A Level Spanish: 22 tips for language learning on your travels
Plan some of these activities in advance and turn your next trip into a confidence-boosting Spanish-language adventure
For A Level Spanish students, a trip to Spain or a Spanish-speaking country is, of course, an incredibly valuable opportunity to practice and improve in the language. However, it can be very easy to end up using too much English, especially if you are staying somewhere that is popular with visitors.
We encourage the students on our Spanish A Level course to take every possible chance to interact with native speakers in Spanish and to use every interaction as a confidence-boosting exercise. How can this be done even in the most saturated tourist hotspots?
The key is to take the initiative and seek out opportunities for using Spanish that go beyond typical holiday activities and really challenge you to take your communication abililties to the next level.
Keep reading for our best tips on how to make your trip really count and improve your language skills for the AQA A Level in Spanish.
Look out for our 5 favourites, highlighted in green.
⭐ Contact a local language school and ask them about events for Spanish learners. Normally, language schools organise different cultural and leisure activities aimed at getting to know the place you are visiting while learning the language. You could even book a one-off speaking class with a native tutor during your trip: why not ask them to give you a lesson at a local cultural site or monument, or a themed class about a Spanish-speaking writer or cultural figure from the region?
💡 Use the trip to support your work towards the Individual Research Project (IRP): you can go to a public library or visit a bookshop to find specialist resources and ask for ideas and guidance. If you haven't decided on the topic of your IRP yet, the trip can be a way of finding inspiration, choosing what you want to research and gaining a unique insight into your chosen subject. You can also read our post with tips for the Spanish IRP.
🗺️ Take a walking tour of a town or city in Spanish, such as those available to book on Tripadvisor. Choose one with a small group so you can interact with your guide in Spanish. If you find it easier, you can prepare some questions before going on the tour.
⛪ If you are visiting a city or larger town, book a guided tour in Spanish in a museum or site of interest. You could visit a cathedral, or any other area of the historic quarter, learning about architecture, art and cultural heritage.
🎭 How about a trip to the theatre? You could look at which plays are being performed and decide on one that is by a Spanish-language dramatist. Look up the programmes of small local theatres as well as the better-known city venues. You can check the visitor information available for the town or region where you are staying to find out about cultural opportunities in advance.
🖋️ You might be able to find a live poetry event. In Spain, performances and readings are typically held in bars. You can also look at universities and writing clubs who organise poetry evenings, or consult a directory like Emagister. To find out about smaller-scale performances, look for poetry and writing groups on social media or ask locals in an online forum.
🎵 Go to a live concert. It’s a great idea to research traditional and popular music from the area you will be visiting and find something you will enjoy. Some beach cafés and outdoor venues Look up the artists and their song lyrics in advance to get the most out of the experience.
🔍 Play a city exploration game, like Questo. These fun and rewarding challenges typically take a couple of hours to complete, and are a brilliant way to spend an afternoon discovering new places. Solve puzzles and follow clues in Spanish and unlock city stories as you go along.
As well as offering games in major Spanish cities like Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Valencia, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca, Questo and similar apps are available in some Latin American destinations too: Colombia (Cali), Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Mexico (Guadalajara and Mexico City), for example.
🕑 Try to adapt to the daily routine of the place where you are staying, for meals and for the hours of getting up and going to bed. Reflect on the differences from the routine in your home country.
☕ Have breakfast in a typical cafetería: in the Spanish-speaking world, cafeterías are often a very special meeting place in the morning.
🍴 Have lunch or dinner in typical restaurants which are not frequented by tourists. Choose one that does not have a menu in English and try local recipes which are characteristic of the area.
↔️ Go to a language exchange where you can converse with native speakers. These are friendly, welcoming events typically organised around an informal lunch, dinner or coffee, where native speakers of Spanish and English meet to practice each other’s languages.
In our experience, attendees at these events are always delighted to help with A Level studies and share their knowledge and opinions, so there will be plenty of opportunities to initiate conversations related to the A Level themes: arts and architecture, popular culture and regional identity would be great starting points. You can look up local groups on Facebook and Meetup.com.
📺 Watch or listen to the news in Spanish. What do you see or hear about the themes on the A Level syllabus? Look for stories that feature unemployment, social protests and gender equality, for example: all of these topics are included in the AQA A Level Spanish curriculum. Pay attention to the most important details: the percentages and statistics, the facts and figures, and the names of politicians and leaders that are mentioned.
🎉 Find out which are the characteristic local festivals of the area you are visiting and look up information on their history and when and how they are celebrated. Maybe a festival will be taking place while you're there!
💚 Animal rights topics are frequently in the news in Spain, with changes to the law brought into force from October 2023. What can you observe in the area you’re visiting? Are there many vegan restaurants or shops? Bullfighting is one of the customs and traditions often studied at A Level; how has the debate around los toros evolved, and is the plaza de toros now used for something else?
🏀 If you are interested in sports, you could go to a football or basketball game where local teams are playing. A small local fixture might be just as much fun to attend as a high-profile league match. You could also look at attending a golf tournament as a spectator.
⚽ For keen sports players, a trip to a Spanish-speaking country could also be an opportunity to connect with like-minded people through practicing your favourite hobby. We have heard of several students who contacted local sports teams and arranged to train with them for a week or two. For solo sports like golf or tennis, you could book a private coaching session in Spanish during your trip, or get in touch with a local group to see if you can join them as a guest.
📰 What is happening in the political world of the area you are visiting? Find out a bit about when elections were held, which party is currently in power, and what their policies are. Also note the role of politics in daily life: can you see any election posters or protest signs? Are there any demonstrations or public gatherings? How does the local or national press report on political stories?
🗞️ Collect authentic language materials: buy some magazines or newspapers, take photos of the menus of bars and restaurants, or photograph any posters that you find interesting.
You can even manage to bring home a collection of newspapers for free: In Spain a lot of bars and cafés have a selection of newspapers available each day for customers. You could visit a café on the first day of your trip and ask them to keep each day’s newspapers for you instead of throwing them away. When you get home, make sure to put them somewhere where you will see them often: having lots of authentic language sources around your living space is an effective way to boost the frequency of your exposure to Spanish and gain the benefits of passive learning.
👟 If you are interested in nature, you could look for an excursion or hiking route with a Spanish-speaking guide and converse with them about the area. The climate and history of the region, the changes it has experienced, and its role in tourism are all great themes for an A Level student to discuss.
💕 You could do some volunteering work. For example, there are animal organisations that need helpers for events and day-to-day tasks. This would be a way of connecting with local people and learning about how volunteer projects are carried out in the country you are visiting, while supporting a good cause.
📝 Most importantly, write things down in a journal: the foods you've tried, the places you've visited, the news stories you've read, and the details you've learned about the art, culture, and customs of the place you visited. All of this is valuable information for your A Level speaking test and will be an excellent resource to look back on when it comes to exam preparation.
Kate Maria Languages offers complete Spanish A Level courses and private tuition from top tutors.
Students can share travel tips and ideas in our online course platform and join our interactive live lessons for support with the full A Level curriculum, including the Individual Research Project.
Get in contact with us to discuss your travel plans and find out how we can help you to achieve success with your Spanish A Level studies.
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