When traveling in Spanish-speaking countries with kids, understanding the language can be extremely helpful for getting around. We’ve picked up a few strategies to learn Spanish for travel in the last few years of traveling in Spanish-speaking countries. Now, looking back to when we first arrived in Mexico in October 2018, I can honestly say that our language skills have vastly improved.
When we first set foot in Mexico in 2018, I could barely order food at a restaurant. Now, years later, I am able to have simple conversations with people about local culture and traditions. While I’m still a long way from having deep conversations with people, I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in Spanish.
This post was updated on February 8, 2022.
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Discovering the best ways to learn Spanish for travel
In my opinion, the best ways to learn Spanish for travel is to just jump right in. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or sounding like a two year old. If you want some kind of app to get started, the Duolingo app really helps in introducing you to some basic phrases. Friends of ours also recommend Memrise.
I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to dive deeper into the grammar, and having a person to ask questions about. That’s definitely one thing that’s missing from self-learning through apps. I also appreciate being able to have my kids experience Spanish classes for children. It’s helping them become a lot more comfortable with the language.
Want to immerse yourself in Spanish language? Visit these Mexico destinations!
Our top tips to learn Spanish for travel
Language acquisition is a long process. There’s no one perfect method to learn Spanish for travel. In actuality, it’s mostly trial and error.
But from our travels through Spanish-speaking countries, we’ve picked up a few tips for learning Spanish that we can share with others. My hope is that they’ll help you be more comfortable traveling and speaking around Spanish-speaking countries.
1. Use self-learning courses to learn Spanish for travel
Even before you set foot in your destination country, you can start to learn Spanish for travel. Self-learning courses and books are a great way to learn some Spanish phrases for travel and introduce yourself to the language.
While language learning apps, like Duolingo, are helpful, having a foundation for grammar can be quite helpful. That’s why a self-learning course can be useful to do before your trip.
Here are some well-reviewed Spanish language self-learning courses that you can buy for your future trips to Spanish-speaking countries:
2. Let go of your fear!
My biggest tip to learn Spanish for travel is to stop being afraid. In Mexico, when we first traveled in San Miguel de Allende with kids in 2018, we hardly knew much Spanish. But that didn’t stop us from trying to do daily things like ordering food or going grocery shopping.
Fast forward to 2022, when we were in Spain visiting Cadiz with our kids, we took a tour all in Spanish and was able to understand 80% of the information on the tour! Letting go of our fear of not understanding and making mistakes allowed us to learn so much.
During your travels, you will undoubtedly make mistakes when you speak a new language. But you’ll never learn if you never make mistakes. Even if you only know a few words in Spanish, try and use them to have a conversation with someone.
3. Read as much as you can
Reading is also a great way to learn a language. Pick up a newspaper or a magazine, and read an article out loud. Translate words you don’t know. And then try to figure out the meaning of the article. Or buy a Mexican Spanish phrase book and read the phrases outloud. Reading aloud also helps you practice your pronunciation.
We love using children’s books as language practice. Spanish-English bilingual story books are great because you can try translating on your own, and then read the English version to see if your translation was close. If you’re looking for bilingual kids books to read as a family, grab some kids books about Mexico, or any other Spanish-speaking country and make it a fun family activity!
4. Ask questions as a way to learn Spanish for travel
Another way to learn Spanish for travel is to ask questions. We learned two phrases recently: como se dice ______ en espanol (how do you say ______ in Spanish) and que significa _______ (what is the meaning of ______).
Those two questions help tremendously in learning new vocabulary! You can also ask simple questions like usted viene de ______ (are you from ______)? Asking that question can help spark a conversation with a person.
Besides questions, it’s helpful to learn some additional basic Spanish phrases like greetings or directions.
5. Be creative in helping kids learn Spanish for travel
When it comes to your kids, language learning requires some creativity in figuring out the best way for them to learn Spanish for travel. Kids learn differently from adults, and teaching children Spanish is quite different from teaching adults Spanish.
We’ve been successful in teaching them a few words through pictures and songs. And there are a few apps that they love to use. Sometimes we’ve done games with them when we’re at a market, and they have to find an item using the Spanish word for that item.
But really, it’s all about trial and error. Tap into as many learning resources as you can. Be open to different methods, but also be patient. It’s okay for your kids not to be fluent in a language. Just the exposure to a new language through travel will be beneficial to them in the long run.
6. Sign up for Spanish classes when you travel
If you have more time on your hands, the absolute best way to learn Spanish for travel is to take Spanish language classes. In La Paz, Mexico, we’ve taken private Spanish lessons at a school called El Nopal. We’ve also taken private Spanish lessons in Playa del Carmen in Mexico. And more recently, while traveling through the Andalucia region of Spain, we’ve taken lessons from a Spanish tutor.
Usually, my kids get their lessons together from a tutor. And then my husband and I take our lessons together afterward. We block out two hours every week for lessons. Another option is to enroll your children in a Spanish language school.
Get prepared for your trip to a Spanish-speaking country. Check out our travel essentials.
The path to becoming Spanish speakers
Through all our experiences with the Spanish-language, we’ve been able to cultivate a love for Spanish culture, and the culture of other Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico and Costa Rica. And for our kids, this helps us encourage them to be responsible and conscientious travelers.
Every day, we try to expose them to the Spanish language by going out into the city and having them hear the language. It’s one way they can learn Spanish for travel.
All in all, I think we’re on a good path to becoming Spanish speakers. We still have a long way to go, but we’ve also come a long way. Just looking back on the progress we’ve made makes me feel proud!
Have you been able to learn Spanish for travel? Share your favorite tips for learning Spanish in the comments!
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