Where are good places to go to practice Spanish in public in the US?

I am blessed to live in a city that has access to a significant hispanic population of which many speak Spanish. So far I have had some good success talking to cab/uber/lyft drivers who a large number can speak Spanish. This usually works well for the ride as it is a relaxed setting with little outside distraction sand the majority of the drivers enjoy talking in Spanish eventhough the conversations tend to be very similar. I’d imagine the same could also work with striking up a conversation on a bus, train or an airplane.

I have also tried conversations in restaurants, panaderías, and taquerías but these conversations are always pressed for time as the clerk is pushing through the transaction even when I go in down times to these places. The clerks seem to have some trouble downshifting into these small talk conversations and also some of this is due to limitations in my speaking but really it is a much more intense situation than the cab/uber/lyft rides. I don’t mind it though in some respects because it forces me to be more ready in a way and expand my comfort zone. In other words, I feel like I have to have a kind of script more for these encounters.

My question is what other places would you suggest I try to practice Spanish in to get this kind of real world experience?

I would recommend that you stop thinking about specific places, and rather simply keep your ears open for people speaking Spanish. It sounds like you live in an area with a lot of native speakers, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Even if you can’t speak very well, a lot of immigrants in the US would love to be spoken to in their native language by an American. Many of them only speak Spanish with friends and family. As such, I would just recommend you go into full-on introvert mode and strike up conversations on the bus, in the waiting room, waiting in line at the grocery store, wherever you hear people speaking Spanish.

Having said that, here are some ideas:

-Restaurants/other food establishments: these don’t necessarily have to be Mexican restaurants or Taco stands, etc. There are often times large numbers of Spanish-speakers working in fast-food chain restaurants. You probably won’t find someone with whom to discuss life’s biggest questions at McDonalds, but you can practice ordering food and asking basic questions (over, and over and over again, which will prove very beneficial in the long run).
-Consider involving yourself in some sort of religious organization/place of worship frequented by Spanish speakers. A lot of cities in the US have at least one Catholic church whose congregation is mostly Spanish-speaking. This will give you the opportunity to be apart of a community “in” your target language, and to meet new friends who speak the language. With time, you may develop friendships with some of these people. Developing a relationship in another language is always a good way to learn a lot, I have found (think of Luca Lampariello’s “macro” vs “micro” -environment ideas).
-Hair/nail salons and barber shops: often times, in the Latino areas of cities in the USA you can quite easily find barber shops or beauty salons patronized mostly by Spanish-speaking Latinos. Go to these places. A great place to practice and meet native speakers.
-Meet up groups: this isn’t really a “public place,” but still a good suggestion. You can find Spanish meet-up groups online in a lot of US cities. These groups may be made up of some native speakers, but mostly other learners. It has its pros and cons, but will definitely give you the chance to speak with other people who want to speak Spanish with you.

Good luck.

Whatever you do, just be safe.

There is also a pretty big latino/hispanic population where I live in the U.S. Apart from the tienditas, taxis, restaurantes, panaderías, charcuterías, etc., I have found finding local community hosted by latinos/hispanics such as church (went once even though I’m not very religious, and had a blast talking to people), block parties (sometimes you can find these on Facebook if you happen to have a hispanic friend), Latino Heritage days, Latino Cultural Days, Hispanic Awareness, etc. A lot of times you may even find a Spanish club or Spanish speaking group around your town. I recommend searching your town on Google with hotwords involving; hispanic, latino, community, events, organizations, etc.

This may not really be what your searching, but finding a partner on Italki who shares relevant interests that you could talk to for 30ish minutes a few times a week could help (although might cost money).

¡Que tengas suerte amigo y estoy seguro de que vas a encontrar algo pronto!

1 Like

Gracias. I had forgotten about the Latino Cultural Day events. Those sound like a good idea. And I will think over those other ideas you mentioned. As for italki, I already talk to a couple teachers on it use a language exchange as well. Here, I am looking for more real life, everyday experiences to broaden my learning and get different reference points.