Spanish is the mother tongue of over 440 million people around the world, making it the second most spoken language by the number of native speakers. It is partially for this reason that the Spanish language holds an important place in school systems across the world.
Learning Spanish opens the door to the 20 countries where it is an official language, and therefore anyone who can say that they have language skills in Spanish will be enhancing their CV considerably.
The majority of these 20 countries are in Latin America. The history of the Spanish language has been highly shaped by Spanish explorers in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Navigators such as Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus sailed on behalf of the Spanish crown, spreading the Spanish language in the process.
Studying Spanish, therefore, can open your horizons to new cultures, as well as a fascinating history.
You can learn Spanish at a local language school, study it online, or you could even learn Spanish with a tutor. However, if the idea of studying the language of Cervantes in your free time doesn't necessarily appeal to you, you can take advantage of its widespread nature in national education systems across the world.
In the USA, for example, you'll need to pass Spanish high school tests in order to study it at university. Such tests will examine your ability in the four key disciplines of language learning; reading, writing, speaking, listening.
Obviously you'll want to do as well as possible in these tests, but being in a foreign language can sometimes make the preparation a little bit tricky. So how should you go about preparing for a high school test in Spanish?
SAT Spanish Test
Studying Spanish in the national curriculum will be fun where ever you are in the world. You will learn about Spanish culture and history, as well as the culture and history of Latin America.
All students looking to enter university must sit the SATs. But you can also opt to take additional subject tests, in everything from Sciences to English. This includes Spanish! It is a great way to highlight your knowledge of Spanish and demonstrate your interest in the Spanish language during the college admission process. It may also give you a head start in college by allowing you to fulfil basic language competency requirements or skip introductory-level Spanish courses.
The test consists of 85 multiple choice questions in one hour. To pass, you will need about two years of solid Spanish preparation, with an emphasis of the target areas of vocabulary and sentence structure, reading comprehension, and paragraph completion.
According to the College Board website, the skills you’ll need to do well on the Spanish test include:
- Knowledge of words representing different parts of speech and some basic idioms within culturally appropriate contexts.
- Ability to select an appropriate word or expression that is grammatically correct within a sentence. This includes both Spanish vocabulary and structure questions.
- Understanding of such points as the main and supporting ideas, themes, style, tone, and the spatial and temporal settings of a passage. These selections are drawn from prose fiction, historical works, newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, flyers and letters.
Remember that this test is comprised of only reading. But there is also the Spanish with Listening test given in the month of November. Here there is a listening portion, where you listen in Spanish and answer multiple-choice questions. While students tend to feel more anxious about this part, they actually tend to do better than on the other aspects.
How to Learn Spanish Via the AP Spanish Language and Culture Program
Just like all subjects, from European History to Fine Arts, Spanish and other languages are part of the national AP (Advanced Placement) Program. AP enables students to pursue college-level studies while in high school, each course ending with a rigorous exam. This means that you won’t have to take those credits in college if you opt for that path.
The AP course in Spanish Language and Culture takes a holistic approach to language proficiency, and prioritizes comprehension, comprehensibility, vocabulary, communications and cultural awareness together. The six groups of learning objects are defined as such:
- Spoken Interpersonal Communication
- Written Interpersonal Communication
- Audio, Visual, and Audiovisual Interpretative Communication
- Written and Print Interpretative Communication
- Spoken Presentational Communication
- Written Presentational Communication
The College Board defines these communication modes as such:
“The Interpersonal Mode is characterized by active negotiation of meaning among individuals. Participants observe and monitor one another to see how their meanings and intentions are being communicated.”
“The Interpretive Mode is characterized by the appropriate cultural interpretation of meanings that occur in written and spoken form where there is no recourse to the active negotiation of meaning with the writer or speaker.”
“The Presentational Mode is characterized by the creation of messages in a manner that facilitates interpretation by members of the target culture where no direct opportunity for the active negotiation of meaning exists.”
The exam is composed of two different parts, each worth 50%. In the first part, you will have to answer 65 multiple choice questions in 1 hour 35 minutes. The second part lasts for 1 hour and 30 minutes and involves responding to a series of written tasks (interpersonal writing and a persuasive essay), followed by two speaking exercises.
These tests are challenging, and you’ll need more than a free Spanish course on YouTube or a Spanish online tutorial to do well. Consider hiring a Spanish tutor who can help you prepare thoroughly for the test. Choosing a Spanish teacher is an important step as you'll need someone perfectly suited to you, and who can help you advance at the speed that you would like. So think carefully before committing to any one tutor.
How to Revise for Spanish: Other Language Testing Options
In addition to national standardized tests, each state has it’s own testing system, such as the Spanish Second Language Proficiency Exams on the New York Regents. This also calls for a proficiency in Spanish grammar and Spanish speaking.
But if you want to leave the national education system completely, there are tests such as the National Spanish Examinations. According to the website, these online, standardized tests for Grades 6-12 are a motivational contest to recognize student achievement in the study of Spanish and to stimulate further interest in the teaching and learning of Spanish.
Administered by about 4000 teachers across the USA to measure performance (interpretive communication) and achievements for students who study Spanish as a second language. It is also used to assess the national standard and stimulate further interest in teaching and learning Spanish.
In the Spring 2017, a total of 162,321 students registered, making it the most widely used Spanish test in the US. Many teachers use these examinations to prepare their students to take other standardised tests such as AP Spanish and the SAT II. It is also widely recognised by teaching associations, including the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and it was placed on the NASSP National Advisory List of Contests and Activities for 2016-17.
So this is a good option for students who wish to learn to speak Spanish for professional goals. However, as it is found outside of the national education system, you will need probably need a tutor to help you prepare. Remember to prepare for your Spanish lessons as you need to use the class time to advance your knowledge, and not recap what you have done in previous weeks. The assimilation of this information should be done in between lessons.
There are also some options for Bilingual Students, including the Avant Spanish Heritage Languge (SHL) Test for Grades 7-Adult. This online exam places intermediate level and advanced Spanish heritage speakers. According to the website, it highlights each test takers’ strengths and weaknesses in key academic language areas that are unique to Spanish heritage speakers. This includes vocabulary, grammar, Spanish verbs, spelling, spoken Spanish, and writing proficiency in Spanish.
The Best Way to Learn Spanish: Study Abroad
Outside of the National Education system, there are other options for language learning certification. You may even be able to take an online Spanish course to prepare. If this isn't for you, then why not consider going abroad?
The Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE) is a degree of qualification in Spanish language granted by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain. The exams are organized by the Instituto Cervantes and Universidad de Salamanca, and preparatory Spanish courses are given in schools in Spain in Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Salamanca, Tenerif, Valencia, and Alicante.
According to the website the DELE is divided into six levels:
- Level A1 (Breakthrough): Basic communication relating to everyday situations or immediate needs.
- Level A2 (Waystage) certifies that the candidate can understand commonly used, everyday phrases and expressions related to areas of experience especially relevant to them (basic information about themselves, and their families, shopping, places of interest, work, etc.).
- Level B1 (Threshold) certifies candidates’ capacity to understand the gist of clear texts, in standard language, if they involve well-known topics related to work, studies or leisure. It also certifies students’ ability to deal with most situations that occur while travelling in areas where Spanish is spoken; to produce simple and coherent texts about familiar topics, or topics of personal interest; and lastly to be able to describe experiences, events, wishes and hopes, as well as to be able to briefly express opinions or explain plans.
- Level B2 (Vantage). Communicating with native speakers is important here. In doing so, the candidate will need to show a good level of fluency in order to have a natural conversation. Candidates should be able to produce clear and detailed texts about a range of different subjects, as well as give and back up their opinions about such topics whilst simultaneously assessing the pros and cons of the various arguments. Understanding complex texts about abstract topics or technical texts from within the candidate's areas of expertise is also important.
- Level C1 (Effective Operational Proficiency) certifies sufficient linguistic competence to understand a wide variety of lengthy, and somewhat demanding texts, as well as to grasp the meaning in the same; to express themselves fluently and spontaneously without apparent effort to find the right words; to be able to use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes; and finally, to be able to produce clear, well-structured and detailed texts about topics of some complexity, correctly using mechanisms of organisation, articulation and cohesion in the text.
- Level C2 (Mastery) certifies sufficient linguistic competence to communicate effectively in any situation, providing ability to spontaneously adapt to any context, with a high degree of precision. The language users show subtle control of nuances which allow for fluent and natural expression in all interactions.
Total immersion is a fantastic way to learn Spanish fast. Of course, the downside is the fees – travel to Spain and lodging among other costs means that you will have to have a budget to study Spanish abroad. You can take a DELE exam in your own country too. You'll need a private tutor, but make sure you research the cost of Spanish lessons before committing.
Revise Spanish for the Spanish Final Exam in High School
Each class is different of course, but they focus on the same main topics and subjects, including written and spoken comprehension and written and spoken expression. For this, you’ll need to revise the fundamentals in grammar (Spanish verbs, conjugation, tenses, adjectives, etc.), Spanish phrases, vocabulary by themes and conversational Spanish. Flashcards are a great method for the Spanish learner to review a variety of different topics and subjects.
Most Spanish classes last several hours each week, but it can be difficult for teachers to give each student personalised help. A Spanish tutor or private instructor can be very helpful to see what each student can do to improve his or her level in a new language, correct shortcomings, and preparing for exams in class.
Extra language training can be especially useful for conversation-focused lessons to do well at the oral sections of exams. It might be a good idea to learn how to speak Spanish with a native speaker, who can improve your Spanish conversation skills by teaching new Spanish words and phrases.
Why not start your search with Superprof, which employs Spanish teachers and tutors with a wide array of educational backgrounds and degrees to assist you with your Spanish learning?
And of course there is always the option to learn Spanish with free lessons on the Internet. Although not as effective a method as a personalised, face-to-face lesson, there are some options to learn Spanish online that will complement your other training. But be careful, some free Spanish lessons advertised online are only gimmicks.
Tips for Doing Well on the Exams
Whether you are preparing for a national standardised test or your final exam in sophomore Spanish or some pop quizzes, it is key that you are relaxed and not stressed. But a small adrenaline rush can help give you a boost at the time of the exam.
Still, you’ll need to find a way to deal with your angst and not be a slave to stress. There are several options, including deep breathing, food supplements or homeopathic remedies.
You should feel less stressed if you have prepared regularly throughout the year and are not cramming at the last minute. Ideally, three hours per week is ideal, and more during school breaks. A Spanish tutor can also help you structure your time and study sessions to be as efficient a learner as you can be!
Who knows what great things await you if you can learn a new language and speak Spanish?