One of my favourite things about Spain is the language, and after learning for some time I love any opportunity I get to actually practise Spanish in Spain. Practising listening and reading is easy – it’s everywhere! Whether in a shop reading signs or picking up the daily diario and reading through the articles, it’s relatively easy to practice and even learn new words. The same with listening, just pop the tv or radio on, or sit in a cafe and attempt to listen to the super quick conversations of some nearby Spaniards.
When it comes to practising speaking, I often find that if I try to speak Spanish to someone, they respond in English because they can tell my Spanish isn’t great or they in turn want to practice their English. But the best thing I have found to be able to practise speaking Spanish is to visit the smaller towns where people are less likely to come across tourists than in the big cities like Madrid and Barcelona. So, here’s my pick of the top places that are fun to explore but also should give you a chance to practise Spanish in Spain.
The southern city of Cordoba is just a short distance from Seville and Granada, home to the famous La Mezquita and stunning white buildings. Days can be spent wandering the old town, relaxing in the cafes that line the narrow streets and of course, exploring La Mezquita and the Alcazar. While you will find English speakers at the tourist attractions, I found that those I spoke to in Spanish were happy to continue speaking in Spanish. In fact, some of the larger bars and restaurants had serving staff that didn’t speak a lot of English and I was able to practice when ordering and making conversation.
A short train ride from Barcelona, Girona is a small city that can be enjoyed as a day trip or over a weekend if you’re a cafe explorer too! The Cathedral itself is stunning, and Game of Thrones fan may recognise the impressive staircase out front as that of the ‘Shame. Shame. Shame.’ scene. Other than that, there are old city walls to explore, charming squares and river views to soak up from a bridge made by none other than Gustave Eiffel who also designed, you guessed it, the Eiffel Tower!
While there are a steady number of tourists bustling about the city, once you find a cafe or restaurant away from the main street you’ll start to find people whose level of English matches your Spanish, and will be only too happy to carry on a conversation in Spanish.
Most important word to know in Girona – Xuixo. Actually Catalan, it’s pronounced in Spanish like ‘suso’. Believe me, you’ll make good use of this word ordering the delicious pastry at every opportunity!
Capital of the region of La Rioja and capital of wine country, Logroño is a quiet town in the north of Spain most frequented by pilgrims completing the Camino De Santiago. Wine lovers hoping to tour the local vineyards and bodegas and sample a glass or two of the local wine also make up a large portion of the visitors.
Logroño is a lovely place to spend a few days, and not overrun with tourists in the same way larger cities are. As with the other cities mentioned here, you will find English speakers but also many who aren’t confident with it and will happily chat away in Spanish to you. Plus, once you sample a few of the local wine offerings, you might find your Spanish drastically improves. Oh, just me…
A small town 2 hours by train from Madrid, Ávila is a great day trip from the capital if you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. The views on the way are stunning, and the town itself has plenty to fill a day with, including a cathedral, a number of other churches and old city walls to explore. The small town vibes here are noticeable with the lack of other tourists, and this in itself makes it a perfect place to actually be able to practise Spanish in Spain.
Another small city, this time in the southern region of Andalusia. It’s within easy reach from Seville, and follows the trend with the stunning Moorish architecture found in the region. Fans of sherry can tour the famous Tio Pepe bodegas, and evenings can be spent relaxing in the squares with a drink and tapas or checking out a local flamenco show. Jerez isn’t big on the tourist trail yet, so English isn’t as widely available as the larger cities, but that definitely adds to the charm of the city.
These are just a few of my suggestions of places I’ve found it easier to be able to speak Spanish. Of course, if you insist in larger cities, or respond to their English with Spanish, then you’ll still find places to practise Spanish. But sometimes we need that push to speak Spanish when we’re not totally confident, and usually it ends up being. a huge confidence boost! I’ve had some interesting experiences when I’ve tried speaking Spanish, but generally people are very kind and in the right setting have the patience to let you try. Good luck!
If you’re still trying to boost your Spanish skills, Duolingo is a great, free resource that has helped me so much! Once you’ve got the basics it’s easier to pick things up once you’re in a Spanish speaking country.
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