How Long Does it Take To Speak Spanish Fluently Like a Native
By Ivy do Carmo
Are you thinking about starting to learn Spanish? Or have you been studying Spanish for a few months already? Either way, every now and then you probably ask yourself: How long does it take to learn Spanish? How many hours must I study daily to speak Spanish fluently?
Well, laying it on the line, the answer is that it depends exclusively on you. Some websites, courses, books and apps may promise you to have the secret key to learning Spanish overnight and effortlessly, but you probably know by know that there is no such magic answer and learning a new language is never as fast or easy – just like anything worthwhile in life. The truth is that the more effort you put into learning Spanish, the faster you will succeed in doing so.
In this article, we will enlist four aspects that influence the speed of your learning: the amount of hours per day you have available to study, the amount of Spanish exposure you get every day, what is your experience in learning languages (and what is your mother tongue) and finally, how motivated are you in this endeavor. Consider each aspect and change whatever is under your control to boost your Spanish learning.
Before getting into these fours aspects mentioned, one really important thing you should do is assess how well you want to speak Spanish. Setting specific goals and having them always in mind you help you determine how long does it take to become fluent in Spanish in your particular case. That is if you do want to achieve fluency! Knowing exactly what you want is the first step to get there. Let’s now consider the four aspects that will influence your learning pace.
How Many Hours Per Day Are You Willing To Commit?
This first aspect is pretty much about simple math. If the person A studies half an hour per day, the person B studies one hour per day and the person C studies three hours per day, which person do you think will learn faster? Even kids in the kindergarten can answer this one!
Therefore, if you want to speed up your learning, you must commit more hours of your day to this endeavor. I say “day”, and not “week”, because you do have to study daily if you want to get somewhere. Studying daily without fail is important because humans beings are creatures of routine and habits. If you do not miss one day and keep up your studies this way for a few weeks, your brain and your body will soon get so used to the idea of studying Spanish that they will make you do it even if you are not so up to it at the particular moment. On the other hand, if you miss a day, you will miss another and another and soon you will no longer be studying Spanish and you will even forget everything you’ve learned before.
Besides studying daily, the amount of hours per day is also important, as already mentioned. The Foreign Service Institute’s School of Language Studies (SLS) created a language learning timeline based on 70 years of experience teaching U.S. diplomats. This timeline shows the average length of time required for a student to achieve proficiency and categorized the languages into four groups, depending on the level of difficulty an English speaker would face when learning them.
According to this timeline, will it take you how long to become fluent in Spanish? The website states that Spanish is on Category I (languages more similar to English) and that it takes around 24 weeks or 600 class hours to become proficient in it. Hence, we have now another kindergarten math problem on our hands: If it takes 600 hours to learn Spanish and you study one hour per day, it will take you almost two years to become fluent. However, if you study three hours per day, you reduce this time to almost six months. Ok, maybe it is not a kindergarten problem, but it is still pretty easy to draw this conclusion, don’t you think?
In a nutshell, the more hours you study, the faster you will learn. However, it is not only when you are properly studying, sitting in front of a book, that you can practice your Spanish, as you will see on the next topic.
How Much Of Spanish Are You Daily Being Exposed To?
Who said the only way of doing a Spanish immersion is by living in a Spanish-speaking country? You can do an immersion inside your own house and, great news: this can be really fun! Of course that, as we have just seen in the last topic, you have to study in order to learn some common Spanish phrases and to become familiar to the basic structure of the Spanish language.
However, besides this proper study time, you can get exposed to the Spanish language by simply having fun with it. Here are some choices of entertainment that can help you to familiarize with the Spanish language:
- Watch Spanish movies and TV series, such as:
- Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) – tells the story of a strange group of robbers, recruited by a mysterious man called “The Professor”, that get inside the Royal Mint of Spain and print €2.4 billion;
- Gran Hotel – tells the story of Julio Olmedo, who pretends to be a waiter at a luxurious hotel in Spain to discover what happened to his sister, who had disappeared while working there;
- The Time In Between (El Tiempo Entre Costuras) – it is the story of Sira Quiroga, a young dressmaker who has her life destroyed by her lover and has to bounce back living in Morocco during the Spanish civil war;
- Cable Girls (Las Chicas Del Cable) – the story of four women from different backgrounds newly hired as operators for a phone company in the 1920’s.
- Listen to Spanish music and podcasts:
- 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.
- Read children’s books, comics, newspapers, and so on.
- Make some Spanish friends on the Internet and find language conversation partners on websites like MeetUp, My Language Exchange, Hellotalk and Italki.
How Much Experience Do You Have On Learning Languages?
As odd as it sounds, your native language and whether you are already bilingual or not also determine how long does it take to learn Spanish in your particular case. If you’re a native speaker of a Romance language, it will definitely be easier for you to learn Spanish.
I say that from my own experience: as a Brazilian and a native speaker of Portuguese, it is incredibly easy to learn Spanish, because of the similarities of those two languages. If you are an English speaker, it will not be that easy but it could be a lot worse – Spanish is by far more similar to English than Japanese, for example.
Regardless of what is your mother tongue, if you also speak a second language, it will be a little easier for you to learn Spanish. It has been proved that learning a third language is easier than learning a second. I bet you are now thinking about which language you will try to learn after mastering Spanish, right?
How Motivated Are You To Become Fluent?
This may seem a silly question because if you are studying Spanish, of course you are motivated to become fluent, right? Wrong! People often start learning a language because they have to, and not because they want to.
For example, if you are a teenager, your parents may want you to take Spanish classes to enhance your career prospects in the future or you have to study Spanish because it is part of the compulsory school subjects. If you already finished school and have a job, your boss may required that you learn Spanish to deal with that company from Spain or South America. Either way, when you are obligated to do something, you do not always do your best in it. That is why this forth aspect is so important.
If you want to speak Spanish fluently, you have to be really driven to do so. Motivation and a positive attitude are essential to achieve any goal and learning Spanish is no exception.
How can you maintain your motivation always at the highest level? Here are 3 ways to stay motivated when learning a new language:
In order to learn a new language, you must have in mind a clear set of actions you are going to take and those actions must be scheduled to a clear period of time. If you do not have a clear goal of how you are going to achieve fluency, you just do a bunch of random things and you shortly give up. To have this necessary clarity, you need to figure out for yourself which is the best set of actions for your particular case and stick to it.
The challenge you put ahead of you when learning a new language can neither be too easy nor too difficult. You have to find a balance that will take you into “The Zone”, i.e. a flow state where you fully optimize your energy into learning the language. If you do not feel fully engaged with your learning method, maybe it is time to change your plan to get into this productive flow state.
Learning a new language is no easy task. It requires a lot of time and energy, so in order to succeed in this endeavor, you must have a clear purpose in mind. Ask yourself: “Why do I want to speak this language?” It does not matter if it is to connect with a specific person or with the culture of a country, you must have a strong reason to learn the language because this is what will motivate you to face any obstacles in your way.
Also, do not ever forget to keep your eyes on the prize. How so? Think about all the benefits you’ll have when you speak Spanish fluently and how well you’ll feel with yourself for achieving such a challenging and time-consuming goal. Do not only think that you will make your parents, your teachers or your boss happy, but think that it will be a personal achievement that will boost your confidence and self-esteem.
In short, this article made it clear that how long does it take to become fluent in Spanish is totally up to you. Therefore, keep your eyes on the prize, do not give up, do not feel discouraged if you make some mistakes and you will be speaking Spanish fluently in no time!
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