When I first visited Mexico last year, my Spanish skills were close to zero. My vocabulary was limited to the bare basics; ‘Si’ (yes) and ‘gracias’ (thank you), which I knew weren’t going to get me very far. During my visits to Playa del Carmen over the last year, my Spanish has certainly improved, and while I’m certainly not fluent, I am picking up more and more every day thanks to the following three methods:

1. Spanish School!

Going back to school may not be everyone’s idea of an ideal vacation, but if you are really serious about getting a solid grounding in the language, then this is a sure-fire way to get started. Last year I decided to attend a local Spanish school for a week to learn the basics. Whilst I did feel in over my head at times (even though it was a beginner course!), it definitely gave me a good start in learning the language.

Spanish books

There are quite a few Spanish schools to choose from in Playa del Carmen, and all of them offer beginner courses. Playa Lingua and Solexico are two with good reputations. How much time you spend in class each day is up to you, and there are full or part-time courses to suit your schedule. I decided to go for the course which offered four hours of tuition per day because I still wanted some beach time in the afternoon. I found this a good balance between learning and relaxation time.

2. A Computer or Online Course

Computer courses are a popular way to learn any language and there are some good systems available. Rosetta Stone is a famous program with a solid reputation, and the best thing is that it’s a one-off purchase, allowing for self-paced learning. Of course, this also can be a negative, if, like me, you lack the necessary discipline to log on every day and practice! But for those who are dedicated, it is a great way to learn. Most programs will use a combination of listening, visual and written exercises to get your brain working and learning new words and phrases.

There are also some really great free online courses available, and the best one I have found is Duolingo. Completely free and available as an app for your smartphone, Duolingo is easy to use, highly interactive, and tracks your progress as you learn. It’s actually quite addictive, and I found myself on level six the first night I used it.

Spanish course

3. Eating at Local Restaurants

Eating at local restaurants around Playa del Carmen is a fantastic way to learn the lingo. Reading the menu and ordering in Spanish are great ways to improve your vocab and speaking skills. It may be daunting at first, but pretty soon you will get the hang of it and be ordering your favorite dishes like a native speaker.

Menu in Spanish

Of course the up-side to this method is trying all the delicious Mexican cuisine Playa del Carmen has to offer, which is not a bad way to spend your time!

Mexican food

Learning Spanish doesn’t have have to be dull and boring. As you can see, there are many different ways of picking up the basics, while having some fun as you go.

Buena suerte! (Good luck!)