How To Learn Spanish For Travel

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When traveling to Mexico with kids, understanding the language can be extremely helpful for getting around. We’ve picked up a strategies to learn Spanish for travel in the few months that we’ve been in Mexico. Now, looking back to when we first arrived in October 2018, I can honestly say that our language skills have vastly improved.

When we first got to Mexico, I could barely order food at a restaurant. Now I am able to ask for directions, make reservations at a hotel, and even have a simple conversation with someone about where they’re from. 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 December 3, 2019.

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Just a few days into being in Mexico (October 2018)

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.

If you have more time on your hands, the second best way to learn Spanish for travel is to take Spanish language classes. In La Paz, we’ve been taking private Spanish lessons at a school called El Nopal. My husband and I take our lessons together, and my daughter gets private lessons at the same time. Our youngest spends the time in the Spanish immersion preschool that’s also at the school.

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.

Making friends and practicing our Spanish (December 2018)

Our 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. In the almost four months that we’ve been here in Mexico, though, we do have some 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.

Learn Spanish for travel
Walking through the streets of Guanajuato (December 2018)

Tip #1: Let go of your fear!

My biggest tip to learn Spanish for travel is to stop being afraid. We will undoubtedly make mistakes when we 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.

Riding quad bikes in Guadalajara (March 2019)

Tip #2: 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.

Reading books at the San Miguel de Allende library (November 2018)

Tip #3: Ask questions

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.

Learn Spanish for travel
Using a translator app and making note of new words

Helping kids learn Spanish for travel

The next step for us is focusing on our kids, and 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. But they are definitely a long way from being able to communicate in Spanish.

In terms of our kids, I’m still trying to figure out the way they can learn Spanish for travel. So far, they’ve been enjoying their Spanish classes for children at El Nopal. And every day, we try to expose them to the Spanish language by going out into the city and having them hear the language.

Taking a break while walking in Mexico City (January 2019)

The path to becoming Spanish speakers

When it comes to my husband and me, 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!

How To Learn Spanish For Travel | The Wandering Daughter

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