First Things First: Varieties of Spanish
Nelson Mandela, the inspiration behind our manifesto, writes, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you speak to him in his own language, that goes to his heart”. Spanish is the official language in 21 countries. ¡Qué sorprendente!
These countries are on the continents of Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Consider many hearts reached! At Freestyle, we hear dialects from countries such as Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and Spain, to name a few.
Spanish varies greatly across borders, pero no te preocupes – with our tips & hacks below (including a free pronunciation lesson!), you’re on your way to speaking more confidently!
1. Focus on Pronunciation: The Crossfit of Language!
Enter Digital Stage Right: our Spanish Pronunciation Workshop, designed to boost your learning through practice and audio (beyond simply listening)! With repetition and practice, you’re sounding, well, sexier already…
Tackle your ‘aural’ roadblock. It’s a thing!
¿Lo sabías? Adults learn languages faster when focusing on pronunciation first. ¡SÍ! Research shows that training your ears to recognize the sounds of your ‘target language’ as a primer for studying greatly improves your ability to memorize new words and phrases in that language.
While Spanish comes in all shapes and sizes, use that as an interesting benefit! Linguists find that listening to a wide variety of speakers and dialects actually benefits the brain! ¿De verdad? ¡Sí! Exposure to an expansive array of speech patterns and inflections trains your brain to better understand all types of accents.
Truly, Freestyle considers pronunciation the crossfit of language: strengthening from the core, for greater success in your learning goals!
2. Use…um…Filler Words!
“Um…well…so…like”. ¿Sabías? Filler words such as these exist in Spanish! ¡Qué alivio! Next time you’re struggling to find the right word, opt for the Spanish alternative. Here are some common fillers:
Osea (OH-seh-ah): Americans tend to overuse the word “like”. Maybe because, like, you can pretty much use it anywhere and it, like, makes you seem casual. As it turns out, overusing the word “like” is not exclusive to us Americans! The “like” for Spanish speakers is osea, and osea is one of the most popular filler words used in Spanish-speaking countries. Use osea to say “in other words” or “that is to say”.
Este (EH-steh): Use this filler in place of “well…” or “um…”. When you are at a loss for words or need to figure out your next sentence, este is the perfect way to bridge the gap!
Pues (poo-wehss): Similar to este, the word pues is the perfect filler if you need to stall for some time. Native speakers in most Spanish-speaking countries find themselves reverting to pues often. Use this filler as an alternative for “let’s see…” or “so…”.
Ya (yah): Ya, the gold standard for filler words among Spanish speakers! The meaning of ya varies greatly depending on the context, so be sure to take notes on how native speakers use this filler! Por ejemplo… Use ya to say something has already happened.
Lo he leído ya. Use it to say something is happening now. Ya está aquí. Use it to express agreement. Ya, pero es difícil. The list goes on and on!
3. Incorporate ‘Authentic Materials’
‘Authentic materials’ – films, TV shows, songs made BY native Spanish speakers for other native Spanish speakers.
To blend in with native speakers, learn everyday language: shortened words, phrases, slang and idiomatic expressions. Our #1 method for this? ¡Películas en español!
Listening to and using language as it’s truly spoken, in relevant cultural contexts and across a variety of genres, builds proficiency at a faster rate than traditional classes alone can.
In the meantime: try adding these few fun slang expressions to your speaking!
4. Embrace Mistakes! Check Your Pride at the Door.
One of the best tools to carry in your language learning belt? Humility. Don’t be scared to make a mistake! Just get your words out first – and take pride in what you know! Practicing out loud solidifies your strengths and improves any weaknesses.
Most Spanish-speaking countries are culturally very expressive. Osea, don’t be shy! When practicing with others, or even on your own, say everything with confianza! Confidence is key in language learning.
A good role model? Children! Children don’t exhibit as much caution as we adults tend to do – they throw their words out until they know how to do it right.
‘Spontaneous language production’, according to our favorite language acquisition theories, is where it’s at! (speaking of ‘everyday language’!) Take advantage of opportunities to speak face-to-face. Put yourself out there. Better yet, join us at our next happy hour, wine tasting, or Saturday café! Join our newsletter for more information and fun language practice.
In language learning, we all make mistakes! Just #keeponkeepingon and spit it out! “If you’re making mistakes, you’re winning the game.”
5. Practice y más práctica (Cliché alert part dos!)
ACTFL guidelines generally suggest 500 to 750+ hours of language learning to reach intermediate to advanced skill levels.
A good rule of thumb? Practice an hour a day whenever you can – get creative! And yes, your telenovela counts! Repeat out loud after our Spanish Phrase of the Day, subscribe to our YouTube channel, everything counts!
One of our teachers’ favorite tips: When you go to a restaurant, ask for a waiter that speaks only in Spanish. That way, you force yourself to see the menu and order in the language. Definitely una buena idea! Want to up the ante at home? Grab sticky notes and place translations on common objects around the house. Turn your mirror into un espejo, your shower into una ducha, or your desk into un escitorio. ¡PRACTICA!
Now that you have some tips and tricks on how to sound more like a native Spanish speaker under your belt, try them out! Remember to have FUN with it! Language learning isn’t about perfection – learn to let the language wash over you, even if you don’t understand every word.
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