How to Learn Spanish Effectively
Spanish has always been head-to-head with the English language as the 2nd or 3rd most spoken language in the world, depending on which reports you are looking at. (According to recent research on the languages with the most native speakers, Spanish is at No.2!) Either way, we can say there are a lot of people who speak the Spanish language. Whether someone learns for fun (exploring new cultures), professional purposes (treating Spanish-speaking-only patients), or for personal reasons (falling in love with a native speaker), picking up the Spanish language is without a doubt one of the most practical and rewarding skills you should choose to develop.
You have decided to learn Spanish, so what now? How should you start?
We believe that having a good start is very important, not only because it sets the tone of your learning experience, but also because that’s how you begin to build a solid foundation, which your future progress depends upon. The best first step forward is to think in Spanish as early in the learning process as possible; in fact, right from the start will be ideal. You may ask how one can begin to speak Spanish, not to mention think, if you know nothing about the language yet. The skepticism is understandable, but there are ways. One way is to learn and memorize some basic questions and useful phrases which you can start using from day 1:
– When you don’t know how to say something, ask in Spanish:
“¿Cómo se dice _?” e.g. “¿Cómo se dice ‘a lot of people’?
– When you want the teacher to spell out or write a word, ask in Spanish:
“¿Cómo se escribe _?” e.g. “¿Cómo se escribe ‘amarillo’?
– When you don’t know how to pronounce a word, ask in Spanish:
“¿Cómo se pronuncia __?” e.g. “¿Cómo se pronuncia ‘Jujuy’?”
– When you want to find out the meaning of a word/phrase, ask in Spanish:
“¿Qué significa __?” e.g. “¿Qué significa ‘conejo’?”
– When you don’t know an answer to a question, just say ‘I don’t know’:
– When you don’t understand what was being said, simply reply:
– When you don’t understand what was being said, you can kindly ask them to repeat something by saying:
“No entiendo. ¿Podés repetir por favor?”
– When you want them to speak slower, simply say:
“Más lento por favor.” or “Más despacio por favor.”
Don’t worry about the grammar behind these phrases, you’ll learn soon enough. The main goal is to allow yourself to get accustomed to using and speaking Spanish in context, as well as hearing yourself speaking it. It may be difficult, but we highly recommend that you stick with it. Before you know it, you’ll already be thinking in Spanish!
There are many books and online resources where you could start studying on your own. However, if you have access to Spanish classes, we believe learning Spanish with a qualified instructor in a small group setting is the most beneficial learning environment, especially for beginners where encouragement is key to getting the Spanish learning momentum going. Below you can see just a few examples of why we believe that the language learning environment we provide is ideal for promoting the growth of your grasp of the Spanish language, and your confidence in using it.
Learning with a qualified Spanish teacher who has a plan is important because you will:
- be sure that you’re learning the information correctly from the beginning, i.e. building the right solid foundation. It’s difficult and frustrating to have to unlearn incorrect information you’ve already practiced and internalized.
- correct you and guide you throughout your language learning experience.
- answer your questions right away, preventing uncertainties and doubts from accumulating or becoming overwhelming.
- be immediately hearing the new language and responding to it. Passive exposure to Spanish and other foreign languages through movies and music is helpful, but actively engaging in conversation and speaking the language yourself will result in you becoming fluent in Spanish much more quickly.
- be exposed to Spanish through many different senses: hearing, reading, and writing.
- provide as many applicable examples as needed (there are limitations with books and online resources).
- monitor your progress and adjust your curriculum when necessary to optimize your experience.
- provide you with homework appropriate to what you’re currently studying, and to correct it in depth.
Learn Spanish with others at your experience level in a small group environment because:
- it encourages more practice through group exercises.
- you’ll learn from each other—since everyone learns differently, their questions could be different from yours, and they’ll bring up topics you never would have thought of or asked about, and through which you’ll add to your Spanish vocabulary and knowledge.
- speaking and listening skills are usually weaker than reading and writing skills, due to having fewer opportunities to practice. A group environment will give you that opportunity. You can always practice reading and writing Spanish on your own.
- you’ll share the ups and downs of learning with other beginners.
It is possible for a beginner to learn Spanish successfully doing nothing but self-study. However, self-study usually only works for those:
- who have already had the experience of learning other languages, because they know how they learn, (which format works best for them), how they absorb new concepts, and how their brains work in general.
- who already speak a Latin-based language that is very similar to Spanish, like Italian or Portuguese.
- who are very disciplined. Learning a new language requires constant practice and exposure. Not being able to stick to the ‘program,’ whether it’s self-planned or not, is usually a major downfall.
- who are not shy to strike up conversation with strangers, as it’s absolutely necessary to find conversation partners to practice speaking and listening skills.
If all of the above major criteria are not met, using only self-study methods for learning Spanish and other languages usually fail.
Combining both Spanish classes and diligent self-study is the ideal solution because:
- you will be systematically introduced to new ideas in a classroom setting and slowly grow your knowledge in a meaningful and organized way. Spanish is a very grammar-oriented language, you can’t really skip ahead to a ‘higher level’ of Spanish without already understanding the simpler ones. Having an experienced teacher who knows how best to teach Spanish in a structured manner is indispensable.
- in self-study you’ll tend to find things that interest you as exercises, e.g. watching movies in Spanish, listening to music in Spanish, reading Spanish-language newspapers, etc. That is where you’ll grow and develop most of your vocabulary and come to understand real life applications. You can then bring these resources back into your class and share them with others, as well as ask your instructors questions about the material you’ve been exploring on your own.
- your brain needs repetition of information over a long period of time in to remember and understand it. That’s where self-study is essential to consolidating knowledge—you can’t completely rely on just going to Spanish classes.
We are passionate about the program we offer at Vamos Spanish Academy because we truly believe that it is the best possible way to learn Spanish. Just about every language learning expert in the world believes that immersion is the most effective way to rapidly become proficient in a new language. When you walk out the door of your classroom every day, you are immediately immersed in a culture brimming with opportunities to practice what you’ve just learned only moments before. Our Spanish school, and the many natural, organic learning opportunities that the city of Buenos Aires provides, is the epitome of immersion based Spanish learning programs.