Truth is I’ve been attempting to learn Spanish for the last 4 years. It’s been rough. I blame it on the “I’m not good at learning a language” gene. For me, Math is easy. Spanish is not.
Once I set foot into Latin America I realized, oh shit, I need to learn Spanish. It is, in my opinion, the most useful language to learn.
This blog includes SIX ways for budget travelers to learn Spanish for FREE outside of the classroom!
1. Couch Surf
If you chose to stay in hostels constantly surrounded by gringos, NEWS FLASH: you will not learn Spanish.
Couch surfing with locals is a great way to learn Spanish! And more importantly, couch surfing with locals who do not speak English. Couch surfing is a website for travelers to stay with locals for free. The idea is that you host travelers when you are home and use the website when you are away. It promotes free and inexpensive travel as well as an authentic local experience.
Couch surf hosts are usually super friendly and willing to help with whatever. There’s been many times where the host has introduced me to friends or invited me out. It can be frustrating at times not understanding everything, but you will be grateful in the long-run.
couchsurfing.com <— sign up. It’s free.
*Tip: Even if you cannot find a couch surfing host, there is an option to find friends/activities using the website. In Mexico City, I went to a Mexican wrestling match with couch surfers and local hosts which was set up and advertised on the couch surfing website.
2. Tinder App
Another easy way to learn Spanish is to find a Spanish-speaking lover. Between the besos, there will hopefully be some sort of conversation. Love or lust is a motivator to learn!
Tinder is an easy to use dating app which you can use all over the world. Go on dates with locals! Or if you are in a relationship, write in your profile you are looking for friends or a language exchange partner which takes me to my next tip….
3. Language Exchange!
There are so many locals who want to learn English or just want a foreign friend. If you’ve read Eat Pray Love, you know what I’m talking about. A language exchange is when you meet with a local at a coffee shop (for example) one hour, 30 minutes speaking English and 30 minutes speaking Spanish. The goal is to exchange languages and cultures.
4. Hitch Hike
Hitch Hiking is an old fashioned means of transportation which is great for saving money, but more importantly, it can be a great way to learn Spanish!
I hitch hiked in Guatemala and Mexico. Almost every time I would step into a new vehicle, a Spanish conversation starts. It’s usually basic information (where are you from? Where are you going?) but sometimes more. One trip I met someone who I couch surfed with later on.
There are rewards for stepping outside of your comfort zone!
Duolingo is a free app great for learning vocabulary and grammar!
I’ve used the app on and off for years. It’s easy to forget about or lose motivation while using the app. I recommend setting weekly or monthly goals. For example, use the app for 20 minutes everyday.
As the famous expression goes “poco a poco” (little by little), your Spanish will progress. It’s a never-ending process!
6. Work Exchange
As you may know, I love using workaway. Work exchange is volunteering in exchange for accommodation and food. I recommend choosing a work exchange outside of major cities, where you will be forced to speak Spanish!
I did a work exchange in Mazatenango, Guatemala (in the middle of no where) at a weightloss clinic as a yoga and Zumba instructor. No one spoke English except for the other volunteers. I was forced to speak Spanish and translate my yoga classes in Spanish. It was a huge challenge, but well worth it.
*Addition Tip: Spanish School
If you have some extra funds, I HIGHLY recommend taking Spanish classes while traveling. Central American countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua are especially inexpensive.
If you don’t love school (like me), I recommend taking an hour or two of class a couple times per week. I also recommend private classes versus group classes. Ask locals or look for ads at coffee shops for private teachers.
Buena suerte! I hope my tips helped! If you have any questions about specifics or where I took Spanish classes, let me know! ❤