Lindsey Spanner is a sophomore studying Communication Studies and Spanish while also pursuing the Writing Certificate. Follow her travels as she visits Toledo, Spain for 10 weeks during Spring Quarter. She can also be found on Twitter, @ListenToLindsey.
I have only been in Spain for about two weeks, but I am amazed at how well I am communicating already! While I am by no means fluent, I can understand the majority of what is being said to me and can carry on a simple conversation fairly easily. The main problem that I have run into since arriving here is my lack of extensive vocabulary. There are many words that I simply do not know.
While this has been hard, I have found several ways to broaden my vocabulary and improve upon my speaking skills.
- Act it out.
Hand gestures and other body movements can go a long way in signifying what you mean. My madre (host mom) and I often use hand motions to explain what we mean when either she uses a word that I am unfamiliar with or I do not know the word for what I want to say. This tactic helps in convesations with Spaniards outside of my house as well. Just the other day I learned that gofre means waffle when my waiter used hand motions to signify what type of dessert a gofre is.
- Write, write, write.
At the end of every day, I try to write down each new word that I remember hearing throughout that day, especially if it is useful in everyday conversation or if it was used more than once. This way I am more likely to remember the word so that I can use it again.
I also try to write in my journal at least once a day. While I like to record what I did during the day in English, I write about 1-2 pages in Spanish on a topic of my choice so that I can utilize my new vocabulary and get into the habit of thinking in and expressing myself in Spanish. I have found that I communicate much better with my family and can think of what I want to say much more quickly after I have just written a Spanish journal entry!
- Watch t.v. whenever you can.
While this may seem like a lazy activity when there is so much else to do in a foreign country, it really does help, especially when watching a program in the native language. It not only improves your listening skills because the speech is so fast, but it is also a great way to encounter new words. I especially like to watch las noticias (the news) because it provides me with useful vocabulary and gives me something to talk about with my host mom. Of course, watching the news is also a great way to learn what is going on in your host country!
- Catch enough zzz’s.
Sleeping for hours may not be on your top list of things to do while abroad. However, getting enough sleep works wonders. I definitely communicate better when I am well rested. When I am tired I tend to not be able to express myself effectively, and I also have great difficulty in understanding what is being said to me.
Following these methods is a guaranteed way to become a better speaker with a more extensive vocabulary!