Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Maintaining - and improving - your language skills

“Strive to master the language throughout your mission and after you return. The Lord has invested much in you, and He may have uses for your language abilities later in your life.” (Preach My Gospel, p. 128)
One of the challenges each of us has (who is not a native Spanish speaker) is to maintain – and improve – our Spanish language skills after the mission. Here are a few resources that I have found helpful. I hope you will add your own suggestions in the comments section.
1.              Reading El Libro de Mormón outloud. I try to read a chapter every night before going to bed. As I have little opportunity to speak Spanish during the day, this reading keeps my mouth muscles in shape and just gives me a few very valuable minutes of speaking continuous Spanish. And I always learn something useful and am edified by what I read!
2.              Listening to Spanish language podcasts. When I run, I usually listen to at least two tracks in Spanish. One is always a chapter of El Libro de Mormón (download from and the other is usually a track from Notes in Spanish – Gold. This is a great podcast series by Ben Curtis (from England) and Marina Diez (from Madrid). They are married and live in Madrid (so they speak properly), and do a lively series of podcasts, including beginner, intermediate, advanced, and gold. Both the advanced and gold series are great. Each podcast runs about 10 minutes, except the gold series, which run about 20 minutes each but include some discussion on vocabulary and phrases used in the conversation. You can find them in the iTunes store (podcasts are free – you can pay for worksheets).
3.              Watching RTVE. I was introduced to “Telediario en 4 Minutos” at the MTC. It is a rapid-fire 4-minute news broadcast, updated several times a day, broadcast by TVE1 in Madrid. Some of the broadcasters speak at warp speed and the vocabulary is well beyond the typical missionary vocabulary. Great practice in listening to native speakers! You can find the webcasts by searching for RTVE.
4.              Praying in Spanish. While I don’t recommend this for all your prayers, praying regularly in Spanish is very rewarding. At home, Hna. Hinckley and I always say the blessing on the food in Spanish and occasionally have our family prayers in Spanish. Our grandchildren always insist on Spanish prayers when we are with them!
5.              Finding opportunities to speak. We had some remodeling done recently which gave me ample opportunities to speak in Spanish - at least half of the sub-contractors were from Mexico! I know what you’re thinking – you hated it when Spaniards talked to you in English, but they just wanted to practice their English. Now the tables are turned. The fact is, conversation time is essential to keeping up your language skills.
These are just a few things I have found helpful. What works for you? Share your suggestions and successes in the comments section. And if you developed some skills in Catalan, what are you doing to maintain and improve those skills?
I can testify of the truthfulness of the quote from Preach My Gospel above. I learned Spanish as a young missionary in Argentina. Although I worked to keep up my language skills, I wish I had worked harder and more consistently! Many years after returning home I had the opportunity to speak in some large Church gatherings in Mexico, as well as at the dedications of the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple and the Madrid Temple. And late in life I found myself back in Spain speaking Spanish every day! Both you and the Lord have already invested a great deal of time and effort in developing your language skills. You will opportunities to use them throughout your life.
¡Un abrazo fuerte!


  1. I still study the Scriptures in Spanish but I also translate the Sacrament meeting talks into Spanish via headsets every Sunday and I speak with the Hispanics at work and translate for them. I also joined the college Spanish club.

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  3. I am in the leadership for a service organization at BYU called Spanish Interpreters. We Interpret for non-English speaking people at parent teacher conferences, surgical centers, dentists offices and a bunch of other places.

  4. Thanks President! I subscribed to the Notes in Spanish podcast and I'm loving it. Another thing I have just started is reading novels in Spanish. I think any exposure to good Spanish will help us to be better readers, writers, and speakers.