Debs Jenkins making food with Spanish friends for La Murta Fiesta

Many immigrants will say they want to learn the language of their adoptive country but will then find a myriad of reasons why they can’t: it’s difficult, they don’t have the time, there’s no one to teach them, it’s expensive, they’re too old / stupid… I know all these excuses, I’ve used them myself!

Here are a few inexpensive (some are even free!) ways to help yourself learn the language and get more out of your time in Spain.

Teach Someone English

When you teach someone your own language by necessity you absorb a little of theirs. It’s a lot easier than you think too. I’ve been doing this for the last 6 years, with children, teenagers and adults. With the kids I usually pick subjects that they’ll be doing in school or have done recently and then revise or build on it. And I never do it like a school lesson, I play games, sing songs(!), bake cakes, make cards or toys, in fact anything so they don’t find it boring! Keep the sessions short, no longer than an hour. I don’t charge for my time as I learn as much as the kids do.

With older learners you can work out what interests you share or choose a news topic and use that as a basis for discussion and learning. English language magazines and newspapers are great starting points. There are also loads of resources on the internet to help you with ideas. Keep the subject light and interesting. Go to a local bar instead of staying in the house and you’ll have other things to discuss too!

This is also one of the best ways to make local friends. I’ve been invited to weddings, christenings and communions, lunches and suppers, bbqs and breakfasts – all places where I get to learn again!

Irene (Spanish) & Sue (English) Cooking together

Learn A New Skill With Spanish People

Over the last few years with Spanish teachers we’ve learnt to: drive a boat, ride a horse, scuba dive, bake local food and play padel. Each new skill we learnt added to our Spanish language and improved our confidence.

It’s best if you have a little language for some of these activities (safety issues in scuba diving and boat driving for example), but for many new skills sign language and a good sense of humour will have you talking a common language in no time.

Why not invite the local chap at the bar for a round of golf? Or offer to host a cake making party where you share recipes with your Spanish neighbours. What about joining the local Spanish-run belly dancing or aerobics class? Come and join us on one of our Sunday morning walks with a great mixture of Spanish, English, Irish and Finnish people to talk to. In fact try anything where you’re not just speaking to people from your own language.

Use Free Online Resources – Do Your Homework

There are so many out there that it’s difficult to know where to start. Depending upon your skill level this can be a great learning opportunity.Doing your homework will really help build your confidence and give you some phrases to try out. However, remember to get out there and try your new-found skills with real people.

The BBC has some great resources and regular newsletters to keep you going, Ben & Marina at NotesinSpanish have courses for all levels or join groups on social networking sites like (you need to be invited, email me if you want me to invite you) and where there’s opportunity to practice your written Spanish. A search on google will throw up hundreds of sites with free or low cost online Spanish lessons.

Read The Local English Language Papers

Often you’ll find a lesson, a cut out cheat sheet or an explanation of some weird grammar for free in your local English language magazines. When you spot them, cut them out and make your own free resources folder.

Watch The Telly!

I bet you didn’t expect to find that one in the list! Change channels from Eastenders and enjoy a Spanish soap opera instead. Look out for English language films on the Spanish channels and watch them in Spanish. Watch the news, especially the local news, learn more about your new culture and pick up some language. Swapping one hour of viewing time per day to a Spanish channel will have you learning the language in no time.

Of course some structured language classes are a great idea too, especially if you can find some locally with a great Spanish teacher!

Research has shown that expats who learn the language have a better chance of integration and a more enjoyable time in their adoptive country. Make a small effort and get a big reward.

Let me know what other interesting ways you’ve found to learn the language.

front-cover-8x8-outline-smallerTry your hand at Spanish cooking with our dual language recipe book: Spanish Village Cooking: Recetas del Campo

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