Have you ever spoken real Spanish to a native speaking student and had them be surprised that you actually speak Spanish? Not just that super slow enunciated Spanish they hear in Spanish 1 class?
I should back up and explain that Spanish is not my native language. If it were, then I wouldn't be concerned about maintaining my skills. I also don't have a Spanish-speaking husband I can go home to and speak Spanish with. (Side note: If you know any single, attractive, Spanish-speaking men in the New York City area, feel free to send them my way... but I digress...)
I'm Jessica from Miss Señorita and here are some tips and tricks I've learned to help maintain my language skills so that I can actually speak Spanish like a normal person when I need to.
1. TravelTo Spanish-speaking countries of course! Summer Break, Winter Break, February Break (if you have one), and Fall Break (if you have one) are all great times to go see a new place in the world or visit your favorite Spanish-speaking city (mine is Barcelona!) and practice your Spanish skills.
If you want someone else to do the planning for you, then go through a Tour Company - TourRadar.com, and Gate1travel.com are the first places I look for tours. The down side to tour companies is that they are geared toward people who don't speak the language, so you will spend 90% of your time speaking English.
If you want to spend as much time as possible speaking Spanish, then plan the trip yourself. You can stay in hotels or hostels (you'll make more friends in a hostel!) with people who will speak to you in Spanish, you can eat in restaurants where you can order in Spanish, and you can book experiences in the country in Spanish. It takes much more planning on your part, but it'll be a better language workout for your brain.
2. Take students abroadIf you're thinking "wow, I'd love to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, but I don't have the money for that" then take students abroad. You'll go for FREE. I'm not kidding. Spring Break is my favorite time of the year to take students abroad. It takes some planning and quite a bit of advertisement and recruitment of students, but you will go to the country (countries?!) of your choice for FREE.
I took students abroad twice through EFTours and I only have wonderful things to say about both experiences. I have a 4-part blog series on my Miss Señorita blog about everything you need to think about, plan for, and do in order to have a successful trip abroad with students.
3. Read books in SpanishIf you ever see a woman in the New York City subway talking to herself in Spanish - it's me and I'm reading my book quietly out loud to myself. I like to hear the Spanish as I read it. Don't judge.
You can get just about any bestselling book in Spanish. If you haven't read The Girl on the Train, then read La Chica del Tren instead! You can get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite major online bookstore. Also, you should absolutely read that book because it's amazing.
I prefer to read books that were originally written in Spanish, so sometimes I google the bestselling books in Mexico and Spain. Or go to www.fnac.es and look through their book selections for bestseller ideas.
If you have a Kindle, then you can subscribe to Kindle Flash (for free!) and you'll get an email in your inbox every day with deeply discounted Spanish books. The deals only last 24 hours. I'm talking $3.00 and under. Yes, please.
4. Find Spanish language groups in your areaIf you live in or near a city, you can probably find Spanish language groups on meetup.com that meet with some regularity and you can make new friends and also practice your Spanish. Put in your zip code, how far you're willing to travel, and if you choose the "Language & Culture" category, you'll see what's already going on around you. And if there aren't any or many options, then start your own meet up group!
Okay, honestly, I've never done this because the idea of sitting down with strangers and chatting in Spanish gives me heart palpitations, but in my dreams where I'm more outgoing, I totally do this. Weekly.
There are probably a dozen more tips out there for maintaining language skills (besides acquiring the Spanish-speaking husband to practice with). What do you do to keep up your language skills? Please comment with other helpful ideas below!