You probably heard it a thousand times: learning Spanish is much easier if you are immersed in a Spanish-speaking context. No doubts about it, as it means you can practice your Spanish in real communicative situations. But what nobody tells you is that practicing your Spanish in real communications is very, very difficult when you are a beginner.
We find that just putting your basic skills into practice everywhere and anytime might not be the smartest suggestion for beginners. It will inevitably lead to frustration.
But then, in what sense being in a Spanish-speaking context will help you learn the language if you’re a beginner?! Well, the secret is to choose your battles. Go practice in specific communicative situations you can deal with. And approach to them with specific goals.
These possible situations will change from place to place. Here, we list 5 activities to practice Spanish in Buenos Aires if you’re a beginner:
1. Do your shopping in Spanish
Well, we weren’t very original with this one, right? But our suggestion is not to just master your “Hola”, “¿Cuánto cuesta?” and “¡Gracias!”. You can take it much further!
First, you can write your shopping list in Spanish. And to make it a bit more interesting, you can just write in your native language the items you don’t know in Spanish, and add the Spanish translations once you read the packages or labels in the shop. This way, you’ll remember them much better than if you just look for them in the dictionary before heading to the shop.
Another variation of this activity to practice Spanish in Buenos Aires is avoiding supermarkets. Buy everything from small groceries, where you will have to ask for the items instead of looking for them in the shells. And you can add some small talk too!
If you have access to a kitchen, you can work on an Argentine recipe. This involves searching for the recipe, creating the shopping list based on it, going shopping with the goal of looking for the specific ingredients you need, and understanding the instructions for preparing the dish. More challenging, right? Here you can find a good collection of Argentine recipes.
2. Forget about Google Maps; ask for directions!
Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) are very, very sociable. They won’t mind if you stop them in the street asking for directions. On the contrary, most of them will be happy to extend the chat, and also curious about you, where you come from and why you’re here.
Of course, these are Google times and you will hardly need directions to get anywhere. But you can pretend… asking specific questions with more or less predictable answers is a great practice for beginners!
3. Go to language exchange meetings
No, they’re not only an excuse to meet people. This kind of events are a great opportunity to practice Spanish in Buenos Aires if you’re a beginner. Yes, you’ll go through the same Q&As a dozen times. But that’s why they’re really useful! Such predictable questions and answers will make it easier for you to go through a real communicative situation successfully. And that doesn’t imply a mere useful practice; it’s a very rewarding one as well. Therefore, it’ll help you feel more confident about using the language outside the classroom. Besides, being surrounded by other Spanish newbies in a relaxed environment will make your Spanish words come out more easily.
4. Read everything and take notes
Read the fine print of every sign in the subway car. Does the name of that street sound strange to you? Write it down, then google it and read what Wikipedia has to say about it (in Spanish, of course). Take pictures of graffiti and then try to deduce its meaning. Look into the world of Argentine memes.
As a beginner, it’s naturally much easier to understand sentences in Spanish when they’re written than in speech. So use all the written Spanish that surrounds you! It’s great to expand your vocabulary and to interpret more complex sentences than those you can understand in speech, or even produce. Reading is awesome to practice your Spanish in Buenos Aires because it’ll push your limits further!
To practice your Spanish reading street signs from the comfort of your home, we recommend Proyecto Cartele, an Argentine compilation of funny signs. Messages are short and contextualized by an image, so you will be able to understand most of them as a beginner. Plus, it’s hilarious!
5. Stay in a family home, shared flat or student residence and talk, talk talk
Stay away from your fellow travelers! A hostel can be a lot of fun, but fun in English. If you want to practice your Spanish in Buenos Aires, a homestay, a student residence or a flat shared with local people are better options.
Once more, you can take your polite basic exchanges with your hosts or roommates much further. Join them in their activities, go to the gym with them, invite them for a coffee, cook with them. And don’t let them switch to English that easily!
You’ll see: these communicative experiences will not be limited to an activity to practice Spanish in Buenos Aires. Many of them will remain in your memory as significant and emotional moments of your stay here. And they will contribute a lot to your knowledge of Argentine culture.
CUI | Spanish Programs offers accommodation both in homestays and student residences for their students. We strongly recommend you opting for one of these, specially if you’re staying in Buenos Aires for a period of 1 month or longer.