I have recently just spent 5 days in Madrid as I had holiday to take from work and thought it would be fun to see as to how much Spanish I could speak/understand and that if living in the country would help my Spanish. ultimately it did not, reason for this is that.
I was on holiday I was not surrounded by Spanish people I was surrounded by Europeans people that had come from wherever just because they was on holiday too and a lot of them didn’t speak Spanish. ( I was staying in a hostel not a hotel )
Just because I could speak Spanish it did not mean that everyone else wanted to also. I found that a lot of Spanish people want to practise there English with me.
in the environment I was in yes from time to time I did hear people speak Spanish but it would not be no where near enough to improve my passive listening comprehension. for example just walking past a couple for 5 seconds in the street and overhearing what they was saying is not enough.
I don’t have Spanish friends in Madrid or family these are the kinds of people I could spent a lot of time with during the day to of course practise my Spanish with and learn from.
ultimately I could think of a lot more reasons as to why going over to a country for a few days is not going to improve your language ability unless you have much different situation than what I did.
for example - work - friends - family - hobbies
I think I would of have been much better off staying in England and just doing my normal actives I would normal do when off work just completely in Spanish which is what I am doing now.
watching tv and reading for all hours of the day.
it just goes to show that you do not need to live in the country to learn the language in this day in age.
oh and 1 final thing the only which I think you could learn a language while living in the country is actively learning it yourself and making friends in the country perhaps even taking lessons and even getting a job and of course changing everything you do to Spanish.
Just moving to a country does next to nothing to help you learn the language.
The key word here is “immersion!” Steve has talked about it in his videos. Benny “The English Polyglot” explains it even better:
On the other hand, breaking the “wall” and really talking to natives is not difficult at all but it does take some commitment. You don’t have to go as far as Benny.
In a case similar to yours (that is, someone with a reasonable level in the language who spends a short vacation in the country) is this:
Find some social activity you like or are interested in (other than language learning) and sign up for it in the country. It can be anything: some sport, dance classes, a club of some kind. Do avoid tourist bubbles as much as you can.
I take part in several here in my home country and there are always some foreigners. I can guarantee you that everything is in Spanish and the foreigners get to practice the d**ed language! And you make native friends along the way, with whom you can hang out so they provide even more practice.
If you just go the tourist way you’re guaranteed not to speak a single word
Ah yes, the they-all-speak-English thing! There’s only one known answer to this problem: pretend to be from somewhere damned obscure…I dunno…some fictitious border region of Bulgaria, or something. Pretend your English is very bad! It’s the only way!
Cultivate a hard-to-place accent. If asked where you are from, tell ‘em from a village at the foothills of the Smirtskoold, or some other shamlessly invented BS.
Pretend to be very keen to speak English with them, but do it worse than Borat! Deliberately misunderstand things said to you in English! If they ask you whether you want a bag in a shop, say “ehy no, velli nice, but I uh…payye not vit card of credit, yes yes.” Pretend to search in your mind for English words, but then repeat the Spanish word saying: “ah, ow izzit say in ze English?”
You need some Donald-balls to pull it off - but if you can the chances are much better that they’ll give you a break in Spanish.
(Of course they might just shun you - but that’s still better than being English-bombed for your entire vacation, I guess.)
I met a Scottish dude when I was living in Germany who spoke English with a Glaswegian accent so strong that even I only got about 75% of what he was saying. I personally witnessed more than one German person who started engaging him in English and then voluntarily switched back to German!
I was also in Madrid a couple of days ago for a few days and I spoke entirely in Spanish when interacting with native speakers. The language is everywhere. On public transport, street signs, TV, in the hotels, people everywhere are speaking it. People nearly always respond in their native language if you speak it to them. I’ve never had an experience where someone insisted on speaking English.