One of the most groanable Valley girl goals I hear about is people’s intention to learn Spanish. It only pains me because *I* am the clueless Gringo gal. A child when I first Spanish 101ed, I’m now 27 and living proof that random bursts of app learning won’t make you fluent.
If you too have repeatedly New Years resolved to learn a language, I lovingly invite you to do 1 of 2 things:
- Either 1) admit you won’t be fluent anytime soon because it’s not a priority, and put it on your “someday maybe” bucket list (for now, you can practice Spanish just for fun and the brain benefits)
- Or 2) recognize what it will cost to master Spanish. Commit, devote the hours, and change your everyday linguistic reality so that Spanish plays a prominent part.
After Ramsay Lewis’s article suggested I get fluent in a year practicing 1–2 hours every day, I brushed up on basics with Duolingo and Fluencia. I kept finding ways to incorporate 4 components — writing, reading, speaking, and listening — into my daily life.
Here are all 14 of the quirky habits I’ve been forming. Most of these work better once you’ve reached the intermediate stage.
1. Walk the neighborhood while jabbering away in Spanish.
I’m sufficiently unfit that merely strolling the neighborhood while wearing a mask and jibbering in Spanish is enough to induce cardio. The Spanish practice exhausts all my cells and adds to the intensity of the non-workout workout. In my defense, we have hills.
I’ve also liked to pace the house while using my Spanish learning apps. I focus on listening to spoken sentences and repeating them out loud. When presented with a new word or grammar rule, I immediately use it out loud in a sentence. This is how I think I best learn.
You’re gonna love the lady in the Fluencia program who says she’s pregnant (embarazada) when she means that she’s embarrassed — and makes literally every other common “false friend” mistake in a single conversation. We’ve all been there. I swear the price of subscription was worth it just for her.
2. Talk in the mirror in Spanish.
Lisa Nichol’s mirror wo
rk sounded like a great way to get more present with myself. Spanish learning motivated me to actually do it!
Phoenix, te perdono por distraerte con la televisión otra vez.
Phoenix, estoy orgullosa de ti por tomar sólo diez horas y media para finalizar tu último artículo. Está bien… para tí.
Phoenix, te comprometo a que hoy haré ejercicio… de mi mandíbula… cuando como.
Phoenix, I forgive you for getting distracted by Mr. Television again.
Phoenix, I am proud of you for only taking ten-and-a-half hours to submit your last article. That’s good… for you.
Phoenix, I commit to you that today I will exercise… my jaw… when I eat.
3. Give love to your body parts in Spanish.
I’m likely delusional. I aim to regrow my patchy faded blond hair by rubbing rosemary, lavender, and coconut oils into my scalp every night and then inverting my head for 5 minutes.
Still, it gives me 5 minutes during which I have nothing to do but send love to my body in Spanish. While keeled over, I apologize to my knees for injuring them. I thank my eyes for the gift of vision. I promise my nonexistent boobs I’ll find a man to fondle them someday.
You can pair this exercise with any body care ritual, like dry brushing or foam-rolling, heaping kindness upon the various parts as you touch each one.
4. Listen to Spanish content about food while making food.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I exercise my jaw a lot.
But autoplaying recipe videos by Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram while I prepared my comida wasn’t a bad idea for simultaneously drilling both Spanish vocab and the joys of fruits and vegetables into my noggin.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Duolingo podcast has been my godsend for making cleaning less boring — and occasionally adding a few tears to the vinegar spray I’m wiping things with.
5. Talk to your Chicana mama in Spanish while translating for your German-American dad in English.
This one is easier if you happen to have a native Spanish-speaking fairy stepmother. I try to talk to her in Spanish at every opportunity.
Funnily enough, sometimes it’s my Dad’s utterances that require the translation.
Mama: Hey, we went shopping for pillows at the store but didn’t find the right one.
Dad: There was a bear!
Me: Un osote! ¿Cómo es posible? ¿Había un osote juguete para los niños? (What bear? Was there are stuffed bear for sale?)
Mama: This means your dad was farting at the store today, honey.
If you’ve got familia, don’t be shy about mistakes, let them help you practice! They’ll teach you how to say all the informal phrases Duolingo leaves out, like echar un pedo (to fart).
6. Make up songs while taking a cold shower.
Self-explanatory. Here’s a clip from my recent wineglass-shattering performance, courtesy of my shower’s echo:
El agua está frío
Pero es el frío mío
Ahora mis pompis tienen frío también
Pronto mi cabello estará mojado
Entonces lo limpio con champú — muy bien!
Summary (if I even sang that right): I’m freezing my fanny off in here — alas, I sing!
7. Pray or generate gratitude before your eat in Spanish.
I may not have a religion, but I believe in gratitude and love to articulate a few appreciative thoughts before I dig into my next gargantuan bowl of avocado-slathered quinoa and broccoli.
8. Make fun of your critics by translating their comments into Spanish and reciting very dramatically, with lots of -ísimos.
Credit goes to Steve Pavlina’s Stature course for giving me this idea.
I can’t say I’ve tried this one yet, because I’m not a successful enough writer to really have critics. If I had them, I would probably mock them as follows:
Este artículo está malísimo! Contiene muchísimos errores y ni siquiera sea gracioso. Estoy aburridísimo, cansadísimo, y requete-hambrientisisísimo después de leer tu articulazo!
That was supposed to say: “This article is terrible! It contains so many errors and isn’t even funny. I am very bored, very tired, and extremely, extremely, extremely hangry after reading your disaster of an article!”
9. Listen to a relaxing Spanish learning audio while you sleep.
I tried and failed at this one. I was all down to doze off while hearing Spanish phrases read aloud until suddenly the sexy man’s voice said, “Eres soltera? Are you single?”
That’s one way to keep me from falling asleep. I mean, come on, I might as well binge-watch Ricky Odriosola ASMR videos.
Lesson learned. Next time I attempt to fall asleep to Spanish, I’ll go for a soothing female voice that sounds like my beloved German-American grandmother or mi querida abuelita mexicana (the Mexican one).
10. Write in Spanish before going to sleep.
Yes, writing in Spanish aids my sleep a lot more than devilishly handsome male voices in audio programs do.
I like to write goofy bedtime stories about animals — like counting sheep, but on paper. Outlining my next article in Spanish is also fun. It tires my hands and my brain even better than reading does (for me), so soon I’m drifting off.
The annoying part comes the next morning when I feel obligated to correct all 512 grammatical mistakes from my erstwhile scribbling.
11. Read children’s books and watch children’s programs in Spanish.
Move over, Barney the Dinosaur, it’s the new era of Barney El Camión! Barney El Camión is a friendly red pick-up truck who educates children about musical instruments and other basic topics.
Content designed for Spanish-speaking kids is perfect for me because of the simplicity of the language — and because I never grew up and love it when cartoon automobiles congratulate me for knowing things.
Once the local library can safely reopen, I’m storming in and borrowing piles of Spanish children’s books to help me practice!
12. Change your phone, your computer, your web browser, your everything to Spanish!
Everything is set to Spanish now.
I occasionally spank myself when I have to change some complex configuración (setting) on my iPhone and can’t figure out what anything means.
13. Have your “happy hour” in Spanish.
While laying horizontal, fantasizing about your future beau, and conducting friction upon thine cuerpo, repeat Spanish phrases like, Te quiero, te adoro, eres guapísimo, me encanta tu bárbara. (I love you, I adore you, you’re hot, I love your beard.)
Like, umm, I hope none of my family clicks on this article?!?
14. Transfer all of your terrible addictions from one language to another (not recommended).
What I don’t recommend is converting bad habits from English to Spanish.
Gaming was a major addiction of mine (quit 3 years ago). I used to play Neopets in Spanish plus watch Pretty Little Liars in Spanish in between eating two large burritos from Chipotle as fast as I could so I could get back to pretending PLL in Spanish counted as a telenovela and that being the top scorer in Magma Blaster made me an actual campeona (champion).
15. Listen to Carmen Sandiego books in Spanish at 0.75 speed, pausing and rewinding constantly.
I love my new ¿Quién es Carmen Sandiego? audiobook.
The Netflix show inspired me, but I get too easily addicted from watching literally anything (other than paint dry). So now I’m reliving the Carmen adventure in the format of an audiobook — pausing and rewinding constantly because my Spanish comprehension skills are still equivalent to a niñita (toddler).