Like a lot of you guys know, if you have been following our blog, I have been learning Spanish for the past 6 months. And for over a month now we have been in Ecuador, a Spanish speaking country.
I guess you think that immersion gives me the opportunity to improve my Spanish. And that is what I thought to at the beginning. My goal was to only speak Spanish from the moment I got out of the plane.
This things are usually easy to say and hard to do. Once you face reality you are much more held back than you thought you would.
It looks like for now my mission of improving my Spanish abroad has been failing. The good thing is that I can tell you now my 10 common mistakes so that you don’t make them.
My level now
I would consider my Spanish on a B1 level. I understand a lot and I can make me understand but I sound like a 4 year old baby. Okay, Carla says that doesn’t have anything to do with Spanish but I don’t believe so.
When you get to your destination, make sure to at least have some basic knowledge of the language. If you don’t have it that is not a problem, but in that case some language lessons might help. If you need some tips on how to learn a language you can find them here.
1. Being afraid of speaking
The first and most common mistake is being afraid of speaking. Most likely you have been studying for a while and you know a lot of words in the language. You understand what people are saying, but the words just don’t seem to come out.
You have to get over that fear, and I am still working on that too. People will appreciate you trying to speak their language. And the only way to get better is with a lot of talking.
2. Thinking that you don’t have enough vocabulary
Sometimes we want to say things and because we can’t think of the word right away we rather don’t say anything because we think that we don’t know how to say. That happens to me often too.
Here you just have to try to explain what you want to say with another similar word, or try to explain yourself in another way. Often the one you are talking to will know what you are trying to say and will help you out with the word you were looking for.
3. Only speaking with people in your native language
When in another country you have to meet locals. Don’t go and mingle with all the foreigners so you just speak your native language or english (if it’s not the language you are learning). And if you do, speak only with them in the language you are trying to learn.
It is always easier to speak a language we already know, but you have to force yourself. That is the reason you went to that country in the first place, right?
I have that problem with Carla. We are used to speaking in German and now changing to Spanish is very hard. That’s why until now we have only been speaking German, but we are going to change it.
4. Let other people speak for you
This is one of my biggest problems. Since I am travelling with Carla, who is native in Spanish, I just let her speak the whole time. Even if it is for very basic things like ordering something to drink, which I definitely know how to say.
So you are your own person and should be able to speak for yourself. At least try it, and if you see that they don’t understand, try again.
5. Not going out to meet new people
If you go to another country to do an immersion, you most likely won’t know many people, if any at all. So find out where the locals go and meet new people. Nowadays there are also so many platforms where you can meet people, use them and arrange meeting with them.
Through locals you are not only going to learn the language faster, you will also get to learn more about their culture and their country.
6. Consuming media in your native language
That is also something that I have been struggling with. I am here in Ecuador, but watch everything in German or English. Netflix, youtube videos…
Instead of watching things in your own language, watch local tv and shows. Listening is also very important, so if you don’t have anyone to talk at the moment, why not listen to the TV or radio.
7. Stop studying once you leave your country
Many people get to the country and leave their books and everything they where studying with aside. This happened to me too. I got to Ecuador and didn’t do any studying for over a month.
I am not saying that you should be studying all the time, and probably either as much as you where doing at home. But you should keep studying a little bit. Things you find you need to improve, and things that you can practice right away to get better.
For tips on how to study a language check out our Top 5 Language Leaning Tips
8. Get frustrated when not understanding native speakers
If you haven’t been exposed much to the language it is possible that at the beginning you will find it hard to understand the native speakers. They might talk faster than you are used to, or use slightly different words. You might feel like you studied for nothing and that you won’t understand that language ever.
When this happens don’t give up right away and stop listening to the people. That is one of my biggest problems. When sitting with Carla’s family and they start talking I only understand a third of it, so I sit back and start stearing at my phone.
Instead of doing that I should try to understand what they are saying, listen carefully, even if it’s just to one of them, but getting used to how they talk.
9. Focusing to much on grammar and being afraid of making mistakes
Many people are afraid to make mistakes. And in order to avoid making mistakes they just don’t speak. Grammar is not the most important thing when you start learning the language. You want to learn it to be able to communicate with the people. And if you don’t speak you never will.
The best way to learn is always through mistakes. So don’t be afraid to make them. Make as many as you need until you learn how it’s said right. Start conversations without fear.
10. Taking part in sports and cultural activities
Immerse yourself in the culture and take part of any activity offered to you. And if not, look for them. This is the best way to meet people.
If you enjoy playing soccer, find a soccer team and play with them. You will make friends right away which you will be able to speak the language.
Find out if there are any events going on and join them. Start conversations with people.
So know that you know what mistakes I did, and how to avoid them you are ready for your immersion. Let me know what you think and how it went for you!