Asides from being an English Language teacher at UPtoU Vitoria, I’m also a ´life-long Spanish learner’. I have been studying Spanish since I was in my early teens and therefore, I’m able to understand and emphasize with the struggles my students go through on a daily basis to learn a second (or third!) language. I have sweated my fair share over which is the correct preposition to use. I’ve also spent what feels like a billion hours studying correct verb forms and tenses, only to still get it wrong! Is it ‘ser or estar’, ‘por or para?’ However, I always remind myself it’s all part of the natural process of learning a new language.

Unfortunately (for myself and for everyone else that has decided to embark on this journey), there is no magical solution on how to learn a foreign language. One method might be right for some, yet it may not work for others. Some of us need to study at night, whilst others feel it’s more productive to study in the mornings. Some people need to be constantly motivated by others, whilst other language students rely on their intrinsic motivation to guide them on their learning journeys. What’s more, some people just seem to have an aptitude for languages, whilst others struggle to remember every single new concept learnt. Despite there not appearing to be a “one size fits all” approach to learning a new language, we can count ourselves very lucky, as there are a wealth of resources available to us. We can pick and choose which ones to use and which ones may work for us. We can select the ones that can aid the development of our language learning and guide us to more effective methods of language acquisition.

In my experience, the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it.

To have no option other than having to speak the language and make yourself understood. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a gap year in Mexico before embarking on my University studies. I went to Mexico, on a volunteer programme for the NGO ‘Save the Children’. I went with a very basic understanding of Spanish (Secondary School lessons once a week in a mixed level class!) and came back with a high enough level to be accepted on a university course taught exclusively in Spanish. Due to having no other English speakers around, the experience allowed me to practice my Spanish on a daily basis, whilst working for an amazing humanitarian organization on a fantastic project. I would 100% recommend this opportunity to everybody. Being immersed into a Spanish speaking culture was invaluable for my language development.

I understand not everyone will be able to take a gap year from work or studies, or have the opportunity to travel so far afield. However, there are plenty of opportunities available for shorter periods of time, if the idea of language immersion programmes is of interest to you. Lots of institutions and companies offer study abroad or volunteer abroad programmes from anywhere from a week to 2 weeks, or a month etc. Anything that immerses you into the language you are learning is priceless, and you will see your language skills develop on a daily basis. A study abroad language programme will give you the opportunity to take formal language classes with a native teacher, and also the opportunity to spend your free time surrounded by native speakers of the language you are learning. The programme will give you the opportunity to practice your language skills both inside and outside of the classroom, whilst living an invaluable experience, immersed in the culture of the country of your choice.

You can visit options we offer for studying abroad here:

Another option for further improving your second language skills is a language exchange (un intercambio).

During my ERASMUS year at the University of Murcia, I did two language exchanges with two local women. We would meet for a coffee (around an hour) and chat! We would spend half the hour chatting in English and half the hour chatting in Spanish. They would help me with my Spanish, pronunciation and fluency and vise-versa. We would chat about anything and everything, the important thing was to talk. To put our inhibitions aside and not worry about the mistakes we would make. The idea was to have an interesting conversation in a relaxed setting, and to both mutually benefit from said conversations! It was really easy to set these language exchanges up. The University of Murcia’s notice boards were full of people wanting to take part in languages exchanges. It is as simple as sending a WhatsApp, meeting in a public place and letting the conversation flow. I have even seen ‘intercambios’ being advertised on supermarket noticeboards, and in Vitoria I have seen similar adverts on the notice boards in the Community Centers (centro civicos), on applications such Wallapop and on local Facebook pages. There are always plenty of language students craving the opportunity to practice and develop their skills with native speakers.

Asides from private language exchanges, I know Vitoria like many other cities(pre-pandemic!) has English speaking events organized by different companies/ and organizations. There are English pub quizzes, Scottish dancing workshops, free-speaking evenings in bars organized by local academies. These all give students the chance to meet up and practice their English in fun, relaxed environments.

However, if meeting up with strangers does not appeal to you, don’t panic there are plenty of other options to practice your language skills. Personally, I’m not a gamer, but I have been informed you can play online games with people from English speaking countries. You just need to pop a headset on and start playing/ communicating with people playing alongside you from the comfort of your own home!

Another wonderful option for learning a foreign language is a language academy.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I work as an English teacher in UPtoU Vitoria. You do not need to be from Vitoria to attend our classes, as the academy also offers online classes. Students have the option of private or small group classes (group classes are always with students of the same level of English) with qualified native teachers. UPtoU uses the SYM (Speak Your Mind) method, which gives the students the opportunity to speak and practice their oral English skills in every lesson. The lessons last 50 minutes and they are fun, dynamic and an excellent way to practice and advance your language skills. 95% of the class is oral based, with a quick 5-minute activity (writing, reading, pronunciation…) to solidify what is being learnt in class. I wish I had had this type of Spanish class available to me in England, I envy our students and tremendously enjoy the classes I get to be a part of here. If you want to find out more about the academy, visit the website:  or give us a call!

Thanks for reading.

By Abigail Lewis