Moving to Spain, I expected I would be speaking Spanish all the time even though I would be teaching English. However, I've found that you have to go out of your way to really try to learn and speak Spanish. Maybe it's because Madrid is such an international city or maybe it's because I live with Americans and hang out with a lot of CIEE people and maybe it's because I should only be speaking English at schools and my private lessons.. Maybe a little bit of everything.
Your schools tell you that you shouldn't let the kids know you speak Spanish because if they do, they're more likely the speak Spanish to you if they're having difficulties. However, if the students think you don't speak any Spanish, they are forced to try to use circumlocution to try to explain what they mean in English, which gets them using their vocabulary they already know. Totally makes sense. I had to do this in my Spanish classes and as frustrating as it was, I get the point now being on the other side. I do help them every now and again, but I do find it super entertaining when the kids hear me speaking Spanish to other teachers and they ask me if I know Spanish, but they believe me when I say no!
Don't get me wrong, I love the people I live with and love all my American friends and teaching English, but sometimes, I feel as though I really don't speak Spanish as much as I thought. There are plenty of resources to change this of course, so I decided to compile a list of apps and activities in order to inspire and motivate myself and inform other people of the things they can do.
1. Podcasts: Español Automático
With a 50 minute commute on the metro, this is an easy and convenient way to get some Spanish in and work on your listening skills. I'm usually listening to music or a podcast anyway, so I try to make it a goal to listen to these 25-30 minute podcasts once or twice a week. The host, Karo Martinez, also has a website where she offers transcripts of the pod, resources and even classes to help you with your Spanish. Her goal is to help people speak in a more natural and fluid way. She speaks really clearly and recommends habits while discussing a variety of topics.
2. Netflix Shows
We all binge-watch. Sometimes escaping reality and sitting in your room for the whole day is very much needed because I do have to remind myself that I live here, and somedays I need some American culture. But instead of turning to a show that you've already seen or watching something in English, watch a Spanish show! I recommend Cable Girls or "Chicas del Cable." It's a show — not dubbed in Spanish — that takes place in Madrid (how perfect) in the late 1920s and about four women who meet working at a Telephone company as operators and their crazy storylines: there's love, friendship, revenge, murder. The classic recipe for a drama. I watch it in Spanish with subtitles and cannot stop watching it.
3. Tandem: iPhone App
So intercambios can be a great way to meet people and there's a million you can go to. It can be a bit overwhelming and the few that I've been to, people tend to hear you speaking English and flock to you. I've met some great people from all over the world, but I always end up speaking English. Tandem is a language exchange app where you can practice speaking any language with native speakers. Some people choose to video chat, but I recommend posting that you are looking to practice in person. (You can set your location) so you can guarantee you'll be talking to people within your city limits. The one-on-one setting I find better to practice and improve.
4. Tus Clases Particulares
Just as I teach private english classes, there are private classes in Spanish. These will usually cost 15-25 euro per hour and classes can vary from conversational to more formal one-on-one classes but if you're really committed to learning Spanish, this is a great way to guarantee Spanish learning.
Meetup is not only a great language resource but also a great way to find your tribe in Madrid. They have a bunch of meet-ups focused on area of interests but also have intercambios listed. Interested in something? Try meeting up with a group and see if there's any people you can practice Spanish with while doing something you love!