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How to Teach Conversational Spanish

Authored by Katharine Foust in Language Education 
Published on 11-08-2009

Knowing how to teach conversational Spanish can go a long way toward helping others to communicate in Spanish. Schoolbook Spanish is much like schoolbook English and really does not provide the students with the way people actually speak the language. It is a more formal type of learning that is excellent for practicing the written language, but is not so effective when people are actually learning to speak the language.

The biggest key to learning any new language is practicing that language. There are several simple methods to teaching a conversational form of Spanish or any other language that involves practice.

If you are a tutor or a teacher in a classroom, then you know you have to do more to practice the language than just handing out worksheets and tests. If students are trying to learn the language, then they need to be able to practice it in ways that reflect real life scenarios. One of the ways to practice these types of conversations is by role playing. Set up a scenario in the classroom that could happen anywhere at all. Some examples would be ordering food at a restaurant, describing family members, asking someone on a date and talking about their job. Role playing offers the student a way to practice the language in real life situations, while not actually being in a situation that could have negative consequences if the language were used improperly.

Another way to teach conversational Spanish is through writing. Use flash cards and place them on objects through out the house or classroom. You might also try letter writing. Ask the student to pretend they are writing a letter to a friend or relative who is their age. In this letter they should describe things like how their job is going, what the weather is like, what their favorite foods are, how school is and what kind of goals they are working on. They should also ask questions of the friend or relative. They key here is to stick to things that may be brought up during the course of normal conversation and then work up to more difficult things. For instance, though you might talk about the weather with your friend Betty, you probably aren’t going to have too many conversations about Einstein’s theory of relativity, so let’s save that one for later.

Pay attention to what your students struggle the most with. For instance, it may be difficult for English speaking students to grasp the concept of a language defined by gender. In Spanish, many words change depending on the gender being discussed. For instance, if a person is discussing a woman’s hat, it would be designated with a “la” instead of a “le”. This is simply not an issue in the English language. Consider these types of differences and make adjustments for them to help your students to understand the concepts you are trying to teach them. One way to do this is by placing focus on areas of difficulty and doing things like practice drills and games that can make learning fun.

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