If you’ve ever played a sport, you’ll recall your coaches emphasizing the dreaded warm-up. As an athlete myself, I come across many players who rely too much on their youth and agility before getting on the field. Sure, sometimes they still crush the competition and make it look easy. But that’s the illusion that I’m here to set straight. Your brain is a muscle, warm it up before you hurt yourself. Over time you’ll learn to love the warm up because you’ll see how much better you can perform with less obstruction. I know I do.
So what exactly does that mean? We’re not sitting around massaging our brains, stretching them out and doing the mental version of high knees. If we’re talking about language warm ups, there are a few ways we can get the brain moving and grooving for the playing field. All day long our inner dialogue is speaking to us, whether we’re aware of that or not. “I’m hungry” “What’s that?” “I wonder what she’s up to these days” and so on. Without effort, these phrases naturally pass through our mental landscape in our native language. When it comes to changing that into Spanish, or any language for that matter, one of the most important aspects is immersion. Find a way to be listening to Spanish in the background even if you don’t know what’s being said. The sounds, style, and cadence of the language will start to occupy the backdrop to your inner dialogue without even realizing it. This isn’t to say that suddenly you’ll be thinking “tengo hambre y espero que haya arroz y pollo en la casa” when you’re hungry. However, it will make bridging the gap between converting into Spanish from English much easier. If your external soundscape is Spanish, it will make it much easier to convert your internal soundscape into Spanish. Spanish talk radio is a great start. They speak quickly but animated. You can always throw on a Spanish telenovela in the background of your day. Or maybe find a podcast with one to two speakers on a topic that interests you. Again, it doesn’t matter if you understand what’s being said. The important part is that you’re starting to immerse yourself in the aspects of the language.
How else do we warm up the Spanish brain? After your listening muscles are nice and warm, begin to activate your reading muscles. Maybe you get a daily Spanish newsletter to your inbox. Maybe you have a book written in Spanish. Incorporate it into your routine to simply read to yourself for 5-10 minutes. Here, you are in fact learning to articulate the language itself, taking it a step further than a subconscious background environment. It’s not necessary to read aloud, although you’re welcome to at any point. The goal is to begin to transfer the sounds you were hearing into sounds you’re now producing, even if just internally.
At this point in my career, I can easily and naturally switch between languages. However, I still do my warm-ups to optimize that muscle. Just like running, jumping, throwing, diving, this was a skill I had to learn. If I go too long without practice and try to hop right back into the game, I risk making a fool of myself and tearing a hammy during a routine play. Curious on more tips for warming up your language brain? Connect with me at Ibis Prep and I’ll coach you through it.
Options for Spanish Warm-Ups:
Listen to talk radio
Listen to a podcast with 1-2 speakers
Listen to a Ted Talk
Read a daily newsletter or newspaper
Read a few pages of a book