People always say that the best thing you can do to achieve fluency in your target language is to spend a few months in a country where you will have to use it every day. However, unless you’re a digital nomad looking for your next destination, this plan may be impossible to carry out.
So, how can you learn a language like Spanish fast if you don’t have a plane ticket? Today, our native Spanish teacher from Argentina, Emilio, is going to tell you how to do a Spanish immersion program without leaving your hometown.
Emilio, is it possible to do a Spanish immersion program at home?
It’s not only possible, Juan — it’s one of the best ways of learning the language. And it’s not even that hard. All you have to do is think about all the things you do that involve processing written or spoken language, and try to do them in Spanish. I’m talking about small things, like changing the language setting on your phone and social networks or watching movies or TV shows in Spanish, but also about more interesting stuff. Do you like writing poems? Why not write one in Spanish? Do you like singing? Why not sing along to Spanish songs until you can do it without reading the lyrics?
Can you recommend a few Spanish movies and tell our readers what they can learn from them?
Well, since everyone is talking about the Academy Awards right now, why not start there? Over the years, countries like Mexico, Spain and Argentina have had iconic victories with movies that are still talked-about today.
The Mexican film Roma, for example, a 2019 black-and-white masterpiece directed by Alfonso Cuarón, tells the story of a domestic worker who works in the house of a wealthy family in Mexico City, at the beginning of the 70s, so it’s a great opportunity to become familiar with the accents and speaking styles of people from different social classes.
For example, the main character, Cleo, uses slang expressions like “¿Neta?” (For real?), and “¡Chido!” (Awesome!)
If you prefer Spanish cinema (or just want to hear a different accent!), you can watch one of Pedro Almodóvar’s most celebrated films such as Hable con ella (Talk to Her) or Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother). Almodovar’s films are great for language learners because they’re usually quiet, character-driven dramas that allow you to focus on the dialogue.
When I watch an Almodóvar film, for example, I tend to focus on the use of “vosotros”, which is the third person plural form in Castillian Spanish. Instead of saying “ustedes vienen” (you come) or “ustedes hablan” (you speak) as we do in Argentina and Mexico, Spanish people say “vosotros venís” and “vosotros coméis”
So, next Saturday, instead of watching the latest Marvel movie, just search for a great Spanish film on your favorite platform. That’s what Spanish immersion is all about. It’s not about reading grammar books until your eyes burn. It’s about looking for nice things to do in the target language.
A minute before you said it was a good idea to socialize in Spanish. What did you mean?
I’m sure you remember this but, when we were teenagers, English teachers used to talk about the benefits of finding a penfriend. I remember exchanging a few letters with a girl from Sydney (until she moved without telling me!) when I was in the seventh grade, but let’s face it: It was never the most practical thing to do. Now, luckily, there are far better options for Spanish immersion such as language exchange groups, language cafés and online forums — not to mention social media and dating apps!
Dating apps? As in Tinder? I had no idea Spanish immersion could be that much fun.
Well, it absolutely can. Chatting with native speakers of Spanish online is an invaluable opportunity to discover how real people communicate in the 21st century. Take abbreviations, for example. Nowadays, people (especially, young people) use expressions such as TQM (“te quiero mucho”, I love you very much), or Yo TMB (“yo también”, me too), that you wouldn’t find in coursebooks, but they are a huge part of what actual Spanish looks like today, whether older people like it or not. Besides, using Tinder or OkCupid is just a fun way to get familiar with vocabulary related to love and relationships.
In Argentina, for example, we have amigos (friends), novios o novias (boyrfriends or girlfriends), and then we have a third category: amigovios, an in-between category that became popular in the 90s thanks to a TV show that was called that way.
Then, of course, there are different words for kissing in every country, sometimes even different words for different generations. I remember that, when I was a teenager, people used to say “transar” (to kiss), but now the most popular option among Argentinean centennials seems to be “chapar”. Now, where else are you going to learn these things if it’s not on dating apps or social media?
Are there any Spanish podcasts you would recommend to people who want to start a Spanish immersion program at home?
There are definitely a lot of wonderful podcasts that I can recommend. What I wouldn’t do, though, is recommend shows that are explicitly about language. Remember: instead of consciously studying Spanish, we are trying to immerse ourselves in Spanish, we’re trying to use the language to explore different aspects of Spanish culture and engage in different personal and interpersonal experiences.
You have to start with a question: what are you interested in? What moves you? If you like literature, then you can listen to the wonderful Señaladores (Bookmarks), a show in which two young journalists discuss books in-depth; a different novel or short-story collection every week. If you are a hopeless romantic, you will surely enjoy 40 Cartas (40 letters), which is a heartbreaking, breathtaking series in which a young actress reads real love letters written by both professional writers and anonymous contributors.
What is the best type of language course for a learner who wants total Spanish immersion?
For someone who wants to learn the basics, a traditional course in a language school will do. However, if you want your lessons to be part of a real Spanish immersion program, the best thing a learner can do is find an experienced native tutor that can tailor the lessons based on their interests, learning goals, and current level.
The great thing about our individual or small-group lessons is that students get plenty of opportunities to participate. Unlike language schools, in which you seldom get to say anything unless it’s part of a drilling exercise, lessons like the ones we offer at Listen & Learn are based on the principle that people learn by speaking. That’s why I’m so happy to be a part of this wonderful team.
If you want to go take your Spanish immersion experience to the next level, follow Emilio’s advice and book a personalized lesson with one of our native teachers.
Contact us now, tell us about your learning goals, and we’ll go out of our way to come up with the best match. What are you waiting for? Get started today!