Earlier this year, I shared with you my goal of learning Spanish. I had planned to use these 3 tools to do it so that on my upcoming trip to Mexico I could have a successful (albeit short and slow) conversation with a local. Now, I know people on the resort speak English. I know I can order food and ask for directions in English. But I love languages, particularly Romance languages, and this was excellent motivation to embark on something new. I also believe it’s respectful and thoughtful to learn at least a little bit of the local language. (I highlight more reasons for language-learning in this column for Peace Arch News).

So, did I use the tools I thought I would? Some, but not all. And I found new ones along the way. Here’s what has been working so far:

5 Tools For Learning Spanish

1. My friend recommended I try the Michel Thomas CD collection for Beginner Spanish. And this was the most invaluable tool I used. I borrowed it from the library in June and ended up renewing it throughout the summer and into September until I could no longer renew it! And I am seriously considering buying the collection myself. I just LOVED the way Michel teaches. It’s all by listening which, frankly, is how language is best learned. (Think of how you learned your native language). At first I was freaking out a little. I felt like I should take notes, create a vocabulary list, pause the CD to repeat back. But I’m glad I used it the way it was intended. I think my second time around, I will make some notes because when I write things down they become emblazoned in my mind, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I had retained just by listening. (He teaches other languages, too, if learning Spanish isn’t your thing).

2. Netflix!! I’ve always loved watching foreign films but my husband isn’t a huge fan. He doesn’t want to have to read subtitles while unwinding at the end of the day. I get that. But I’ve been able to convince him occasionally to throw on a Spanish movie so I can get used to hearing it spoken in varying accents, dialects and speed. And when I have a night to myself on occasion I know I can get my language geek on and watch something like: Palm Trees in the Snow, Amar, Ingobernable, La Nina, or La Esclava Blanca.

Just writing about this on this wet, grey day makes me want to curl up on my couch with a Spanish film or series! Have you seen any of these? Or have recommendations of your own? Please tell me in the comments below!

3. My sister-in-law is fluent in Spanish having studied it in university and then travelled to some Spanish-speaking countries. I should probably bug her more than I have been to practice with me since this is truly the way to gauge how much I know – plus, I can get immediate feedback and corrections which is important, too. But she has been a great source of encouragement. Amo a mi hermana!

4. Y musica! (Ok, I’m totally missing accents in my text because I don’t know how to find them on my keyboard. I apologize if you’re a Spanish speaker and this is making you cringe – if it helps, it’s making me cringe, too). So many people recommended I learn Spanish by listening to music and this made a lot of sense to me. I have fallen in love with the sounds of Enrique Iglesias, Fonsi, and Juanes. There are so many more artists out there that I have yet to discover. I’m particularly looking for ones like Juanes because I seem to pick up on his lyrics more easily. (Recommendations? Drop them below!) If you haven’t heard this song from him and Nelly Furtado, please take a moment to crank it and get lost for a moment in the beautiful words, melody and harmony.

5. T R A V E L! This is both a motivation AND a tool for learning Spanish. I don’t expect to be fluent without using this language in real life context and I can’t say I’m sad about adding travel to my list of tools. Did you know that Spanish is the official language in approximately 20 countries? And has about 400 million native speakers? Pretty amazing! Have you travelled to a Spanish-speaking country I should add to my bucket list? I’d love to hear!

As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I receive some perks for sharing my honest opinion and ideas with you!