Speaking Spanish in Public: Language Learning Process and the Great Blankathon.  When it comes down to it, learning a second language is in the speaking. What you learn about grammar and syntax will make you more proficient, but you will never be bilingual until you go out there and communicate. In fact, this is the hardest part of language learning, and it has a lot more to do with perspective than with intelligence or propensity.

That’s the good news about “blanking out” when you try speaking Spanish in public. Changing the way you look at the experience and then process it is way more important than conjugation. Here are some tips.

Failing is part of the language learning process.
It represents your strength to try something new.


Be kind to yourself

What many language students have in common, besides the occasional blank-out, is being very hard on themselves when it happens. Instead of laughing it off they imagine people are annoyed with them or think they are stupid. Think of it as a learning moment, not a traumatic episode. People appreciate your effort, just as they love your accent; it shows respect for local tradition and culture.

Failure is your teacher

Failing is part of the language learning process. It represents your strength to try something new. Embrace the new feeling of confidence you get tiptoeing outside your comfort zone. Through trial and error the brain gains mastery. Your tongue needs to trip over words until it learns the right formation.

Blanking is actually positive

You feel confident until someone fires that machine gun cacophony of Spanish words your way, and you forget how to say your name. Your oversaturated brain needs a moment to reboot, and whether it’s a make or break moment is up to you. Fight-or-flight panic is a natural reaction that will surely put a negative spin on the situation. Or you can laugh it off as just a hiccup … more proof that you are a badass living outside your comfort zone. Go you! 

Start training your brain

One of the best anti-blanking tools is to watch Spanish language programs with subtitles. Both the subtitles and voices should be in Spanish; otherwise you are just reading English and not really learning the language. Netflix has some great Spanish language programming that allows you to listen in Spanish, and then English, to see what you grasped. 

Avoid boredom and lower your expectations

Language learning should not be boring; it should be something you want to do. People typically remember more by being playful and inquisitive than through repetitive drills. Find things that interest you and change it up each day. Read a local newspaper, take a class, watch videos amd podcasts or play language games. Sing a song and learn some dance moves while you are at it. Spend at least 20 minutes each day focusing on Spanish in any way that captivates you. 

Say what you can, not what you want to say

This is your new mantra each time someone speaks to you. Let’s say you are out socializing, getting the gist of a conversation and feel like joining in. What you should not do is ask your brain to translate your thoughts into Spanish, word for word, and expect it to generate a complete, intelligent spoken sentence. That is not going to happen right away. Instead, ask your brain to spit out whatever words it can. Just get it out there and keep it simple. Don’t worry about changing the verb or getting the grammar right.

As you embrace the language more, and the more you also embrace your mistakes by celebrating and laughing through them, the easier it gets. I promise you will reach the point of knowing what to say as if by magic. This is not a joke! When the language clicks, it is like crossing a magical threshold.

When first learning Spanish, make simple sentences without worrying about conjugation. This process is an important building block for eventually conjugating.


Subject Pronouns

yo — I

tu — you

vos — you

el — he

ella — she

usted — you (polite)

nosotros — we

ellos — they (guys)

ellas — they (girls)


querer — to want

poder — to be able to

ser — to be

estar — to be

(feeling and location)

vivir — to live

limpiar — to clean

comer — to eat

tomar — to drink, to take

ir — to go

Time markers

hoy — today

ayer — yesterday

mañana — tomorrow

despues — after

antes — before

mas tarde — later

ahora — now

luego — then


Make sure you are having fun while learning a new language and don’t be afraid of speaking Spanish in public!