The traditional way of learning a language is often not that useful when it comes to chatting with native Spanish speakers in real life. Although I learnt Spanish throughout school and university when it came to living in Spain and living with Spanish people, a lot of what I’d learnt went out the window as talking to people every day was a whole new ball game.
In this blog post we will look at how you can become an expert at conversation without years of studying with textbooks.
Conversation hacking is learning the shortcuts to be able to have a conversation with a native speaker faster than by studying the language for many years.
Here are the ways that you can learn how to have a conversation with a native speaker in record time.
Try not to think that you can only have a conversation with someone once you are fluent in the language. You can still converse with someone effectively without knowing every single word in the language. Even if you don’t understand a particular word, as long as you know how to ask them to repeat it, or ask them to explain what that word means, then the conversation will continue once they have explained the word to you differently or more simply.
Stop believing that because you still make mistakes in the language you cannot have a conversation with someone. It is ok to make mistakes. This is how we learn. Native speakers don’t mind correcting you and teaching you how to say something in better Spanish. They are proud of their language and usually like doing this!
When you start learning Spanish, start by learning the most used words. In Spanish there are 150,000 words however only 1,000 are used in everyday communication. To be able to have a conversation in Spanish as soon as possible you should make sure you learn the most used 1,000 words first.
Similarly, you do not have to learn all grammar rules in order to have a conversation. You should focus your efforts on learning the rules that will enable you to have a basic conversation with someone as soon as possible. For example, you would focus on learning the present tense, key verbs, pronouns and how to ask questions.
Everyone who learns Spanish knows that there is a big gap between words you understand when reading and words you can produce yourself when speaking or writing. The key to conversation is being able to use the important words you have learnt – i.e. translate quickly from what you want to say in English into Spanish. Expert conversation hackers will work hard to learn these important words so that they can recall them quickly as and when necessary.
As half of conversation involves listening, in order to have an effective conversation with someone you need to work on improving conversational skills. The best way to do this is by doing active listening exercises such as speaking to a native Spanish speaker and responding to what is said.
The best way to improve your spoken Spanish is to try to achieve a more native sounding accent. You can do this by learning to pronounce the key sounds that are different to your native language. In Spanish this is the “ll” sound, which sounds like a “y”, the ñ – “ny” sound. Also the “ge” and “gi” as an almost “h” sound similar to a Spanish “j” sound.
Also make sure you learn the rules about where to stress the word and the reasons why they put accents on certain letters. I remember when I first went to live in Spain, if I didn’t put the stress on the correct syllable they often wouldn’t understand what word I was trying to say!
I always say to people to learn the Spanish alphabet really well, especially the vowels; a, e, i, o and u, because this is how they are pronounced in words. If you learn to say them correctly this will really help you sound more Spanish.