Spanish conversation lessons
Have you found a Spanish conversation partner in town?
Or maybe you’re still a bit intimidated of talking with a native speaker, and haven’t set something up yet. (Which if that’s the case, do it! You’re ready! It could be the best decision of your year!)
Spanish conversation practice is one of the best and quickest ways to bump up your language skills from an intermediate to advanced level, but few people really know how to get the most out of each session.
In my experience, for instance, there’s very little point in wasting lots of time on correcting grammar or clearing up doubts relating to accuracy.
Conversation classes should focus on fluency and be as fun and light-hearted as possible. I found that once I learned how to relax and go with the flow, I fell naturally into the rhythm of the Spanish language.
I had a lot of fun during my conversation classes, mainly because I avoided the temptation to structure them too much. It’s easy to feel frustrated when you can’t communicate what you want to say and the clock continues to tick along happily. Expecting too much from every single conversation class is perhaps one of the most common mistakes made by the majority of Spanish language learners.
So then what is the best way to approach your Spanish conversation practice?
To get the most out of conversation classes or exchanges and practice like a rock star—whether you’re a beginner or advanced speaker—here are eight fantastic tips for you.
1. Practice at least 2-3 times per week.
I found that conversations classes once a week really wasn’t enough for me. The only real way to become fluent in Spanish is to speak as frequently as possible. Twice a week is a really good start, but three times a week is ideal. You don’t have to have long sessions—even 30 minutes three times a week can make a real difference.
2. Find a variety of people to talk with.
I took conversation classes for about six months while living in Venezuela and for about two years while living in Argentina. I made sure that I had sessions organized with more than one person in both countries. I found the variety to be really important. I learned street slang from some, and formal speech and an extensive vocabulary from others. With some we talked about our personal lives, with others we gossiped about cinema and art exhibitions.
Whether I’m in an interview, traveling across the rural plains of Latin America, chatting with friends on a Friday night after work or discussing the importance of arts and culture, I now have access to the appropriate vocabulary and can express my views through words that fit the social context. I wouldn’t be able to do this without having enjoyed such varied conversations with such different people during these conversation classes.
3. Expand your skills by signing up for group conversations.
I strongly recommend organizing a combination of both private conversation classes and group sessions. The key is to find a group of language learners who have a better level of Spanish than you. I found that by mixing with people who could speak better Spanish, I was able to learn new phrases and improve my own Spanish at a faster rate. One of the first group conversation classes I took was with language students who needed my help to converse. That didn’t help me at all.
Group sessions are also useful because they force you to speak Spanish while listening to a number of people talking at the same time. This prepares you for real-life social situations in Spanish, and there’s nothing better than sessions that equip you with skills you’ll actually end up using.
4. Invest in a little pre-conversation preparation.
If your level of Spanish is anything between beginner to intermediate, it’s a good idea to read or watch something in Spanish before turning up to your conversation class—in order to have something to talk about. When first starting out, the most difficult thing about a conversation class is having the vocabulary to be able to keep the dialogue moving. By watching or reading something specific beforehand, you’ll arrive to your conversation class with a bank of vocabulary to draw upon and a topic in mind.
I also used to send what I’d read or watched to my conversation buddy before attending the session too. It noticeably helped when the other person knew what I had seen or read. They were able to help me by directing the conversation whenever I found that I was unable to express myself in Spanish.
If you’re looking for a short clip to watch before some conversation practice, check out FluentU! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized Spanish learning lessons.
This learning program has gathered entertaining clips from all corners of the Spanish speaking world, covering everything from Nicaraguan boxing to Cuban politics and our favorite translated musical numbers from “The Little Mermaid.”
While watching FluentU’s videos, you will get a fantastic sense of what it’s like to hear real Spanish outside a sheltered classroom environment or scripted podcast.
Below you’ll see the options for each video you come across. If you click “watch, ” you’ll get to watch the video casually—but with a twist! There are interactive subtitles in Spanish and English to guide you along. If you miss a word, hover your cursor over the subtitles to instantly view its definition, pronunciation, usage examples and more.
Perhaps the most interesting part of FluentU is its learn mode, which offers outstanding tools for actively practicing Spanish vocabulary and grammar. Enter learn mode by choosing an individual video and clicking on “learn.”
You’ll go straight to the personalized flashcard content using key vocabulary from the video, giving you a chance to practice before or after watching the clip. Learn mode actually integrates pictures, video clips and example sentences into the flashcards, making for truly memorable in-context learning experiences.
Like what you see? Well, since you’re here to learn real-world Spanish conversation skills, I imagine you would be! Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU App from the iTunes store.
5. Turn note-taking into a habit.
Get into the habit of taking a small notebook to the conversation sessions with you. Write down all new words that crop up during the class and re-read your notes throughout the week. This will help you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary and employ it more often.
I still re-read my old notebooks every now and then, and I still come across words that I’d heard in conversation but very rarely employ when I speak. The learning never stops!
6. Find the balance between questions and answers.
Take it in turns to be the one who asks the questions or the one who responds when participating in conversation practice. Some native speakers enjoy asking lots of questions and others are more content to sit back and have you guide the class.