Do people actually learn a second language well enough to use it in real life?
That’s an important question to ask before pouring your time and energy into learning another language. What you really want to know – everyone wants to know – is whether it’s even possible and whether the time and effort it takes to become bilingual is actually a worthwhile investment.
And it’s an important question.
Why Learn Spanish?
You already want to learn Spanish, that’s how you ended up here. Welcome to the group of millions around the world who are learning Spanish as you read this! Spanish is a beautiful language with a rich and varied culture that goes with it. English aside, it is the most widely spoken language globally.
Reasons to Learn Spanish
Being bilingual or multilingual is an important asset to have today. It opens up opportunity where there was none and expands your abilities to communicate with more people than ever before. Everyone has a unique purpose for wanting to learn Spanish. What is yours?
Benefits of Second Language Learning
Friends and Family. You so desperately want to be able to be a part of the conversation, but you can’t understand what they’re talking about in Spanish. They are the most important people in your life, but so much goes unsaid. Perhaps, you want your children to connect with the relatives in their native language. The language barrier is real.
You recognize how learning a second language improves your mental longevity and memory capacity. The intellectual benefits are amazing! It improves your short and long-term memory, verbal and spatial skills, multitasking abilities, problem solving skills and creativity. It’s true, use it or loose it. In this case, use it and improve your mental functioning.
Everywhere businesses are looking for someone who can help their Spanish speaking vendors and clients. The pay scale is higher. Knowing Spanish puts you at the top of the hire prospects, because they need someone on their team to handle the Spanish language tasks and communication. Some even need translators, especially in government and military positions. Give yourself more options for career advancement.
Often, schools require a second language for general education or major courses. That being said, being bilingual is a plus on your academic record and applications to schools. Studies even show second language learning increases academic achievement. Again, this skill puts you on the top of the academic list.
The intangible benefits are incredible. It’s extremely satisfying being able to do what others cannot, like an exclusive club. Not to mention, the delight of learning a new skill and seeing your progress. The end goal may be to enjoy movies, music or books in the original language. Whatever it is that you accomplish along the way and ultimately is a good experience.
Bottomline, being bilingual makes you stand out, because you can do what others cannot – communicate in more than one language. That places you in a better position overall. So how do you turn that desire to learn Spanish into a practical skill?
I’ve done it, and I’m here to help you know exactly how to learn Spanish on your own.
The biggest question language learners have is how to learn Spanish. Many learners have used a promising learning method only to find out they can’t use the language in real life. They still can’t listen or read and understand, or on the flip side fail to be able to put words together to say or write something and be understood. Some choose to give up after putting in the time and effort studying. Don’t let that be you.
Is Spanish easy to learn?
Some say it seems impossible, others find it to be an enjoyable experience. It all depends on your approach. A study plan that works helps to eliminate the boredom, frustration and overwhelm of language learning. When you know exactly how to learn and what to do to accomplish your goals the learning process becomes much faster and easier.
Beginner Level Spanish
Everything is strange and new. Beginners can’t understand and sure can’t hold up their end of a conversation. In this stage, it’s important to get a solid vocabulary and grammar foundation. This is when new words are learned and practiced until they become a part of the passive and active vocabulary.
Intermediate Level Spanish
At this level, the learner has been climbing uphill for awhile and feels exhausted. The learner is able to understand some words and use some in conversations. Spending enough time practicing the skills on a regular basis is important.
Advanced Level Spanish
Finally, the learner enjoys coasting downhill on the solid foundation built in the earlier levels. At this point, you’re able to understand most speech and able to hold a conversation on a variety of typical topics. use a wide vocabulary of common and specialty words, fluency is increasing to near native ability. Continued skills practice consists of more complex sentence structures and specialty vocabulary.
Learn Spanish for Beginners
This is exciting, looking forward to an accomplishment and starting something new. Studying a language can be demanding, yet is fulfilling at the same time. It is extremely important to start with a realistic expectation and a comprehensive framework to work with. Languages have challenges to overcome. Beginners (all learners) need to be aware of how to smartly approach these ones:
Everything in learning a language comes down to words. It’s not enough to memorize and cram new words into memory. They disappear quickly and won’t be available when you need them most. To avoid this pitfall, take new words research their meaning and use them in your practice time often. You need an abundance of words in your passive and active vocabulary. These are words that you can not only understand, but also use in conversation and writing from memory.
One of the first steps for Spanish beginners is to learn the alphabet letter sounds. The alphabets are the same, except Spanish has one additional letter, the ñ. It is best for pronunciation to pay more attention to the letter sounds, rather than the letter names. Some of the sounds are similar, others are different and there are several new sounds to pick up. Beyond the basic sounds, syllables, accents, rhythm and regional accents are key to listening and understanding others, as well as speaking clearly.
Right away, you’ll notice verbs are challenging, because there are so many forms of the same word. The verb endings carry a lot of meaning and must match with connected words. In grammar, this is called verb conjugation. They fall into three classes and change form differently. The endings show person, number, gender, formality, tense and mood.
Spanish Nouns and Gender
Another challenging concept for beginners is how nouns function in Spanish. Every noun has a gender, either masculine or feminine, and a number, either singular or plural. They must match with their connected words, such as pronouns, verbs and adjectives. This is called noun agreement. These labels sound fancy, but once the grammar rules and exceptions are learned, it is really a simple concept.
How Long Will it Take to Learn Spanish?
From day one, you can use what you learn, even if it’s just one word. However, it takes about 24 months to gain professional proficiency. My guess is your purpose for learning falls in between those two extremes.
Once you know your goals, breaking it down into tasks and milestones will give you a timeframe. The amount of study time, the quality of skill practice, the level of ability will all change how long it takes to achieve your goal.
Keep in mind, from the first day you are gaining useable language skills. Throughout the learning process you are successfully fulfilling mini goals. Along the way you can enjoy the benefits of being bilingual.
Ways to Learn Spanish and Practice
Learning Spanish in Classroom
This is the standard method where a professional teacher leads a group of students through a textbook. You do exercises and listen in class and in the audio lab. You may pass all your tests, but completely fail to be able to use the language in the real world. That’s my story and shared by many others. This is why so many language learners are looking for ways to learn by themselves.
Learning Spanish with a Private Tutor
Another option, individual or group lessons with a private tutor offers one-on-one practice speaking Spanish. The advantage is the tutor can tailor lessons for your learning level, answer questions, immediately correct your errors. The time allows for you to practice listening and speaking with your tutor. You can choose a tutor with the regional accent and vocabulary you wish to learn.
Spanish Language Courses and Software
Many of these courses and programs have content to learn new vocabulary and offer audio to learn pronunciation. Too often though, they fall short on their promises leaving learners without usable language skills for real life. However, good ones will include skills practice and increase your active vocabulary. Always check the reviews before buying.
Can I learn Spanish fluently for free?
Of course, you can learn anything for free. However, going the free way is like the blind leading the blind. Without a systematic plan, you’ll have gaps in your learning and stumble over them later. It may be worth investing some money in some key resources and adding in free resources to practice with. In the long run this will save you time and money overall, not to mention your sanity.
Learning Spanish with a Partner
As an alternative to a tutor, language exchanges offer learners opportunity to practice with a native speaker. Your partner benefits and so do you. Be careful with picking up their bad habits though. On the other hand, he good thing is you can also pick up their errors too. Connecting with others is really easy now online. A good place to find a community with relatively inexpensive vetted teachers is on the Italki community.
The pinnacle of language learning methods is considered immersion. Learners travel to where the language is official and used in public by default. Either through a program or on private travel, the idea is that you’ll have unlimited opportunity to listen to native speakers and be forced to function in the language. The cost is pretty high for travel, living abroad and program tuitions. Yes, you are surrounded by the language, however that doesn’t guarantee you will build skills. It is fun though.
How do I learn Spanish by myself?
Useful Resources to Learn Spanish
All these resources are good materials to practice the four language skills – listening, reading, speaking and writing.
Books to Learn Spanish
Often overlooked, ordinary books are a great source to practice the language skills. They have new vocabulary, examples of use and provide context for meaning. The simpler the text is, the better it is for language learners. There are many ways to practice all the language skills, such as reading aloud, narration, and writing. Children’s books are good sources for all learners, but especially beginners.
Learning Spanish with Podcasts, Music and Audio Sources
The number one skill is listening. From the start, listen to speech so you don’t discover later that you can’t understand anything. Finding quality audio materials and practicing the skill of listening is crucial for all the other language skills. For auditory learners this is the most effective method of learning too. There are an incredible variety of free audio resources online, such as audio books, podcasts.
Learning Spanish with TV Shows and Movies
Similar to audio sources, television shows and movies combine audio with a visual element. The facial expressions, places, plot and dialogue provide many examples of speech and material to practice listening. There are several free original Spanish movies available.
Spanish Flashcards and Phrasebooks
You’ll definitely need to supplement your study time with flashcards and phrasebooks. Although not good as an exclusive source for learning, they are good sources for new words and conversation samples. Below, the Word Bank® spreadsheet tab automatically fills in the Flash Sheet tab for reviewing vocabulary details, such as definition, part of speech, examples, synonyms, antonyms, your notes and more. They are your own personal collection of flashcards and phrasebooks.
Learn Spanish with the Ultimate Spanish Study System
Our Ultimate Study System, guides you step by step through the Spanish learning process. Start setting goals based on your purpose for learning Spanish. That way you can focus on the vocabulary and language skills you need and stay on track. The easy to use spreadsheets are tools to increase your passive and active vocabulary and use the patterns in words, phrases and sentences to expand your skills quickly. Look inside…