Learning Spanish

‘You can’t help me with my homework Mummy, you don’t know Spanish!’
And with these words my eldest daughter threw down the gauntlet challenging me to do something to improve my Spanish. 
The six-going-on-13-year-old now has homework every weekend which, after some cajoling, she sits down and does beside her father. But when I tried to persuade her to do some before Sunday evening, so we could forget about it and enjoy the weekend, this was the response I got.
As her father and I speak to each other in English it has been great for the children as they get Spanish at school and plenty of English at home, meaning success on the bilingual front. However, and as my mother-in-law would doubtless agree, it has been no good whatsoever for my Spanish. We also have English TV, which I couldn’t live without, but that too means I’m not so immersed in Spanish. I always thought that by just living here I would pick it up. Now I see I have rather plateaued and as nobody corrects me I fear I shall continue to make the same mistakes forever.
I can see myself in my 80s just like my French grandfather; he never lost his accent in 60-odd years of living in England, something which his grandchildren found quite entertaining and used to have great fun doing wicked impressions of him.
I have tried on several occasions to join classes, but here in Huesca there are only classes for absolute beginners, not for improving language skills. I have also tried language exchanges, which work well for a while but have seem to fizzle out.
So my latest plan is reading. I have just finished my first book in Spanish, something I have actually found much easier than I had expected, and has been rather a revelation. There are lots of words which, seeing them written down, make much more sense now, especially those words which I always imagined were spelt with a ‘b’ but are actually spelt with a ‘v’. The key, however, is to chose a book that’s not too heavy and on a subject which you find interesting. It’s a great excuse to indulge in the most trashy of novels, which would most likely normally be shunned your self-improving sub-conscience. But now, you can read them, they’re helping your Spanish!
Here are my tips on how to improve your Spanish:

  • If you don’t live with a Spaniard try and integrate whenever you can, attend as many events as possible. Remember that the Spanish are a sociable bunch and usually organising some kind of fiesta or gathering.
  • Watch Spanish TV from time to time, at least the news and weather
  • Read whatever you can in Spanish; books, newspapers or if you prefer, gossip magazines.
  • Carry a small notebook around and note down each new word you come across.
  • Enrol in Spanish classes if possible.
  • Arrange a language exchange, it’ll only cost you an hour of your time.
  • If you have the motivation and self-discipline, study a distance learning course at home.

 At the end of the day, accept that you’re learning as an adult and you’ll never be a native or even as good as your bilingual children, but vive la difference! Or rather ¡Que viva la diferencía!

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