Top 10 Tips On How To Learn Spanish Really Fast
By Ivy do Carmo
Let’s be honest: we all have a lot to do in our lives and we can’t afford to waste time. When we want to achieve a goal, we prefer to do it as soon as possible, within the minor period of time. After all, patience has never been the human being’s strong suit.
Mastering a new language is no exception to this rule and if you are thinking about starting to learn the second most widely spoken language in the world, you may have already asked yourself: what is the fastest way to learn Spanish?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve such a great goal as becoming bilingual in a short period of time. As a matter of fact, it only shows that you really want to hablar español. The only problem is that many websites, apps and courses take advantage of this natural desire and promise you a new and effortless way to learn Spanish easy and overnight.
For this reason, let’s start by laying the cards on the table and stressing that there isn’t such a magical way to become fluent in any language. The same way you do not believe those ads that promise you can lose 50 pounds in a month with a miraculous gadget while just sitting in front of the TV, don’t believe those false promises of learning a language with zero commitment.
On the other hand, learning Spanish doesn’t have to be painful or stressful. Actually, it is quite easy for an English speaker to speak Spanish like a native speaker because this Romance language derives from Latin, as do many English words. This means that Spanish and English share many identical and similar words, which will make your learning not that challenging. This article will make your job even easier by presenting several tips that will help you to learn Spanish fast.
1 – Set Realistic Goals of Learning Spanish
Benjamin Franklin once said that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Nothing could be truer when it comes to learning a new language. The first step has to be establishing specific short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. To do so, ask yourself:
- Why am I starting to learn Spanish?
- How proficient do I want to become?
- What is a reasonable timeframe for me to get there?
Setting goals is crucial because it makes you clearly see where you’re heading. Imagine that you are on a riverbank and that you need to get to the other side. You notice that there are some visible rocks you could use to cross the river. Wouldn’t you take a closer look at them to see if they are really steady and determine a path on your mind, deciding which rocks you would step on and in which sequence? Of course you would, especially if your safety was at stake.
The same way of thinking applies to any accomplishment in life, including mastering a new language. You need to have in mind where do you want to arrive and how will you get there. Therefore, do not blindly drift from one language learning method to another, but set SMART goals. Have you ever heard of them? SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time limited, five essential characteristics for any successful goal. Let’s give an example so you can see how easy and productive it is to set a SMART goal:
Goal: “I will learn 5 new Spanish sentences every day and revise the 5 sentences that I have learned on the previous day.”
- Specific – You have established how many sentences you want to learn, so it is a specific thing you’ve determined to do in order to learn Spanish fast;
- Measurable – Since sentences are countable, you will be able to daily track if you are keeping up with your goal;
- Achievable – If you stipulate learning 100 sentences a day, you won’t be able to do it and you will only get frustrated and maybe even give up. Your goal must be doable and reasonable taking into account your particular situation;
- Relevant – Your short-term goal must be directly related to your ultimate goal, which is speaking Spanish. Remember our illustration about the riverbank: Keeping in mind the reason behind stepping on each rock will motivate you to get faster to the other side;
- Time limited – You know you have 24 hours to learn those 5 new sentences and to revise the last 5 you’ve learned. Establishing deadlines will motivate you to keep on track.
2 – Acquire Some Basic Spanish Vocabulary
The Spanish language, like any other one, is composed by words.That is why learning the most common words in Spanish is obviously one of our tips. However, before you think we are telling you to memorize the entire dictionary and close this tab, how many words are we talking about?
Mark Davies, an associate professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University, estimated the 5000 most common words in modern Spanish and published his findings in the Frequency Dictionary of Spanish, in 2006. Davies drew the conclusion that by becoming familiar to the 4000 most common Spanish words would allow a person to recognize more than 90% of the words in a typical native speaker conversation. Even more appealing is getting to know that merely the 1000 most common words accounts for 87.8 of all spoken Spanish.
Does this means that you have to memorize a thousand words to start learning Spanish? Not necessarily. It just proves that if you put some effort into getting familiar with the most used words in Spanish, it is half the battle to speaking the language well. How can you do it? Let’s see the answer over the next topics.
3 – Discover What Kind Of Learner You Are
In the 1920s, psychologists developed the VAK Learning Styles Model to classify the most common ways that people learn. According to the model, there are three different ways of learning: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (hence the VAK acronym). To understand which methods will work better in your particular case, it’s important that you discover which of the following best describes you:
- Visual Learners (seeing & reading) – They need to see the information to learn it. Demonstrations from the blackboard, diagrams, graphs and charts are all valuable tools for the visual learners. They normally excel in classrooms, are great organizers, can easily visualize objects and have a great sense of balance and alignment.
- Auditory Learners (listening & speaking) – They must hear things to learn them. Auditory learners, which are 30% of the population, often remember most of what they hear in lectures, can remember oral instructions well and enjoy small-group discussions. They often talk to themselves, move their lips and read out loud and do a task better when talking to a colleague or a tape recorder and hearing what was said.
- Kinesthetic Learners (touching & doing) – They tend to want to move while learning and have a “physical” memory, remembering what was done, rather than what was seen or talked about. Kinesthetic learners are often very coordinated and gifted in physical activities, and they learn better if they conduct experiments, act out a play or doodle during lectures.
Figure out what kind of learner are you and then you will know which kind of Spanish tools will be better for you, as we will see on the next topic.
4 – Choose The Best Tools To Learn Spanish
A great advantage of learning Spanish is that, because it is one of the most popular languages among the language learners, you will find countless free learning materials on the Internet. If you don’t believe me, type “learn Spanish easy” on Google and check how many results you get. Therefore, be proactive and research websites and apps that can help you to learn common words and sentences in Spanish.
While doing your research on the Internet, you will definitely find many Spanish online courses. They hold several advantages over the courses offered by regular language schools, such as time flexibility, reduced costs and individualized learning rhythm.
It is up to you to find out which courses, websites, apps or other learning tools will better fit your need, accordingly to which kind of learner are you.
Visual learners will enjoy study Spanish through reading books, looking at pictures and flashcards. They may struggle with conversation, which can be resolved by using computer programs or video devices to provide subtitles or other visual clues to what they’re hearing.
Auditory learners will prefer to learn by listening to Spanish music or podcasts or by watching Spanish movies and series. For them, the Pimsleur Method may be a great choice.
At last, kinesthetic learners need to use some sort of physical activity, like taking notes during class or from a textbook. They can also speak their lessons out loud or use software that encourages interactivity.
5 – Listen To As Much Spanish As You Can
Even if you are not an auditory learner, there is no doubt that the more you listen to people speaking Spanish, the more you will become familiar to the sounds of this language. Do you enjoy listening to music while driving, cleaning the house or exercising? Then why not creating a playlist with some great Spanish songs? In time, you will be able to recognize many words just because you’ve heard them before on songs and you will even practice your speaking when you try to sing along to those songs.
Another great ideas are watching Spanish movies and series and also listening to podcasts, because some of them are designed for beginners and will help expand your vocabulary and practice your listening skills. Here are some great podcasts you can listen to:
- 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;
- 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;
- LightSpeed Spanish – presents ten-minute episodes with interviews and discussions about Spanish culture.
6 – Read As Much Spanish As You Can
In the beginning, it may be a little difficult to read in Spanish because of your limited vocabulary. However, you can find children’s books or materials specially written for beginners, such as the book Short Stories in Spanish For Beginners.
If there’s an audio version of the text you are reading, that’s even better! This way you can read while you are listening to a native speaker pronounce the sentences with the accent you want to develop.
Try to read some Spanish every day, so you can expand your vocabulary quickly and in a natural way because you will see the words into a context and this will make it easier for you to remember them later.
7 – Communicate With Native Speakers
Don’t feel afraid of speaking because you may make some mistakes. Find a person you feel comfortable with to practice your communication skills. Do you have a friend or a neighbor who is a Spanish native speaker? Then try to speak to them daily, even if it’s just a few sentences. You can even ask them to correct your grammar mistakes or your pronunciation.
If you don’t know any Spanish speaker, that’s ok! Thanks to the Internet, you can find great language conversation partners or tutors from any part of the planet! A few websites where you can do that are iTalki, Baselang, My Language Exchange, Meetup and Hellotalk.
The important thing for you to remember is that the fastest way to learn Spanish is by speaking, speaking and speaking!
8 – Revise What You Learn
Remember back in school, when you spent the entire previous night studying for a test and then just a few days latter, couldn’t remember pretty much anything about the subject? That’s because everything you studied was only kept in your short-time memory and then it was thrown in the mental garbage by your brain.
Since I’m positive that you don’t want this to happen to everything you learn about Spanish, how can you review and this way keep what you learn in your long-term or permanent memory?
A great option is by using Anki, an open source spaced repetition flashcards program. In it, you use cards to write the Spanish words and sentences you learn and the program tests you several times to see if you still remember them. This way, you will actually learn Spanish, rather than just memorizing vocabulary to later forget it.
9 – Don’t Obsess Over Grammar
Even though Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn, it does have some annoying aspects. A few examples are the difference between the verbs ser and estar, the prepositions por and para and the verb tenses preterite and imperfect.
If you just can’t wrap your head around these tricky particularities of the Spanish language, don’t worry too much about it. It is quite normal to struggle with the structure of a language we are starting to learn. Focus on doing what was said above about listening and reading in Spanish as much as you can and then, in time, the characteristics you once saw as challenging will come natural to you.
10 – Incorporate Spanish Into Your Lifestyle
Learning a language is more than just studying grammar – it’s about immersing into a whole new culture. In the same way as you get to know a person better when you spend a lot of time with them, if you want to learn Spanish fast, you must “hang out” with everything related to this language as much as possible.
This includes everything: listening to Spanish music and radio stations, watching Spanish movies and TV series, reading about Spanish culture, joining local Spanish societies and attending their events, having language exchanges and scheduling social activities with Spanish native speakers and (why not?) learning to dance salsa, flamenco or bolero.
If you follow these 10 easy steps, you will learn Spanish really fast! If you liked this article, be sure to subscribe to get our free learning guide that will help you get the perfect pronunciation and improve your listening skills.