Honing your Spanish skills in Barcelona
Barcelona is a thriving metropolis and Spain’s second largest city. Millions of visitors flock to the city every year enjoy its sunny weather, architectural attractions and vibrant nightlife. But Barcelona holds another great advantage if you happen to be interested in languages. Despite being the capital of Catalonia, a region with its own language and heritage, Barcelona is nonetheless an excellent place to pick up and practise Spanish.
The most important tip is to begin as you mean to go on. As a visitor, people will often assume that you don’t know any Spanish, so make a special effort to speak the language right from the beginning: at the airport, to the taxi driver and when checking into your hotel or holiday apartment rental.
To market, to market
Going to an outdoor market to buy fresh produce is an integral part of the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. As a visitor, heading to one of these colourful places is not only a great cultural experience; it also provides the chance to practise some essential vocabulary. Take the bull by the horns and address the stall-holders in Spanish. Try not to point; instead express what you want to order verbally. Start simple: Un kilo de manzanas rojas, for example.
Where? Try the Mercat de la Boquería, a varied and lively market just off La Rambla.
If you’ve had any Spanish lessons, it’s likely that one of the earliest topics you came across was how to talk to a shop assistant. And as a visitor to Barcelona, the chances are you’ll want to buy a few souvenirs, or recuerdos, as the Spanish call them. But a word of warning: to truly hone your language skills avoid the many gift shops aimed at tourists, where the assistants will probably speak to you in English. Instead, go off the beaten track to find nicer gifts and more chances to practise your Spanish.
Where? Head to Passeig de Grácia for upmarket luxury, Barri Gótic for high street shopping, and El Born for unique boutiques and vintage goods.
Don’t forget to eat
A day of shopping and sightseeing can be pretty hard work. No doubt you’ll be starving after your efforts. So what better way to recover than to treat yourself to a meal in one of Barcelona’s brilliant eateries? As always, steer away from anywhere on the beaten tourist track; restaurants on busy streets with signs in English generally serve up mediocre food, inflated prices and little opportunity to speak Spanish. Instead, explore side streets and get talking to locals, who will give you inside tips on where to get a meal worth eating.
Where? Paella by the sea is always a great option – venture away from the touristy Barceloneta beach and you’ll find more authentic local eateries on beaches like the Nova Icária.
Go back to school
If you have the opportunity to spend a few weeks or more in Barcelona, why not enrol on a Spanish language course? The city has many language schools, as well as the universities, where you can sign up for a series of classes. As any language student knows, you can’t beat learning from a native speaker.
Where? Before you make the trip, head to the biggest resource available – the Internet – to find classes and compare prices so that you arrive ready to begin. ¡Buena suerte!
Photos: Mercat de la Boquería by Atli Harðarson / Paella by the sea by admiretime