When Tom and I first decided to head to South America, we knew that it was time to finally learn how to speak Spanish. It has always been something that both of us wanted to do but never had the chance to do before. Soon, we found ourselves in the coastal town of Olon Ecuador, right next to Montañita.
Unlike our previous travels where no matter where you were, a certain level of English was spoken. Here in Ecuador, you need to learn how to speak Spanish or else everything gets lost in translation. It was the push we needed, as all of a sudden our skills in charades weren’t good enough to get across what we needed. Thinking of learning Spanish while visiting Olon and Montañita? Here are some tips and tricks to get you speaking Spanish in no time.
Related: Things to do in Montañita that are better in Olon
Find Someone to Practice Spanish With
Since we settled into our flat in Olon, I spend most mornings speaking to the lady who works in the hostel. Initially, our Spanish conversations were quite limited, but the more we spoke, the more I learned. While making breakfast, I would endlessly ask her what things are called in Spanish while I translate it to her in English. Everytime she sees me, she now fondly calls herself Maestra Betty. As much as possible, Tom and I try to speak to people in Spanish-even if we know our grammar is incorrect or we’re saying things incorrectly. More often than not, the people in Olon are nice enough to correct us and are happy to help. Find someone, preferably someone who is fluent in the language and practice with them. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. You can practice speaking over a cup of coffee, heck even while you’re out in the sea catching waves.
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Find a Good Spanish School in Olon or Montañita – Take some Spanish Classes!
Despite being a lover of languages, I could never pick up a language just by immersing myself in the place. Within day 5 of Spanish lessons, things make more sense now. On our first few days here, we walked around looking for Spanish Schools in Montañita. After a few days we decided to check out Olon, which is where we stumbled upon Outdoor Ecuador. After our initial conversation with the owners, we knew we wanted to do our Spanish classes with them. Find a good school where you are comfortable learning in. The learning environment in Outdoor Ecuador was very relaxed, making the actual learning part easy to do. The brother and sister duo who own Outdoor Ecuador are absolutely lovely. Since we started Spanish lessons with them, we’ve also gone on surf trips, dinners, and nights out. Learning Spanish in class and practicing its usage outside the classroom has been invaluable to us. Find a Spanish school or a tutor, which you are comfortable with and keep practicing. As cliché as it sounds, practice makes perfect!
Speak to the Locals in Olon and Montañita
As in most places, speaking to the locals is probably one of the best ways on how to learn a language. While in Olon or even in Montañita, I walk around speaking to locals in my broken Spanish. I ask the price of things “Cuanto Cuesta, porfavor?” (I know I’m a showoff!), I ask where things are, I try to order in Spanish even if Tom and I don’t know certain words. Currently, I have regular conversations with my fruit and vegetable vendor, Manuel, the guy I buy seafood from, Eddie, and even the guy who we buy Rastapan pizzas from (we don’t really know his name!). In our first week here, I had so much trouble looking for phone credit because no one could understand what I meant. But, because someone taught us the words for it, we now can ask for it with ease.
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Write Down Spanish Words
Even if you’re not the type of person who likes writing things, trust me, take down notes! Tom and I have a Spanish notebook which we use all the time in class. We use this to note down important vocabulary words, useful phrases, and since we started our Spanish classes with Outdoor Ecuador, we’ve started using them to write down Spanish grammatical rules. Not only is writing Spanish down a great way to remember things, it also helps you visualize and learn at a quicker pace. Since we are serious on learning Spanish in Olon, we’ve even borrowed some flash cards and have been using them to help us learn new words. Check out a free online tool called Anki, which works like an online flashcard generator. It flashes you a word and when you press answer, it shows you the translation. Ingenious!
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Practice, Practice, Practice!
Tom and I had agreed that by week 2 of our Spanish classes in Olon, no matter what level we got too, we would try to speak to each other in Spanish. By giving yourself “no option” but to speak the language, you are forced to learn new words and deepen your vocabulary. Currently, Tom and I try to practice Spanish with each other over breakfast. Although I sound like a complete dweeb introducing myself to my boyfriend, I know that practicing is the only way to get us fluent.
Other tips include watching movies in Spanish (children’s shows work best), reading books, or reading the local paper. Make it a goal to learn the first 100 high frequency words in the language and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can understand and speak.
Other Relevant Ecuador Articles
- Galapagos Liveaboard Reviews
- Top Things to Do in Banos
- Fun Things to Do in Quito
- Surfing in Olon Review
- Exploring the Poor Mans Galapagos Review
20 thoughts on “Tips on How to Learn Spanish in Olon and Montañita, Ecuador”
Great tips, learning a language is truly a journey, but a super exciting one!
I am using Duolingo to work on my Spanish. I improved so much when I was in Colombia and feel like I have lost a lot since I left.
Excellent tips guys and well done for throwing yourself in there and giving it your best shot! I think that’s the most important thing – just not worrying about looking like an idiot – you gotta try to succeed 🙂
Definitely the way to go!
Bravo for all the hard work you’re putting in. Language learning is not an easy task. I love DuoLingo App to practice languages. I work at a French school and even when I don’t know the words to say, immersing yourself in the environment does wonders for your ear.
We also started using Eurotalk which is another app based learning program that’s great.
I spent 2 years in high school in a small town in New Mexico where the population is compromised of Spanish speaking residents. My Spanish was getting a lot better, but after moving away, I kind of lost most of my Spanish! Now all I have is my DuoLingo!
I know the feeling! I spend almost a month in Spain and thought I was making a good dent in the language but feel like i’m back to square 1 after leaving.
Can totally relate with your post. Was in South America as well with no knowledge of the language, and a combination of tutors, practice and duolingo helped. The key is practice as you noted. Like the school you found…glad all is working out for the both you as you encourage and support each other!
Awesome! Been following your food tales around South America @claireandrosemary:disqus
That’s great…looking forward to keeping up with your travels 🙂
Kudos to you for taking time to learn Spanish! It’s gonna be handy as you continue your travels around South America. 🙂
I agree that speaking with the locals and learning from them is a great way to learn. My problem is once I leave a country for awhile I forget most of the language.
I would love to learn Spanish. I’m trying to re-learn French right now and Spanish is next on my list. It’s so much harder to learn as an adult. Kudos to you!
Learning a language is not easy. As others have said, practice does make perfect and you shared some great tips here!
I love your language learning tips. I also have a difficult time learning languages. You’re absolutely right that practice makes perfect. I haven’t tried writing things down but that sounds like a great idea. Thanks!
Great tips! It’s a goal of mine to backpack South America and learn Spanish. Like you, I found that traveling Ecuador without speaking the language was especially difficult.
Yes! We were in for a shock when we arrived in Ecuador late at night. No one could understand us! haha
Great tips and I kick myself for not learning Spanish long ago. Friends tell me that watching Telemundo Soap Operas will help me too!
We will be sure to buy some dvds and cartoons to help us!