Intermediate Spanish Practice
After leaving my job in 2016, one of my major life goals became brushing up my rusty Spanish, which at that time was about level B2 (upper intermediate). I signed up for language study at a Spanish school in Guanajuato, Mexico, but prior to my trip began intermediate Spanish practice on my own.
Up till then, my formal Spanish studies had been limited to five years in middle and high school, during which I definitely didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. Later, I frequently devoted my vacations to Latin American travel and practiced conversation whenever possible. In 2010, I dusted off my grammar a bit with a two-week stint at a language school with campuses in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Due to the steady diet of Spanish-language movies, TV, and music I had always consumed, my listening comprehension was good, but my grammar and speaking skills were extremely rusty. My goal was to improve them to get the most out of my immersion experience in Mexico.
Here are the most useful intermediate Spanish resources I discovered:
Intermediate Spanish Grammar
My grammar skills needed a refresher after decades of neglect. After reading Amazon reviews, I purchased The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice and Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish. The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice is a dense text for intermediate and advanced learners who need a solid review. I spent about an hour a day working through the exercises, a tedious but much-needed effort. Reviewing grammar was a humbling experience and made me realize how much I had forgotten — or never learned in the first place.
I also read Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish a few times a week. This entertaining work was jam-packed with useful tips for speaking Spanish like a native; over the past two years I’ve read it twice, picking up new pointers every time.
I spent at least half an hour a day listening to Spanish language podcasts to improve listening comprehension. It was interesting that as I reviewed a particular grammatical structure I would start to notice it being used in the podcasts. Check out my favorite Spanish-language podcasts here.
Intermediate Spanish Conversation
Spanish conversation practice was without a doubt the most fun and engaging part of my studies. Having regular discussions with native speakers also kept me motivated to do grammar drills, since I could see my spoken Spanish improve as my knowledge progressed.
iTalki is a convenient, affordable way to connect online with teachers and language exchange partners. iTalki’s paid lessons offer the choice of community tutors or professional teachers. Professional teachers have a teaching certification and classroom experience, while community tutors are native speakers (or near-native speakers) who can help you learn a language through informal tutoring or speaking practice.
I decided to work with community tutors rather than professional teachers since I planned to review grammar on my own; it was conversational practice I needed most. Community tutor hourly rates are also cheaper. Due to my short time frame, I decided against doing language exchanges in order to devote my sessions to only Spanish. In the future, I do plan to try language exchanges since it’s a free way to practice conversation, help others with English, and make new friends.
I set up three half-hour trial sessions with iTalki Spanish tutors based in Mexico and continued with the two that impressed me most. I bought a package of five 45-minute lessons from each tutor and met with them once a week over Skype.
Usually, one of us would choose an article in advance for us to discuss during the session. I would read it on my own, look up new vocabulary, and note any questions I had. Spain’s best-selling newspaper El País is an excellent source for stories on international news and culture. Sometimes I read the article out loud during the session so the tutor could correct my pronunciation.
I also used the time to ask about Mexican culture and customs. Our conversations often strayed from there to random topics, which kept things fresh and helped me learn more vocabulary.
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Have more resource suggestions for intermediate Spanish practice? Please share your recommendations in the comments.