It's such a common problem.
Spanish learners study, study, study grammar.
They can do exercises, but when it comes time to speak...
They make grammar mistakes!
Or it takes them too long to think about the grammar rules when speaking, so they get tripped up.
Does this sound like you?
It happens to all of us language learners (myself included!)
Luckily for you I have 5 steps for you right here to help you overcome this problem!
Step 1: Choose & exercise
Choose one grammar point to focus on.
Let's use the present subjunctive as an example.
So, let's say that you're working on learning the present subjunctive.
Whether or not you just started or have already had some practice with it, you need to do tons of exercises with it.
Find exercises online, use the exercises in your textbook, take a course - do all the exercises you can find!
You need to be dreaming about the subjunctive - that's how much you will have practiced it.
Step 2: Speak en voz alta
When you're doing the grammar exercises, don't just write or type out the answers.
You need to be speaking out loud. Read the exercises out loud. Read your answers out loud. Read the corrections out loud.
This will help you to reinforce not only producing the grammar but also hearing it!
Not to mention, it forces you to slow down a bit and take your time with the grammar. You need to be extremely familiar with the grammar in order to use it in a fast-paced, dynamic environment such as a conversation!
Step 3: Learn & recognize
Learn and recognize collocations and expressions.
Collocations are combinations of words that always go together.
An example of this in English is "I like fast food". The collocation is "fast food." We have another word that we can normally substitute for "fast" as a synonym, which is "quick".
We can say both: "The cheetah is fast" and "The cheetah is quick"
However, we cannot say "I like quick food"
That's a collocation - "fast" and "food" must go together, or the sentence doesn't make sense.
The same thing happens in Spanish, and it can happen with verb tenses too.
For example, if you have this collocation: "Cabe la posibilidad de que..." you cannot replace "cabe" or "posilibidad" without the phrase sounding unnatural.
It is also a collocation that requires the subjunctive! So if you use it, you know you should use the subjunctive.
Expressions are also useful to know as well.
Certain expressions can require the use of the grammar point that you're focusing on.
If you study and use the common expressions that require your grammar, you'll be much more confident in using them in conversation.
For example, some expressions commonly used in conversation that require the subjunctive include:
- No creo que... (subjuntivo)
- Es importante que... (subjuntivo)
- Me alegro de que... (subjuntivo)
If you practice with these expressions enough, it will become second nature to use the subjunctive after them, and that's what we're aiming for - a natural "feeling" for when to use the grammar!
Step 4: Write
Stretch out your typing fingers and get to work writing!
Focus on using the grammar you have chosen to improve. Don't try to put too much on your plate and try out all sorts of new grammar.
Pick a writing topic that will require using a lot of your grammar point.
Using the present subjunctive as an example, be sure to choose a topic that is emotional or hypothetical. Don't choose anything about the past because you're not studying that right now. Make it grammar-point-appropriate.
And if your ultimate goal is to speak, why write?
Well, writing gives you some great exercise in producing the grammar you're focusing on. You'll also be able to think carefully before you write and revise your work for mistakes.
This is important preparation for your speaking exercises!
Try to get feedback and corrections on your work if possible. Learn from your mistakes and turn them into learning tools!
Step 5: Find a tutor/speaking partner
At this point, you should be much more prepared to speak.
Similar to step 4, you'll want to choose a discussion topic that makes it easy to practice your grammar point.
It's recommended to choose the same topics that you wrote about. Even though you've already written about them, as you know, writing and speaking are different skills. You are familiar with the topic, which should make it easier to speak about.
After practicing more and more, you can move on to speaking about topics that you haven't prepared for.
Tell your tutor or speaking partner that you want to focus on practicing only this grammar point in your conversation - nothing else! Don't overload yourself, remember.
By this time you will have:
- tons of practice working with the grammar from step 1,
- practice speaking the grammar out loud from step 2,
- an arsenal of collocations and expressions to make remembering when to use the grammar much easier from step 3
- and "pre-speaking" preparation and feedback from step 4
If you follow all of these steps for each grammar point you're having trouble with applying to your speech, you will not only be able to speak with more confidence and accuracy, but you'll basically become a Spanish master :)
If you're interested in diving even deeper into this topic, lists of collocations and expressions for major grammar points, writing and speaking topic ideas, plus more Spanish courses, enroll for free in I Taught Myself Spanish Freecademy today!