyable -
Jo Franco: queen polyglot and of course the DamonandJo channel has more fire language videos
Nathaniel Drew : 7 days to a fluent conversation with a native speaker (portuguese and italian)
Miss Urban Eve - favourite of all - polyglot Ghanaian German
Bilingue blogs - great videos about cultural and linguistic language/lifestyle (latin american spanish)
my next step is buying an advanced grammar book because i have no idea where old my grammar resources are. i feel like all these skills really come to life when you can confidently conjugate...
that is all. the first part of my journey. thanks for reading what i write. i hope this has inspired you in some way, let me know if you're learning a language too.