Speaking Spanish isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Even if the language is phonetic, which means the letters are pronounced more or less the same way consistently, it can still be challenging to produce speech spontaneously.
The main challenges are mastering those few tricky consonants that impede fluid speech, knowing the right vocabulary, and a lack of confidence in your abilities. Each of these challenges can be a huge stumbling block to speaking in Spanish, so you need to identify what it is you struggle with most so you can more quickly address the key issues.
Even once you’ve mastered the main elements of speaking, there is still the small matter of putting all the letters, words, and phrases together into coherent sentences and working them into a natural dialogue with someone else.
In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best resources and methods for effective A-Level and GCSE Spanish revision for the speaking component of the Spanish exam.
Lean on Cognates
If there’s one thing that makes Spanish a more straightforward language to learn for English-speakers, it’s that the two languages share so many cognates.
Cognates are words that share linguistic roots in multiple languages.
By now, we’re sure you’ve picked up on the fact that ‘intelligente’ sounds an awful lot like ‘intelligent’ - and that can’t just be a coincidence, right?
Not only are such cognates not a coincidence, but they are plentiful and you can lean on them for quick vocabulary acquisition. There are literally thousands of cognates just like that one in Spanish waiting to be discovered.
While not all of them will be as like-for-like as ‘inteligente,’ they will all be recognisable to your English brain to some extent. This means that walking into the Spanish speaking exam, even if you don’t know a word, there’s a good chance you can guess it - but there’s a catch.
The probability of you making an accurate guess is quite low unless you know the rules of Spanish words and how they interact with their English counterparts. For example, if you know words that end in ‘-ion’ in English usually end in ‘ión’ in Spanish, such as ‘action’ and ‘acción,’ that means if you don’t know how to say ‘implementation’ in the speaking exam, an educated guess would tell you that it’s ‘implementación.’
Of course, there are exceptions to this, and some Spanish words are false friends, which means they have a different meaning, so your best bet is to find a cognate list online and study them to gain an edge in the exam.
Plus, since Spanish is a phonetic language, pronunciation of the words you end up guessing shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Listen and Learn
To get better at speaking Spanish, you need to learn to listen and listen to learn.
Listening to Spanish is vital for improving your speaking proficiency for several reasons.
First, listening to native speakers will help you understand how sentences and words are used and structured in Spanish. This is important because if you try to talk in Spanish as if you were talking in English, you would likely be misunderstood by a Spanish speaker. The two languages are different not only in content but in grammar too.
Secondly, if you don’t listen to much Spanish, how can you expect to master the pronunciation of its sounds? There are many tricky sounds in Spanish, and that’s not even to mention the trilled ‘r,’ so it really pays to listen to how these sounds are made.
Understanding how Spanish is spoken is the first step to speaking more competently.
One of the best ways to improve your speaking without actually saying anything is to listen to native Spanish speakers on a regular basis.
There are a few ways to do this, and we’ll take a look at each option now.
The radio may seem a little old-fashioned, but it remains one of the best ways to hear native Spanish speakers chatting away about any old topic. While you may not understand everything at first, each time you listen to a conversation in Spanish, your ear has a chance to better tune itself to the language. That means that over time you’ll be able to more easily recognise speech patterns, including timing, the pitch they use for questions versus statements, and how they form sentences.
Podcasts are an excellent listening resource, and there are plenty of beginner-friendly Spanish podcasts out there to enjoy.
Listening to a podcast, you can hear the language while also picking up valuable lessons, provided the podcast is about learning Spanish.
Listening is also crucial for mastering pronunciation.
If you go into the speaking exam without having listened to much Spanish, it’s going to be much more difficult for you to nail the pronunciation. You can tune your ear to the sounds of Spanish using various resources, and this will help you learn good pronunciation before it’s too late.
Websites like Forvo allow you to find out how just about any word is pronounced in Spanish. The website asks native speakers to say a word and then provides several of these recordings for you to listen to.
This is a useful tool to use if you have any doubts surrounding how to say a certain word.
Videos of Pronunciation
As well as listening, you can find videos on YouTube that show you how tongue placement and the shape of your mouth can affect your speech.
This is a great thing to do if you’re struggling with the basics, or you just can’t seem to trill your ‘r’s.’
Talk to Yourself
Yes, that’s right, we’re strong advocates of talking to yourself in the quest for better Spanish speaking skills.
Speaking from experience, this works - even if you may feel self-conscious doing it.
Now, we’re not going to tell you that talking to yourself is better than talking to a native Spanish speaker, but if you can’t do that for whatever reasons, then it is the best alternative.
Talking to yourself in Spanish works because it allows you to bypass your filter and say whatever comes to mind first.
One of the biggest issues when speaking Spanish with someone else is we lock up and get stuck racking our brain for the right word.
If you get comfortable talking to yourself, you can not only work on your pronunciation, but you can work on reducing your inhibitions while speaking the foreign language.
There are several techniques you can play around with, and we’ll get into them now.
The first technique is simple: talk to yourself and record it on your phone or another audio recording device. You can either do a stream of consciousness style speech or read some Spanish text aloud.
Speaking off the top of your head will train your ability to think on your feet and come up with fast responses. It will also help you to power through those moments of doubt or indecision when you’re stuck searching for a word.
Reading from a text will help you to focus on the pronunciation of each sound, and hearing the recording afterwards will be a good indicator of how you’re doing in that regard. Reading aloud will also help you familiarise with the common sounds and sentence structure seen in Spanish.
Sing or Rap
If you like singing, head to a website like Lyricstraining and sing along, filling in the missing Spanish words along the way.
Alternatively, you can find some Spanish music you like and sing to that. This will help you feel more confident with your Spanish flow, especially if you make it a regular practise.
A more unorthodox technique is to freestyle rap.
This is a method that has been donned by websites like Mimic Method, and it is based on the premise that by rapping spontaneously you can beat inhibition and improve your speaking fluidity.
If you’re really self-conscious, what you can do is conduct a mental dialogue in Spanish. This is even better when you’re out and about. You can combine this with freestyle rap and rap in your mind about what you see as you go on a walk. You can try to make the words rhyme, or you can simply rap your grocery list in Spanish. This should get you in the right frame of mind for when you actually have to speak Spanish in the exam.
It’s also a great way to warm up before you have to start the exam. As you’re waiting outside, for example, instead of fretting about the exam, you can calmly list the things around you in Spanish to switch the voice in your head.If you walk into the exam with your mind already focusing on Spanish, then your responses should be a little quicker.