On my first day of Spanish class in Madrid, my fellow students and I came prepared with pens and notebooks. When my professor arrived, the first piece of instruction she gave us was to put our materials away. She said,
“The only thing we will be using today are our eyes, ears, and mouths.”
The feeling of panic was palpable in the room. None of us were accustomed to language classes that placed an emphasis on speaking. Although I learned so much about vocabulary and grammar in my high school and college Spanish courses, they didn’t do much to improve my speaking skills.
Total Immersion Keeps You on Your Toes
She proceeded to address the students randomly, asking them questions about what they like and dislike about Spain. She often used colloquial Spanish terms, which was a refreshing yet difficult departure from my classes in the States. The majority of us struggled with formulating sentences on the spot, but were able to answer her after a moment of reflection. When she addressed my friend and I, we looked at each other and immediately froze. With the combination of her unfamiliar accent and use of vosotros, we were at a loss for words.
The Freedom to Make Mistakes
After some laughs from the class, my natural instinct was to open up my notebook and look for the correct answer. In that moment, I realized that this exact situation is what I hoped to experience when I enrolled in the study abroad program.
I wanted to be linguistically challenged. Although I was grateful for the ability to decently express myself through written Spanish, it is not nearly as useful as speaking the language. I knew I would have to speak Spanish whenever entering a store or restaurant, so what better way to practice than in a classroom setting?
Consistency Creates Confidence
I embraced the moment and answered my professor’s questions to the best of my ability. Later, I completed a difficult speaking exercise with my classmates. The more we practiced speaking, the easier it became Although the 6-week course was challenging, I gained so much clarity and confidence with the language. During my program, I attended numerous intercambios, or language exchanges with Madrileños seeking to learn English.
Each day in Madrid, I made a conscious effort to use Spanish whenever possible that helped strengthen and reinforce knowledge from my classes. During my fifth week in Spain, I finally felt comfortable using the vosotros tense and began to overcome my fear of making mistakes. After this valuable experience, I have full confidence that total immersion is the best way to fully develop speaking skills in the language.
Have you ever wanted to strengthen your Spanish speaking abilities and connect with another culture?
We offer 80 hours of intensive Spanish classes to any student who participates in our study abroad program in Lima, Peru. Check out our study abroad page to learn more!