Looking to add some spice to your Spanish language studies? Spanish TV, movies, apps, music, and games are all great, and Internet language learning partners and teachers are an important part of making Spanish a part of your daily life.
But do you know where the rubber meets the road with a foreign language? When you start using it in real life day to day interactions! That's what language learning is all about isn't it? Am I learning Spanish so I can get a full gold tree on Duolingo or have 100 contacts on Skype? No, I'm learning it so I can use it in a real life context.
If I really want Spanish to be a part my of everyday life then I should look for people in the real world who speak Spanish. Depending on where you live this could be hard or easy. Here in the USA we have no shortage of Spanish speakers. Depending on whether or not you live close to a major city it may also be hard to find somewhere to go and practice Spanish.
I'm not familiar with the UK or Australia (sorry guys). But for everyone else here are 3 easy and effective ideas to find native Spanish speakers who live near you:
1) Language Groups or Exchanges
An easy way to take your Spanish learning offline to is look for language learning groups. Sometimes called language exchanges these groups are for people who are learning one specific language (like Spanish) or for people who are learning foreign languages in general.
They are great for meeting other language learners and commiserating over the difficulties of learning a foreign language, and encouraging each other and sharing resources. Check with local community centers or churches for a language exchange. If there is a nearby university there might be one there as well.
If you asked around and still can't find anything search meetup.com for Spanish or foreign language groups.
2) Use Your Hobbies
Go out and do what you like to do anyways. If you live near a major city there are probably some Spanish speaking communities near by, find out where they are (I usually follow the hispanic grocery stores) and look for community activities like sports leagues, volunteering opportunities, and other events.
You could also check with a local community center and see if they have any extracurricular classes in Spanish. Imagine how fun it could be to learn salsa, yoga, or cooking in Spanish.
If there’s a near by community chances are you can find something. This is a great way to include Spanish into your daily life and naturally make friends who speak the language.
3) Facebook and Internet Groups
Still can’t find anything? Here’s another way to find local Spanish speakers: goolge latinos, españoles, mexicanos, cubanos, or whatever other Spanish speaking country you want to look for and add “en (your city name)".
I goolged nicaragüenses (Nicaraguans) en Washington, dc. and found a community board on Facebook with all kinds of recommendations on shops, restaurants, and clubs. Make sure when you search you use the Spanish name of the country you're looking for. Instead of Mexicans in Washington, DC, try mexicanos en Washington DC.
I’m pretty fortunate to live near the DC area. DC draws a lot of people from all over the world, not just ones from Spanish speaking countries, and here we have some sizable latino communities. I found a Spanish speaking group through a local church and have made friends from many parts of Latin America from Mexico to Peru.
Although I could probably stand to practice Spanish with them a little more; I have made some great friends, had some good times, and been to some awesome taquerias. I highly recommend that you step out of your comfort zone and try to find native Spanish speakers in your area. Nothing beats real life Spanish practice!
Also, use discretion when exploring neighborhoods and communities that are new to you. Common sense goes a long way.