Make your study plan
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Not quite sure how to start learning Spanish? It all begins with a plan – first figuring out exactly how much experience you have and which language skills you want to grow. Let’s get started on your second language journey in the best possible way!
For the first time, a dedicated student took the bus to school. Suddenly, she burst through the front door at lunchtime, five hours later. I was surprised. She was supposed to be in school, not in front of me upset.
The day before, I showed her the school, the bus stops, where to get on and where to get off, the bus route number. I even gave her maps with schedules. Even with all that preparation, she got lost on the wrong bus.
The same thing happens with learning a second language. Some aren’t prepared, get lost, give up and fail all the time. But with a Spanish study plan, this won’t be you. Instead you’ll have a clear plan to bring Spanish into your daily life. This grows practical language skills to fulfill your bilingual dreams.
Every journey needs a plan with a starting point, a destination, and a way to get there. Without a plan, language learners get lost all the time – frustrated, overwhelmed, bored, embarrassed, sick of trying, and sick of failure. Some people just give up on the way.
I will walk you through three steps to making a successful language learning plan. That way you can get a picture of what language skills you have today, the skills you want to have at the end, and how to learn Spanish on your own. Today, the focus is on the language language experience.
Step 1 – What is your skill level today?
Right now, to start with, it’s time to get a snapshot of how well you are able to communicate in Spanish. No need to get academic or prove extensive grammar knowledge. A simple reality check of four key areas is necessary to see where you are today.
Four Language Skills
The Spanish language is a travel bag with four compartments. Each compartment is one language skill. Each compartment could be full, empty or a complete mess. That depends on what you have already put in the bag.
The four language skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing. The bag has two sides – one side has oral skills and the other side has written skills. Each side is divided into two parts – comprehension and expression. These are fancy words for how well you can understand someone and make sense to someone else.
Each compartment or language skill has a unique area of specialty.
Most people assume all four compartments are getting filled equally. But this is not necessarily true.
For example, a textbook could focus on reading and writing skills and not do a very good job at building oral skills. Or, an immersion program that has no written element might focus only on listening and speaking skills. It is also possible that you are not processing a skill effectively.
So don’t assume that because you repeated and drilled that you have a skill. This evaluation is based only on what you have used in real life.
Quick Self-Evaluation of Your Spanish Skills
Right now, open up your Spanish language bag to see what skills you have packed inside. Look at each compartment individually – listening, speaking, reading and writing. For each, rate your experience in that area. You might be surprised what you find.
Zero means no experience. Five is that point where you have some skills, but not enough to communicate effectively. Ten means perfect skills – fluency.
0 I never heard anyone speak Spanish.5 I occasionally understand what someone says in Spanish.10 I understand everything someone says in Spanish with every kind of accent possible.
0 I never spoke to anyone in Spanish.5 I speak Spanish occasionally and sometimes I make sense.10 I say everything correctly in Spanish and I sound like a native speaker.
0 I never read anything in Spanish.5 I read and understand some things written in Spanish.10 I regularly read letters, articles, and books in Spanish with complete understanding.
0 I never wrote anything in Spanish.5 I can write a sentence in Spanish that makes sense.10 I can write letters, novels, articles and persuasive speeches that are extraordinary in Spanish.
Your skill ratings are the starting point for your language learning plan. The next steps will help you figure out which skills you’ll need for your intended purposes. And the level of experience you need for each, so you can focus on building that particular skill.
Avoid the pitfalls before you start
Your assumptions will end learning before you even start. The experts tell us take a class and use a textbook. We pour our life and energy into the traditional learning methods. Yet, outside the classroom we still can’t understand others or express ourselves in Spanish.
When I had enough, I created my own learning method that grows practical Spanish language skills. No traditional textbook, no classroom. Instead, Spanish becomes a part of daily life.
Did you get lost on the bus? Most likely you’re frustrated without a plan, overwhelmed by the options, tired of wasting your time and energy, and bored to tears by textbooks. It’s never too late to start fresh by creating your Spanish study plan.
Don’t stay lost on the bus.
Share your experience ratings in the comments below, just like I did. And write them down for yourself too. This will be your starting point you will look back on as you move forward.