5 Practical tips to keep your Spanish proficiency moving forward after your immersion trip:
Finishing up your Spanish immersion program is always met with mixed emotions. You’re happy with the progress you made during your trip, and you’re glad to be back home enjoying your familiar surroundings, but . Your biggest concern, however, is about letting your Spanish backslide too much before you have the chance to continue with formal learning.
Here are some practical ways you can maintain your Spanish now that your immersion program is over:
1. Stay on top of your Spanish vocabulary.
One of the most beneficial study habits for language leaners is to master the vocabulary that you’ve been exposed to and that you can see yourself using in practical situations moving forward. We often equate vocabulary range with speaking range, which is true, but the corollary benefit in an expansive vocabulary is your improved listening comprehension. In most cases your grammar never has to be fancy to communicate sufficiently, you can usually use a simple grammar construction. However you often need a broad vocabulary to be able to express yourself and to understand others as they’re expressing themselves. Work through the vocabulary that was presented on your immersion program until you master it. Then keep building!
When you are studying Spanish vocabulary, make sure that you study it from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English. This will make sure that your comprehension (Spanish – English) and your expression (English – Spanish) are both improving. We used to sell Spanish vocabulary flashcards, but since we developed the High School Spanish App we decided to upload all of our medical Spanish vocabulary to Quizlet for easy studying. If you use an Apple mobile device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and you don’t have the High School Spanish app yet, get it today in iTunes – you won’t be disappointed! You can access our Spanish flashcards in Quizlet and study away!
2. Review your notes once a week.
This is a smart study practice for any class or workshop you attend, not just after your Spanish immersion trip. However, it is especially important for language learning done on immersion. Your learning abroad isn’t linear, in fact it’s usually tangential, circular, spiral and other doodly shapes. This is why it’s important to review your notes. In fact, you need to do more than review them. You should rewrite and re-organize them somewhere so that you can have a more logical order to your notes than they might have been when you were taking them in class. If you’re able to carve out 30 minutes two times a week to progressively review all of your notes from your recent trip, you’ll certainly not backslide as much as you would if you just filed that notebook away and never opened it again.
3. Hire an online Spanish tutor for individual lessons.
Individual tutoring is a great way to keep your Spanish moving forward at your pace. You get the practice you need, and you don’t have to be locked-in to the schedule and pace of a formal class. Individual tutoring face to face is expensive however. It’s expensive because we want you to work with a professional instructor – someone who is more than a conversational partner and who can provide meaningful answers to your ‘why?’ questions. It’s frustrating and counterproductive to not get the answers you need to make sense of a concept in a foreign language, so it’s always better to pay a little more for instruction to get what you need and what will actually help you. Unfortunately a face to face tutor at $50/hr isn’t a practical option for everyone based on scheduling and expense.
This is why we have created a network of online Spanish tutors to work with you from the comfort of your own home or office and at the convenient time that works for you. Our online Spanish tutoring is convenient, effective, and it’s only $30/hr! Learn more about how our online Spanish classes work and see if it’s right for you as a follow-up to your medical Spanish class.
4. Make the most of opportunities as they present themselves.
Here and there you get little opportunities to speak Spanish. It might be at work, at the grocery store, or some other random place (restaurant, shopping, in the hallways at work, etc). Taking these opportunities is actually a crucial step (and important habit to form) in improving your Spanish communication. Sometimes these opportunities come and go quickly and you’re left with the afterthought: “Oh, I should have tried that in Spanish”. Get in the habit of just going for it! This is what you need to do to keep your Spanish fresh. You can always use the Yo soy estudiante de español qualifier if you want.
Becoming proficient in a second language is not just about mastering the content of the language – it’s a mental game too. You have to be okay with making mistakes, looking & feeling silly often, and being a little more outgoing than you might normally be. So, be on the lookout for opportunities to speak Spanish with someone and go for it when you get the chance. You’ll be surprised with how your comfort improves over time.
5. Read, Listen to or Watch something.
In the 70’s a really smart language nerd who eventually became who we consider the father of modern language instruction (Stephen Krashen), described what we call today the input hypothesis. The idea is that you learn a language best when you are receiving language input at just above your current level. Essentially, you learn best when you’re in an input+1 environment. This is why watching Spanish TV or listening to Spanish radio isn’t always the best solution for everyone. For high intermediate and advanced speakers, it’s great. However for beginner students it’s extremely difficult because it represents an input+20 environment for their level.
One of the best ways to keep you in an input+1 environment is through reading. You control the content that comes at you and the rate that you have to digest it. You can find all levels of Spanish readers via online booksellers. In fact, as I write this, I just ordered books #2 & 3 of the Hunger Games series in Spanish for my son who read the first book in Costa Rica while we were working the Common Ground Spanish Immersion programs. We chose Hunger Games for him because he had read them already in English – so he was already familiar with the story line which essentially helped create an input + 1 environment for him. You find the best level for you. It might be a Children’s book or a legit novel depending on your level. Amazon should have plenty of options for you. In fact I just did a search on the words “in Spanish” and Amazon returned 90,000 results.