“I’ve reached an intermediate level of Spanish and things are getting hard, really hard. I’m not making the same progress I was seeing when I first started learning Spanish and my workbooks are just, well, really boring. How do I find that joy of learning Spanish again?”
Sound like you?
Luckily, there is a simple solution to adding variety and fun back into your learning: combine Spanish with topics that already interest you.
So, what exactly is interest-based language learning?
Interest-based language learning is the act of doing daily activities and hobbies in a target language (which, in this case would be Spanish). This method really focuses on moving out of textbooks and structured practice and into the practical application of the language.
So, how is interest-based language learning an effective way to improve my Spanish?
There are so many benefits to interest-based language learning.
First, with the help of an already established hobby, we are gently transitioned out of structured language practice and into practical application. By combining Spanish with a task we already enjoy doing, we start to experience Spanish like never before.
I would liken it to a child-like mastery of Spanish in that our interest fuels our learning, which in-turn, improves our memory which, in-turn helps our progression towards fluency. A beautifully natural language acquisition cycle.
Secondly, when you turn your focus to interest-based learning you’ll immediately notice a boost of excitement towards your Spanish learning. That’s because our motivations change when we learn vocabulary to accomplish something in a real-life situation, rather than learn the same material just for the sake of knowing it.
Lastly, interest-based language learning helps take the pressure off. You can learn at your own pace and set your own milestones. Or, you could do just the opposite and not have any real goals besides enjoying being immersed in the language.
Additionally, moving out of a classroom-based setting and into a more fun, casual environment, helps alleviate the anxiety around making mistakes.
Ok, I’m ready to start incorporating more interest-based Spanish learning in my daily life but where do I get started?
As adult language learners, we tend to be a group of people who have a constant thirst for knowledge and curiosity about the world around us. This is a good thing because that means we already have loads of interests outside of learning Spanish.
Maybe it’s food, travel or politics. Maybe it’s understanding local customs and practices and history. Maybe it’s self-improvement, social justice or fashion. Write all of those down on a piece of paper. Also, think about your daily activities? Maybe you watch Netflix series or read the news online or work from a laptop everyday. Write those down too.
Now, take all of those interests, hobbies and daily activities and start brainstorming ways to carry them out in Spanish. Here are some ideas:
Listen to podcasts focused on special-interest topics in Spanish
With the explosion of podcasts over the last decade, there is practically a podcast on all topics in most languages. Science, politics, mindfulness, climate change, relationship advice, parenting, you name it. It may take a little digging to find it but there is definitely a podcast out there in Spanish discussing a topic that really interests you – you just have to find it!
Take a yoga, dance, or cooking class in Spanish
Respira (breathe) Gira (turn) Uno, dos, tres … cinco, seis, siete (1, 2, 3 … 5, 6, 7) Taking classes in Spanish where you are an active participant can be an incredibly immersive experience, not to mention, fun! Also, these classes are normally in a group format so it takes a bit of the pressure off from having to understand everything. And remember, you can take these types of classes online so don’t give up if you can’t find anything locally.
Change your phone and computer to Spanish
I mean, realistically, how many times do you look at your phone every day? And how long do you spend on your laptop working from home? Think of all that repeated exposure to Spanish you could be getting by changing the language setting to Spanish.
Listen to Spanish music
I’m a huge music fan and therefore, it was no surprise that I fell in love with Spanish through listening to salsa music well before I became fluent. However, re-listening to the songs I loved motivated me to translate lyrics, which introduced me to new grammar concepts and vocabulary in a unique way.
Watch Netflix series in Spanish
I love watching 1940/50s period-piece-movies and TV shows. So, I combined my interest of this time period with Spanish and found incredible shows like El Tiempo Entre Costuras and Velvet. I recommend running some basic google searches on movies, series and documentaries on topics that interest you – there’s so much good stuff out there!
Tip: When watching these programs, turn on the Spanish subtitles so that you don’t get confused with local slang and fast talking.
Get lost in the endless and marvelous rabbit-hole of YouTube
YouTube gives you free, uncapped access to content on all topics. You can find native speakers teaching about history, training dogs, cooking local dishes, hacking video game levels, comedy shows, building things out of wood, flipping houses, discussing politics, money, fashion, philosophy, you name it!
More than ever, the internet has given us unprecedented access to high quality content in target languages. So much so, that we can become comfortable in certain situations and with particular dialects before ever setting foot in the country. Now that’s pretty darn cool!
So, I hope that this will encourage you to take advantage of these resources out there and start having a bit more fun with Spanish through interest-based learning.