12 out of the ordinary ways to practice Spanish

Looking for practical, yet fun ways to spice up your Spanish learning experience inside and outside of the classroom?

Then these 12 unique ways can definitely help improve your Spanish skills and allow you to have fun while learning!

1. Make a Reservation at a Mexican, Argentine, or Spanish Restaurant

Pull up on Google and find restaurants near by and in another state. Somewhere you’ll probably never be, yet your phone plan still allows you to call.

Now you’re going to call that number and make a dinner reservation for five people for next Friday at 7 p.m. In Spanish.

Don’t forget to greet the person when they answer the phone (Hola, buenos días”) and then you can ask to make the reservation. There are lots of variations on how you can say that: “quisiera reservar una mesa…”, “me gustaría hacer una reservación..., etc.

This exercise is perfect because it’s super low pressure, yet it’s still authentic.

2. Hold a Jimmy Fallon Lip-sync Challenge with Spanish Songs

For those who are familiar with the show “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”, then you are familiar with the very entertaining lip-sync challenges that occurs between Jimmy and different celebrities such as Emma Stone or Joseph Gordon-Levit.

This event works best with a friend, and even better with a group of friends if you want a live audience to judge the challenge. The point is to give an amazing lip-sync performance to a song in Spanish!

In Jimmy Fallon’s competitions there are three rounds, and each competitor lip-syncs to a clip of a different song each round—but choose whichever format you prefer.

Before you can hold the actual challenge, you’re gonna have to practice and memorize the lyrics. It’ll really help if you know what your song is all about beforehand.

Song/Artist choices include “Dimelo” by Enrique Iglesias, “Waka Waka” by Shakira, “Es por ti” by Juanes, “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar and many more.

3. Get Hooked on Spanish Trivia!

If you are addicted to Trivia Track on a smartphone or tablet, then this method is perfect for you!

Before starting a game, simply select Spanish as your language on the first screen. You can play against a random opponent, so you don’t have to know someone personally who’s willing to play against you in Spanish.

A question will appear on the screen with four possible answers. Tap one of the four choices before your time runs out. If you get the answer right, you get to go again. Win a crown in each of the six categories (differentiated by color) before your opponent does to win the game—just as you would collect the pie pieces in Trivial Pursuit.

It feels like a success  when you know the answer to a question in Spanish!

4. Interview Spanish Speakers for a “Class Assignment”

This is great to increase conversational skills as well as learning more from a native of a Spanish speaking country. Have a set list of questions to ask, it will be easier to. Plus, it allows you to get comfortable with the basics and ask questions based on what you want to practice.

Ask for their town of birth and have your interviewee spell out the town name to get practice with spelling. You could ask for birthdays to get used to numbers, years and months. If you’re more advanced, feel free to pick a theme or ask about opinions, current evets or deeper issues—your imagination is the limit. So depending on what you need to work on, design a page of interview questions.

Next comes the interviews. If you live in a bigger city or a city with a Spanish-speaking population, you’ll know where to head. If you’re not sure, go to the nearest Latino grocery store or any big store where you often hear Spanish being spoken.

5. Exercise to Spanish Workout Videos/Playlists

This one’s like a win-win-win because not only will your Spanish get better in so many areas, but you’ll be treating your body kindly as well!

Burning some calories to Spanish workout videos will teach you Spanish body parts and directions (left/right/up/down), plus you’ll easily pick up new phrases thanks to the natural repetition that comes from exercises (Exhalando, inhalando, exhalando, inhalando,) Not to mention the frequent counting and commands you’ll constantly hear.

Additionally, whether or not you understand everything that’s being said, you should still easily be able to follow along because of the strong visual cues in the videos.

Have a partner that wants to salsa with you? You can aprender a bailar salsa. Wanna learn pop choreography paso a paso (step by step)?

Just search for the Spanish term of whichever type of fitness class you want to find, and autocomplete should help you get the rest.

Zumba is also a great because   Spanish music is played a majority of the time. You will be able to memorize the song lyrics and get your groove on!

6. Talk to Spanish 1-800 Menus or Customer Service Reps

Calling those restaurants got you warmed up and familiar speaking about one small task. So let’s expand a bit by calling 1-800 numbers with Spanish menus, which most large companies in the United States have today.

We’re talking airlines, cell phone providers, internet providers, banks—any company with a huge clientele that would surely have Spanish customer service representatives on staff.

If you want to stick to a pre-recorded voice menu at first, start with American Airlines (+1 800-433-7300). They’re currently merging with U.S. Airways, so right now there’s a brief pre-recorded message about that when you first call, but then you’ll soon hear:

Para español, diga “español.” (For Spanish, say “español.”)

And you know what to do. You can pick a fake question ahead of time or just improvise based on the menu options. This is a great way to get instant feedback on your pronunciation, because if the computer can’t register what you’ve said, it’ll ask you to say it again.

After you’re comfortable speaking to a pre-recorded menu, try talking to a real, live customer service rep on the phone from another company. Just remember: you do not speak English!

7. Search Google by Voice in Spanish

Another way to get that valuable instant feedback on your pronunciation is to use Google’s search by voice feature.

Head to the Google site of a Spanish-speaking country, like Spain’s google.es. Click the small microphone icon on the far right of the search bar and then say something in Spanish. Take a look at what Google writes and check if it heard you correctly. If you’re not sure what to say, you could read headlines from a Spanish news site or ask questions about that week’s weather—your imagination is truly the limit!

8. Cook a Spanish Recipe as If You Were Hosting a Cooking Show

The first way to make it special: Select a recipe commonly made in a Spanish-speaking country.

To take it a step higher: shop for your ingredients at a Hispanic grocery store. This will force you to use the language in a real-life setting, plus you can scope out your nearest Hispanic grocery store for when you do your “school” interviews (from #4).

Then, when you’re making the recipe at home, pretend you’re hosting a cooking show! Say every step aloud while you’re making the dish. This will give you some great verbal practice with commands. Use the directions from the recipe to guide you.

Need to mix for a while or wait for something to fry? Push yourself to fill in the empty spaces with some small talk to your fake audience—or perhaps you’ll have a live audience to chat with, like friends, a significant other or even your dog!

Give yourself a Spanish cooking host alter ego with a quirky personality for extra entertainment value.

Want some inspiration? Watch “Cocina con Sergio” or any program on Canal Cocina, which is like the Spanish Food Network. You can also check out this library of recipes from RTVE, which has the list of ingredients and directions under each video in case you want to recreate one of their dishes.

9. Cover Your Walls with Inspirational Spanish Quotes

To help keep Spanish on your mind, cover the walls of your room or office—or wherever you spend a ton of time—with inspirational Spanish quotes. Yeah, you could really do any type of Spanish visual, like posters of vintage Spanish travel ads or a collage from Spanish magazines.

But inspirational quotes will provide that positive association with Spanish, plus make your days brighter and your confidence stronger. Check out Pinterest search results for frase motivacional” or “citas inspiradoras” to find nicely-designed quotes you can print out. An image search on Google using those same search terms could offer additional results.

10. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal in Spanish

Gratitude can have such a remarkable effect on your life, so let’s couple that goodness with Spanish! Writing a brief list of three things you’re thankful for each day is much easier to tackle than writing long journal entries about everything under the sun. You don’t even need to use complete sentences!

Put the journal by your bed and do it before going to sleep every night, reflecting on that day’s events. Since it’s just a short three items, it shouldn’t feel cumbersome at all to look up unknown words in a Spanish dictionary right then and there.

11. Volunteer at a Spanish Camp or After School Program

Sometime in late middle or early high school, I helped out in a Spanish summer school program for elementary students in my town. As the assistant, it was easy-going and fun to be around the kids, but I never expected the language gains that I experienced.

Drilling the basics in the multiple classes we had each day—alphabet, numbers, animals, etc.—really made it easier to branch out back in my regular Spanish classes at school that fall. I was super comfortable spelling words or saying years and prices, and anytime osos (bears) are mentioned, to this day I still can still hear the the “Roar! Oso!” accompanied by holding up our hands like bear claws that we did during the animals unit. (And “Tweet, tweet, pájaro” too, for that matter!)

So see if your local elementary school has a summer Spanish class or an after-school program, and offer to volunteer as an assistant. There are tons of Spanish summer camps too, now, that you could even apply to work at.

12. Take a MOOC from a Spanish or Latin American University

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, and basically let you take college courses for free from your home. And these aren’t just classes from any old university, you can take courses from Stanford, Harvard and many other top-notch colleges.

Two of the biggest MOOC providers today are Coursera and EdX. How can this help our Spanish? You can take a class—on another topic—from a Spanish-speaking university! Here’s a selection of some Latin American and Spanish universities