Getting Started: Learning Spanish for Beginners
By Ivy do Carmo
Have you decided to learn Spanish? Then congratulations are in order! There are several benefits on learning any language, but learning Spanish as a beginner has its own special advantages. Let’s consider some of the things learning Spanish allows us to do:
1) Communicate and Connect With Millions Of People
According to the Cervantes Institute, there are currently over 577 million Spanish speakers around the world, what corresponds to 7.6% of the global population. The United States is the country where “Don Quixote’s language is growing most vigorously, thanks mostly to demographics,” pointed out the academic director of the Cervantes, Richard Bueno Hudson, at the opening of a recent course called “Evolution of the Spanish language in the world.”
In the US, 17.8% of the population is Hispanic and around 70% of them speaks Spanish at home, which preserves their linguistic inheritance over the generations. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language of the world, being the official language of 21 countries.
Therefore, if you want to learn a language that will allow you to communicate with the world, Spanish is your choice.
2) Become More Expressive
As any other language, Spanish has many sayings that do not have an exact correspondent in English. Some of them are quite amusing, such as en boca cerrada no entran moscas (“flies don’t enter a closed mouth”), más vale ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león (“it’s better to be the head of a rat than the tail of a lion”) or gato con guantes no caza ratones (“a cat with gloves can’t hunt mice”).
Learning these interesting idioms will expand your vocabulary and make you understand that there are several different ways of expressing a feeling or talking about a situation. This is the reason why so many people say that speaking another language makes you expand your horizons.
3) Find Countless Tools to Study
Because of the popularity of the Spanish language, there are tons of learning material to learn Spanish fast for free on the Internet. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to learn Spanish by watching videos, listening to podcasts, reading grammar books or any other way, you will find many websites that will provide the tools you need.
You can also find many online Spanish courses, which have several advantages over regular language schools, such as the reduced price, the time flexibility and the individualized learning rhythm.
Also, since there are many Spanish learners pretty much everywhere, it will be easy for you to find good language conversation partners, as we will discuss later on in this article.
4) Learn Other Languages More Easily
You probably know that Spanish is the most widely spoken of a group of languages called the Romance languages, and maybe you want to learn some of the other ones in the future, such as French, Italian or Portuguese.
You will be happy to know that mastering Spanish will give you a head start on learning these other languages. The reason is because they share similar structures, such as two different verbs to correspond the verb to be (verbs ser and estar) and two different past tenses (preterite and imperfect).
Therefore, learning Spanish is half the battle to become a polyglot!
5) Pronounce New Sounds
There are some sounds in Spanish that simply do not exist in English, such as the four different ways of pronouncing the letter G in Spanish. Practicing these new sounds improves many functionalities of your brain, that like any other muscle, gets stronger when it’s more used. Hence, besides learning how to produce new sounds and enhancing your communication skills, you will become smarter. Isn’t that great?
Now that you are totally convinced that deciding to learn Spanish was one of your smartest ideas ever, let’s talk about the best methods of learning Spanish for beginners.
Learning Spanish for Beginners: The Basics
If you were to teach a person who knew zero English, what would be the first words you would teach him or her? These are the same words you must learn in Spanish, for starters. They probably include some common greetings and words of courtesy, simple sentences to introduce yourself and simple questions to get to know the person you are talking to.
“How can I learn Spanish by myself?”, you may be wondering. If you are serious about learning Spanish and can afford a more expensive method, we recommend Pimsleur. It uses a “learning by listening” approach, where you listen to audios of basic conversations among native speakers and then try to repeat what you have heard.
If you prefer to learn Spanish fast for free, there are countless websites and apps that can help you to learn the basics of Spanish. There are also some great Spanish podcasts for beginners, such as:
- LightSpeed Spanish – presents ten-minute episodes with interviews and discussions about Spanish culture;
- Notes in Spanish – conversations between a Spanish woman and a British man who did not speak any Spanish when he moved to Madrid, so he can give great tips for beginners;
- Unlimited Spanish – helps you to improve not only your listening skills but also your speaking skills with a mini-story that allows you to practice your Spanish through simulated conversations.
Become Familiar With The Sounds Of The Spanish Language
It is very important to become exposed to Spanish as much as possible since day one. As mentioned before, this is an easy step because of the amount of Spanish learning material you can find on the Internet. However, it’s up to you to use these materials on your behalf.
For example, do you like music? Then why not create a playlist of only Spanish songs you really like? You can listen to them while driving or doing some physical activity. This way, you will induce your brain to learn the sounds of Spanish and will try to sing along and learn quite a few words in the process.
What if you are more of a couch potato? No problem! You can make a list of some great Spanish movies and TV series to watch on Netflix. A great tip is watching an episode with English subtitles and then again without them, so you can see how much of the conversation you can grasp. Of course you will not understand much in the beginning, but rest assured that you will learn more than you think in this passive and pleasant way.
Practice At Any Opportunity You Have
Don’t be shy! It’s normal to get nervous about speaking a language we have just started to learn. You may prefer to study and learn a lot first and only later start talking, when you feel more confident. However, don’t make that common mistake! The more you speak from day one, the sooner you will be fluent. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – that’s all part of the learning process.
What if you don’t have any Spanish friends to talk to or if you live in a region where there aren’t many Spanish speakers? Here comes the power of technology and the Internet, to save the day one more time. Thanks to online platforms, learning Spanish for beginners is easier now: you can connect and talk to any person on the planet.
To whom should you talk in order to practice your Spanish? If you can afford to pay for a private teacher, we definitely encourage you to do that. It may be cheaper than you think (you can have a one-hour class for only $5) and it is totally worth the investment. Private teachers will help you to loosen up and to become more comfortable when speaking Spanish. Since they normally are natives, another positive point is that you will learn the correct accent from the beginning.
Italki is an excellent website to do that, since they have over 800 Spanish teachers and you can pay per class. Another great choice is Baselang, that offers unlimited Spanish tutoring for $149 per month.
What if you can’t afford private teachers? Don’t worry. You can still practice your Spanish by doing a language exchange. There are many websites where you can find Spanish native speakers interested in practicing their English, so you can have a video chat with them and talking half of the time in Spanish and the other half, in English. For free! Some of the websites where you can find good language conversation partners are My Language Exchange, Hellotalk and Meetup.
Review What You Learn Using Anki
According to Anki website, “studies show we forget about 75% of material learnt within a 48 hour period. This can seem pretty depressing when you need to learn a lot of information. The solution is simple, however: review. By reviewing newly-learnt information, we can greatly reduce forgetting.”
This is why constantly reviewing what you learn is so important. After all, you don’t want to be one of those people who studies a language for years and later doesn’t remember almost anything about it, right? The open source program Anki helps you to daily review the Spanish vocabulary you learn in a simpler way than putting sticky-notes all over your house.
If you follow these simple suggestions, you will be set for a great start and you will be speaking Spanish in no time! What did you think about these tips on learning Spanish for beginners? Then be sure to subscribe to get our free learning guide that will help you get the perfect pronunciation and improve your listening skills.