MariCarmen Gil Ortega, University of Bath
As social distancing and self-isolation are necessary measures to keep us healthy and safe, Spanish Language Day 2020 invites us to review some of the most convenient and enjoyable ways to improve Spanish language skills at home.
Let’s start by reviewing educational language apps such as Duolingo which can help to improve Spanish skills in just a few minutes a day. This sort of app uses games to enhance language learning, by prioritising relevant vocabulary, creativity, authentic language and even some slang. The app also allows you to interact with Spanish in a variety of different contexts. Not only does it promote long-term retention through regular and repetitive exercises, it also unleashes your competitive side by gaining rewards and climbing up levels, encouraging you to compete against yourself. All this is achieved by just playing and having fun. Similarly, LingQ, FabuLingua, Babbel, MosaLingua, Univoice (teaches Spanish solely through music), and Doki (teaches solely through the actions of animated characters), can help you refresh your Spanish, even if you're starting from scratch.
Then, there is social media. The way that we engage with social media can also be adapted to improve our Spanish Language skills. Enjoyable ways of engaging virtually with others includes using Facebook Groups and connecting with people who speak a variety of Spanish dialects, including those from continents such as Asia and South America. See how ‘real’ native speakers communicate and what they discuss about by reading their status updates and posts in their groups of interest. Good examples of social media groups include ‘Españoles en Bath’ or ‘Bristoleños’, each of whom provide numerous opportunities to discuss various topics using authentic Spanish. However, if you are intimidated by the immersive, authentic experience, there are also numerous groups that will allow you to learn and practice your Spanish less formally. Just used the search facility in Facebook and many will appear.
Challenge 1: change the Facebook settings to Spanish so that you are always surrounded by the target language, doing something you enjoy. This will encourage you to pick up interesting pieces of vocabulary.
How about listening to Spanish language in all its varieties by connecting to internet radio channels? Try Radio Garden, an app that will allow you to move from one country to another in seconds. My recommendations include: FM Tango (Buenos Aires), Radio Rebelde FM (Havana), Radiolé (Madrid), Radio Flamenca (Huelva, Spain), Emisora Salsa y Son (Bogotá); RPP Noticias (Lima), Radio Bachata (Dominican Republic), Son Galicia (Santiago de Compostela), Mexicanisima (Merida, Mexico) - these offer numerous radio programmes as well as different kinds of Spanish music.
YouTube is also a free and powerful multi-media resource, with music, Spanish courses, films, TV shows, and more, that will provide you with the input you need to practice your listening skills. To make this easier for you, you can use functions like subtitles to read as you listen or you can reduce the speed of videos, so they are easier to understand.
Challenge 2: find a YouTuber that you like from a Spanish-speaking country and start following their channel.
If you find listening too passive and you need a bit more action, you can go beyond consuming what has been created for you and start creating your own materials by producing your own radio program. This is what the Radio Chévere team does at URB (University Radio Bath). Working in a professional setting, and within an intercultural team, this channel researches its contents and music, then edits and broadcasts them.
Challenge 3: produce your own podcasts for listeners of this radio station.
If what you are missing is speaking in Spanish, use conference calls and talk one to one or in small groups. WhatsApp, Teams, Hangouts, or Zoom are some of your most popular options. You can also make your conversations playful using these apps by adding emojis, stickers and GIFs to your chats. Be surrounded by Spanish with all those international calls you can make and don’t let the quarantine keep you away from learning the language you love. Use it to do the opposite.
Did you attempt one of the challenges set by MariCarmen (@remaika)? Tell us about it in on Twitter - @EducationBATH.