Learning Spanish for Traveling & Living in Mexico

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Whether you’re one of those introverts who like to keep it to themselves or not, you are going to need to speak some basic Spanish if you’re traveling to Mexico. If you are going to stay there, then learning the language is an absolute necessity. A good percentage of people in the USA speak Spanish as their first language. This alone should give you an idea of how popular this specific Romance language is; also, it is my favorite.

Learning the Language

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t studied Spanish while attending high school. Learning the basics can be quite simple and easy. For tourists, the basics often do well. And the fastest way to learn Spanish could either be translating with an app while on your flight to Mexico or talking to the natives once you get there. I tend to prefer the first method a great deal over the second because it gives me the confidence to actually initiate a conversation.

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For those of you who believe that they do not need to learn Spanish thoroughly, you guys might be missing out on a lot. In order to understand a culture, you must first learn to speak their language. Language is the doorway to learning a civilization’s customs and heritage. Without language, cultures wouldn’t hold meaning and literature wouldn’t exist. I won’t lie to you; Pablo has been a huge inspiration for me while I was learning Spanish. I have always dreamt about being able to read his poetry in Spanish instead of having to read the translated version.

Literature fans would surely find inspiration in the beauty of Spanish culture as well as literature and use it as a motivation to learn Spanish language. If you are not a bookworm, then you might be interested in visual entertainment. Watching movies and TV shows is a great way of learning Spanish as well.

Practice Makes a Man Perfect

Learning languages depends a great deal on practice as well. Your knowledge of the language could be non-colloquial. It means that you could be reading Spanish text and learning the language academically but you won’t be able to communicate with the natives. Their accents would prove to be less than musical to your ears if you can’t understand a word of their language. Therefore, practice is key.

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More often than not I have noticed that people don’t perform their language exercises regularly. You cannot apply the simple rule of mathematics on learning languages, eight hours of practice one day is not equal to daily one-hour practice. Why? Because you are practically not speaking the language for the other seven days! Such routine leaves a huge impact on your learning. Consistency is the key.

However, if you can’t seem to make time every single day, you can take other measures. For example, if you’re studying in a Mexican Institute, it is preferable to befriend the locals. I know the temptation of hanging out with other foreign students, who understand basic English would try to snag you away from this opportunity. However, I strongly recommend you to control this urge and hang out with the natives more often.

This way, even if you occasionally skip your Spanish class due to hectic routine, you’d at least be able to practice your language with the locals. Immersing yourself in an environment where Spanish is spoken is a great way of picking up the language. If you stick around with the locals long enough, you would be able to build an accent that’s not bad for a foreigner, at least.

Choose Your Living Area Wisely

You’ll have to be very careful about one thing. Try not to live in places near tourist attractions. That’s because such places and urban areas tend to have a lot of people who speak English. It’s easy to fall back in the routine of speaking your own language once you come across someone who’s familiar with English. And God forbid if you find someone who speaks fluent English! Some natives would want to practice their English with you, do not take the bait. It’s a good deed to return favors, but remember you’re there to learn Spanish and not to teach English.

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If you are not living at the college’s dorm, a great residence option is living with a host family. It would introduce you to the Spanish community in the true sense of the word. You can mingle with the host family and learn about their culture, foods, and of course, Spanish. The beauty of a language does not lie in its grammar books, instead, in the colloquial metaphors. Living with a native family would enable you to use the terms and phrases that they use; and understand the local references.

Or, Simply Go For Teaching

Speaking of it, you could pick up a teaching job if you have got time. I understand that my statements are conflicting. However, you need to understand that immersing in a conversation and teaching a language are two very different things. When you are communicating in English, you are not likely to be mindful of the Spanish version of the words you’re speaking. Nonetheless, when you teach English at an institute, you’ll get to learn a lot from your Spanish students. See if you can get a job at a middle school as an English teacher.

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You might feel stranded among all the Spanish-speaking people around you, but trust me; this is your opportunity to make a breakthrough and learn a new language; what might seem like a tedious situation could prove to be helpful for you years down the lane.

Bonus tip: Do not use Google Translate, I repeat, do not try Google Translate for learning any language. While it might be a useful tool for simple sentences, your translated texts will be full of grammatical errors. I don’t mean to defame Google Translate, I am simply exercising my right of expression; all I am saying is, it has embarrassed me quite often while speaking with the natives.

While it may seem like a difficult journey, I want you to know that with dedication and hard work, you will get there eventually. There will come times when you will feel like giving up; you just have to remember to be courageous. Stay consistent and have faith and good luck!

About the Author:

Lara Smith has worked for Wall Street English for 20 years. After studying at Stanford University and subsequently doing a CELTA course, she began her career in teaching. She is obsessed with languages and currently writes blogs at https://www.mimicmethod.com/.

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