Does studying Spanish A level improve my conversational Spanish?

Does Studying A level Spanish improve my conversational Spanish? I was asked this question myself recently. Not knowing the answer myself, I asked Laura Lopez-Sheriff, one of Oxford Open Learning’s Spanish teaching team, to answer for me.  This is what she said:

“Studying A level Spanish most definitely will improve your conversational skills, for the following reasons:

The A level course is designed to make you study a number of highly intellectual topics and current affairs. This enables students to access a wide range of vocabulary in some of the most interesting issues, such as environment, immigration, abortion, politics , drugs and euthanasia to mention but a few. A level students are given the opportunity to express themselves with regards to controversial social issues. After studying GCSE and having been limited to basic language and a basic range of topics, A level students can express their views and opinions at adult level, and therefore fit in better when speaking Spanish. For once, what they say is not artificial but is relevant, real and purposeful, so they are taken more seriously by other speakers. Hence their confidence and fluency improves rather quickly.

The A level course also offers students the opportunity to learn various complex grammatical points which the GCSE course did not cover. A level students can, for the first time, translate from English into Spanish more freely. During their GCSE course they were restricted in what they could say and often had to opt for a similar phrase or something pre-learnt in order to avoid grammatical mistakes. The A level course enables students to play with the grammar and to manipulate the language, which is a very satisfying experience for speaker and listener alike.

Finally, the A level Spanish course demands from students a reasonable amount of research on topics of their choice. This research leads to the preparation needed for their speaking exam. Students first “learn to read in Spanish” (GCSE course) and eventually “read to learn Spanish” (A level course). Through regular reading students are constantly exposing themselves to new vocabulary. Once this vocabulary has been encountered by students on several occasions, it will be assimilated naturally and they will be able to use it confidently when speaking. After a period of time, students will not have to think about what they want to say and words and phrases will flow naturally during conversation.

All in all, the wide range of intellectual and up-to-date topics, the high level grammar, and the time invested in researching for the speaking exam on topics of interest, form the perfect recipe for acquiring the skills and tools needed to improve your conversational Spanish.”

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