Readers reveal: Nine sure-fire ways to improve your Spanish

Learning Spanish is not always plain sailing for foreigners in the country. With the help of our readers, we've compiled some of the best tips that have helped them become more fluent in the language of Cervantes.

Readers reveal: Nine sure-fire ways to improve your Spanish
Making Spanish friends is undoubtedly one of the best ways to improve your Spanish quickly.Guy Leroux/Pixabay

Talk to children

“They have no filter, know all the slang, and won’t ever dumb it down for you! I learned so much as a kindergarten teacher!” says Danni Roseman, Community and Content Director for Las Morenas de España.

Take a class

Take a Spanish class. Photo: ZadorSpain/Flickr 

“For English speakers who’ve only ever spoken one language, like me, I do recommend taking a class,” says wine blogger Timmer Brown of Catalunya Wine. “If possible, find an instructor to give one-on-one lessons…”

Date a Spaniard

Photo: TechNopal/Flickr

“Learning how to argue, love and be yourself in a new language is an exhilarating journey,” says Danni.

Do an intercambio

“I’ve had the same intercambio partner for over two years and, even though we’re now good friends, we still try and stick to our half English, half Spanish rule. One word of advice though: it’s really important that you have things in common with your partner and enjoy chatting to them, otherwise it can be quite painful thinking of things to talk about!” says Jane Spivey, founder of Two Birds Languages.

Make friends

“What really helped me was making really good friends with Spanish people,” food blogger Wesley Muchimwe told The Local.

“Once a month I would go with them to the ‘pueblo’ for a weekend and there, we only spoke Spanish for an entire weekend – you have no other choice but to use the language and you learn a lot from your mistakes. I remember telling everyone that I’d lost my throat when I wanted to say I’d lost my gloves. We laughed and I learned.”

Watch Spanish TV

Photo: Dennis Skley/Flickr 

“Watch Spanish TV with Spanish subtitles. I’d recommend news or documentary,” says Nadine Walker, owner of Nest boutique in Madrid.

“It’s also definitely handy to have a translation app on your phone to consult when you don’t know a word.”

Have a good old debate

“Get chatting to people in the bar,” says Danni. “Spanish people love debating current affairs, especially after a few beers! Which is great, because liquid courage is a thing!”

“I’d recommend making an effort to socialize with Spanish speakers. It’s not as easy as it sounds because when you don’t know the language that well you tend to stick to what’s familiar, it’s more comfortable. But it’s worth it and helps with your confidence,” says Nadine.  

Do something you love in Spanish

Photo: Matt Madd/Flickr 

“I learned tons from my Power Yoga sessions, and dance classes! It’s great because you’ve already got some context, so it’s not as new – or intimidating,” says Danni. 

“I’ve also learnt a lot doing activities I enjoy like Bikram yoga, bootcamp, photography, hiking etc.” says Jane.

Download an app

A great way to practice when you’re on the go, there are some brilliant language apps available that will make learning the “boring” grammar fun!

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Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

This adjective is essential slang talk in Spain, a word with lots of meanings, all of them fairly negative.

Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

Chungo is a colloquial way of saying that something is difficult, dodgy or bad. 

It can be used to describe a variety of scenarios and it’s a great way of talking like a native Spanish speaker. 

You can talk about the weather being chungo if there are ominous black clouds up ahead.

If you’re stepping into a dodgy neighbourhood, then watch out because it’s un barrio chungo

If you bought a hairdryer at the rastro (flea market) and it doesn’t work properly, then it’s clearly chungo, and the seller is just as chungo.

Maybe you’ve just sat an exam with complicated questions, you’d call it un examen chungo.

Or if you don’t feel very well, then you’re the one that is chungo

There’s even an expression to say that things aren’t looking good – la cosa está chunga.

All in all, chungo is a very versatile adjective that you can incorporate into most daily speech even though it’s colloquial. 

Here are some examples to help you get used to using chungo.


Está el tiempo un poco chungo, mejor no vamos a la playa.

The weather isn’t very good today, it’s best if we don’t go to the beach. 


¡Ojo! Es un tío bastante chungo así que no te fíes de él.

Be careful! He’s a pretty dodgy guy so don’t trust him. 


Le has comprado un perfume muy chungo a mamá por el Día de la Madre.

You’ve bought Mum a really crappy perfume for Mother’s Day.


El barrio de El Príncipe en Ceuta es muy chungo, ¡ten cuidado!

El Príncipe neighbourhood in Ceuta is very dodgy, be careful!



Me encuentro un poco chungo, con mareos y nauseas. 

I’m feeling a bit bad, I’m dizzy and nauseous. 


¿Dama de honor cuando el novio es tu ex? ¡Qué situación más chunga!

Maid of honour when the groom is your ex? ¡That’s an uncomfortable situation!


¡La cosa está chunga! El Barça tiene que marcar cinco goles para clasificarse.

Things aren’t looking good. Barça have to score five goals to qualify.