Learning Spanish: how do you do it?

Learning to speak Spanish well, that’s great right? After all, I love Spain and Latin America. Actually, I like (almost *) everything Spanish. And especially the Spanish language. Back in 2008, I did a Spanish course at Cervantes in Utrecht. At the time, I practically lived up there, so that was easy.

Where the love for the Spanish language comes from I don’t know. Perhaps when I first went on vacation alone to – yes, I admit it – Blanes. For the first time on vacation without parents. How fun that was! I remember trying to say something in Spanish. I didn’t get much further than Hola and Gracias. The following years I was busy studying at Utrecht University. After I booked a ticket to Costa Rica in 2008, I knew for sure: I really want to learn Spanish now.

After taking my Spanish courses, I asked several people how best to learn the Spanish language. Herewith my tips and those of (Spanish-speaking) friends.

Learn Spanish tip 1# Go live there

Well, very easy tip huh? But it does. When you live in a country or stay there for an extended period of time, things are easier. Just be careful not to get bogged down in speaking English. For example, a Spanish-speaking friend helped by setting a timer. ‘No Danique, hablamos solo español para una hora. Ok ok….y despues inglés☺.’ So yes, even if you live in a Spanish-speaking country, force yourself and others to speak only Spanish. This takes patience and is not always easy. How badly I was fumbling with my Spanish when I met that friend’s mother. Whew!

learn spanish madrid


Learn Spanish tip 2# Course in Spain

Of course, a course in the Netherlands is also fine and a good basis to start with Spanish. When I had a week of private lessons in Madrid, I did notice that things went much faster. Also, choose carefully the city where you want to learn Spanish. What are good cities to learn Spanish in Spain? Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona, San Sebastián, Salamanca. Want to learn Spanish on the coast or in Andalusia? You can, but keep in mind that Andalusia is the limburg of Spain. Very often you can’t understand those. For example, they don’t pronounce the s. So mas o menos is ma o meno. This can be confusing, especially in the beginning. So I recommend you choose a city where they clearly speak Spanish. In particular, then, Madrid, Salamanca or Bilbao. In Bilbao, “Euskera” (Basque) is also spoken, but everyone there can speak “normal Spanish” and many young people no longer really speak Basque.

I used the free Find Your Private Teacher website to get in touch with Poliana.


Learn Spanish tip 3# Apps & helpful practice programs

If, like me, you are often on the train, an app or website is instructive pastime. I use:



Google translate


Hangman Spanish

Conjugate Spanish verbs (android) Conjuverb (ios)

What also still always helps is to write down a list of Spanish words with the Dutch meaning behind them. And then cut all the words into rectangles like a memory game. Scramble all the words and then find all the words together.

On all utensils stick a little yellow with the Spanish word on it. At least that way you learn the words at home.

Learn Spanish tip 4#Buy Spanish magazines and children’s books

This is a perfect way to expand your vocabulary. Go to a flea market or bookstore and buy some children’s books. I also bought some vegetarian cooking and travel magazines. I enjoy reading this and with a Spanish dictionary included, you instantly translate the words you don’t know. When you are smart (and of course you are ;-)), write down all the translated words in a notebook. After that, always take this booklet with you. Then you always have something to do during a lost hour.

learn spanish madrid

Learn Spanish tip 5# Maintain Spanish in the Netherlands

And then you’re back again. How do you maintain your Spanish without hearing Spanish every day? Fortunately, there are many ways to maintain your Spanish. These are my tips. Some I am going to try out myself, so if you have any more tips, let me know!

Couchsurfing events or Meet up’s

Various events are organized through Couchsurfing or MeetUp . You can also place a call yourself.
Café Cultura (Rotterdam)
Spanish cultural center. Research if there is something similar in your hometown. Go crazy and just go there for an evening! Café Cultura also organizes all kinds of things and they also run Spanish courses for travelers there! Practical!

WhatsApp with Spanish-speaking friends

When you have Spanish-speaking friends, be sure to Whatsap with them. And ask them to correct you when you are wrong.

Radio listening

Through the Internet, you can listen to any radio in the world. Turn on the radio for a while every day. Then you keep hearing it.

Listening to music

Dreaming away to Spanish music. I prefer to do that! Well-known (older) artists that Sander and I really like are: Estopa, Melendi and El Fuega. Top 40 music is also useful to practice, lyrics are often not complicated and this way you practice listening right away.

Watching Movies & Series

Do you have Netflix? Then watch Gran Hotel or Narcos, with Spanish subtitles. Do you also want to learn something from it? Have your dictionary and notebook ready and write down unfamiliar words plus translation. Frequently watching movies in Spanish with Spanish subtitles also helps. Sometimes I really didn’t feel like practicing, then I did English movies with Spanish subtitles.

Do you have any tips, websites or YouTube videos that are very helpful? Let me know!

* As an animal lover, I am against bullfighting, meat and fish culture and the attitude of Spaniards toward animals. Fortunately, this is changing rapidly in recent years. For example, bullfighting has been banned in several provinces and you see more and more vegetarian and vegan restaurants in cities.