Learning Spanish doesn't have to hard nor complicated.
Most of us who strive to learn a new skill take the traditional path too often. The reality is, doing what everyone else is doing only results in average results. When it comes to learning Spanish or any other language, average means giving up a few months in without much results.
The key is model those who have achieved extraordinary results and figure out what they've done. With that said, we've gathered tips for learning Spanish from top expert polyglots and teachers to share with you today.
12 Tips For Learning Spanish in 12 Months
Before we reveal these Spanish learning tips, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:
a. Focus on a few tips at a time - While we have 12 awesome tactics to share with you, we suggest that you only focus on what you feel will be most important for you first. Once you've put these into action, you can revisit the article for the rest.
b. Put these Spanish tips into action immediately - Next is to take action right way. Given how much information we're putting out, it's more effective to do versus learn more.
c. Keep it fun and light - You'll remember more when you're having fun. If you take your learning too seriously, you'll only stress yourself out in the long run. Keep it light and engaging.
1. Start speaking immediately
This is the golden rule for learning any new language. By speaking the language as soon as possible, you're putting yourself in an immersive (and uncomfortable) situation. As research shows, we also learn much faster when we're immediately using what we've learned. It's no different than watching a video on how to shoot a basketball and shooting a few shots right after.
How to start: The easiest place to start speaking is to do it on your own. When you're in your room, or driving in your car, practice by repeating Spanish words or phrases outloud to yourself (or your pet). We know, it may sound ridiculous at first but it's the easiest path to Spanish immersion, and you can do it immediately.
2. Focus on the most common Spanish words
When you first start learning Spanish, it's best to focus on the most common use cases. Unless you have photographic memory, it's nearly impossible to learn all the possible words out there. The reality is, we use the same common words over and over again. For example, in this article written in English, we've used words like 'in', 'the', 'when' many times, but words like 'pineapple', 'idiosyncratic' never came up.
How to start: We recommend starting with our most common Spanish words guide, where we share the top 100 most used words.
3. Be very clear on why you're learning Spanish
A common mistake we see when someone sets out to learn a new language is lack of clarity. There's no specificity on what benefits you'll get by speaking Spanish. Will you build a better relationship with your family or partner? Or is there a job opportunity or advancement that can accelerate when you speak Spanish? Whatever the reason may be, be super clear on them.
For example, a bad goal would be: "I want to learn Spanish soon."
Where as a powerful goal would be: "I want to have a fluent conversation for 30 minutes by July 30 of this year"
Notice how the latter, more powerful goal had an exact outcome and a deadline?
How to start: Write down (preferably on paper) why you're learning Spanish, when you want to learn by (exact date), and what you'll do to achieve your goal.
4. Use downtime to learn on-the-go
Chances are, throughout your day, you'll have extra down time that you're not fully maximizing. It could be when you're commuting on the bus or car, waiting for your laundry, or even taking a walk. This is time that you can be utilizing to learn Spanish. We would highly recommend learning via audio through a podcast or an audio course, as this would give you the flexibility
How to start: Check out our list of Spanish podcasts that we've curated for you. Pick a few you like, and download a podcast app to your phone, such as Stitcher, Google Podcast, Spotify, or Apple Podcast.
5. Watch to engage
As we explained in tip #1, you don't want to just watch Netflix movies or TV shows in Spanish. The ideal way to learn is to truly immerse yourself. Step one would be to prioritize using Spanish audio or watching Spanish native content. More importantly, step two is to repeat what the actors or actresses are saying on the screen.
How to start: Pick from our recommended list of Spanish movies and TV shows, then start imitating outloud what the characters are saying. Hopefully you won't be at a public movie theatre for this
6. Retain more information using mnemonics (or digital flashcards)
Having trouble when it comes to remembering a large list of words or phrases? You're not alone. This is where mnemonics and digital flashcards come in. With tools like Memrise, you can take advantage of previous templates created by others such as Spanish
7. Don't worry about the details
Too often, we get locked into perfectionist mode. It is easier said than done, but the trick to fast learning is to ignore the details at first. As unconventional as that sounds, ignoring the minor details allows us to focus on the major full picture. This is why we recommended that you only learn the most common words first, and why you should ignore minor details like perfecting your pronunciation.
How to start: In fact, a tangible goal worth pursuing is to have a 30 minute fluent conversation with a native speaker. That is, without needing to look up words in the Spanish dictionary, or asking for help. This goal would allow you to focus on what matters, which is learning useful words, phrases, and questions that allow you to keep a conversation going.
Note: This advice is primarily for those Spanish learners who are seeking to learn conversational Spanish. If you're learning Spanish to pass a specific exam, then you may want to optimize your lessons for that purpose.
8. Meet fellow language lovers by attending meetups
One of the most cherishing experiences you'll go through during your journey is meeting fellow language learners. Especially when they're learning the same language as you. There's a special connection you have immediately, because you both have a mutual understanding of the pain, rewards, and value you can add to one another.
Building relationships with fellow Spanish learners will also give you the extra motivation and courage you need. As the saying goes, 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together'
9. Learn 'borrowed words' (also known as cognates)
Did you know that roughly 60% of English words come from Latin? For Spanish learners, this is great news. The reason is, Spanish also comes from Latin, and that means there are tons of overlap between English and Spanish. A prominent example of this is Spanish cognates, which is also known as borrowed words.
In short, these are words in English that are exact replicas in Spanish, or very similar. Actor is the same in both languages, same with capital. There are also small variances such as group which is grupo in Spanish.
How to start: Learn the most common Spanish cognates and the rules to recognize patterns. By mastering these rules, you'll instantly have thousands of words in Spanish that you know. Pretty powerful, right?
10. Memorize the most important questions first
Okay, so I think you're starting to recognzie a pattern here. Most important, most common, most useful. Like we mentioned, if you only have a finite amount of time and memory space to learn how to ask questions in Spanish, why not learn the most important?
How to start: Luckily for you, we've got an awesome guide on the 25 Most Common Spanish Questions you can refer to.
11. Find a language partner
This is aligned with tip #8, but it takes it a step further. The purpose of attending a language event in-person is to develop a meaningful relationship that you can gain value (and add value for). Like networking, you don't just attend events, grab business cards, but never get in touch. Otherwise, what's the point?
How to start: Once you've attended these language events, get in touch with the people you've met. Meet a few of them in-person and decide 1-2 that you think will be good for practicing your Spanish. Consider personality fit, current proficiency level, schedule availability, and location proximity.
12. Work with a private Spanish tutor (and learn 10x faster)
Last but not least, we saved the best tip for last. But perhaps it's also the most obvious for some of you. Many Spanish learners have tried going at it alone, and while this may work for complete beginners, there's a ceiling. You'll quickly have diminished results, lose motivation, and more often than not, quit.
Working with a private Spanish tutor is one of the best tips for learning Spanish because it's proven. It's like having a personal trainer who's dedicated to helping you get results, and someone who can give you instant feedback. No time wasted, and faster results. It's hard to argue with it.
How to start: We recommend checking out Rype, where we have a curated global network of top Spanish tutors (and more) for live 1-on-1 lessons online. That means you can learn from the comforts of your own home, at the office, or from anywhere you are, anytime. Learn more about Rype (and our 7-day free trial!)