[The following is a special post by M. Langton]
Heading off to South America for Spanish language school is a priceless opportunity to learn, but immersion in a Spanish-speaking population isn’t a magic bullet. You’ll still need the right approach in order to leverage your opportunities. These tips for studying Spanish will help you refine your approach so you can come home with some seriously impressive Spanish skills.
Perfect your grammar with flashcards — Prepositions in English and Spanish don’t correspond exactly, so Spanish prepositions take some work to master. For a simple way to practice, create flashcards with verbs on one side and prepositions on the other.
As you work through the flashcards, try to use each verb in a sentence along with the appropriate prepositions. Focus on frequently used verbs and easily confused prepositions, such as por and para.
Play around with sentence structure — Although Spanish and English sentence structures are very similar, Spanish is a little more flexible. Changes in word order can subtly alter a Spanish sentence’s meaning. When you read and listen, stay alert for unusual sentence structures and take the time to examine them.
For example, watch for sentences in which the subject comes right before the verb. Try changing the order and consider how that changes the sentence’s meaning.
Keep a journal — For practice with the pretérito and imperfecto tenses, try keeping a journal of notable things that happened each day. Even four or five lines a day can help. Free writing like this gives you more realistic practice than textbook gap-fill exercises.
Because you won’t have an answer key to turn to, though, periodically ask a fluent Spanish-speaker to check your writing so you don’t end up repeating errors.
Speak when you can — Immersion in a Spanish-speaking culture won’t help much if you don’t actively use the language. If you expect to speak well, you need to practice speaking. When you have the chance, speak up, even if a short sentence or two is all you can manage.
Daily speaking practice will help you with everything from the correct use of prepositions and articles to pronouncing your Rs and RRs correctly.
Attending a Spanish language school is a golden opportunity to quickly develop high-level Spanish skills, but you’ll only get out of it what you put in. So practice whenever you can, try out these tips for studying Spanish, and watch your language skills grow.
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