Let’s start with the obvious: if we had to give one tip only, it would be to move to a Spanish speaking country. But, of course, not everyone has that luxury!
So short of packing your bags for Barcelona or Cancun, we’ve compiled 10 tips on the best way to learn Spanish. Some of them are super practical, others designed to make you a better student in general.
Ready to put all the odds in your favour? Let’s get started:
1. Give yourself time
Sure, you could download a Spanish phrasebook on your phone, learn the 10 most used sentences and call it quits. But that’s not really achieving fluency, is it?
Which is why the first step is ideally to devote some time each day to learning. You can decide if you want to dedicate 20 minutes a day. Maybe a few hours a week.
The important thing is to find a balance: you don’t want to overdo it, but you’ll also need to set aside enough meaningful study time to have a real impact.
2. Understand the timeline
Speaking of time, you should also understand exactly how long it takes to learn a language.
That is to say, how long a time period do you want to study for? One week? One year? Two, maybe?
Some may be okay with the fact that they’ve got a long journey ahead. Others might prefer studying in short, intensive bursts so it’s over and done with quickly. It’s up to you to decide what works for you.
3. Set your goals
The first two tips are designed to focus on when you’re going to study.
It’s also a good idea to remember why you want to learn Spanish. Communicate with friends and family members? Be fluent for your next holiday? Understand the culture?
A good tip is to write that goal down somewhere. Keeping your eye on the prize will be helpful in the long run, especially if you feel like your learning plateaus after a few months of study (which, by the way, can happen to everyone from time to time, so don’t worry if you occasionally find yourself in a learning rut!)
Haven’t got a piece of paper handy?
If you create a Study Plan with Busuu, we’ll keep a note of your goal for you, plus send you reminders, depending on when you want to study, and for how long.
4. Build your foundation
Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate Spanish learner, you’ll need to start with the basics.
First steps might simply be memorising a few simple Spanish sentences. It might be getting acquainted with the Spanish alphabet – or even a tricky grammar point you remember from school?
The point here is that you’ll need something – some sort of knowledge base – to build on.
And later on, this foundation of knowledge can give you the confidence to initiate a conversation with a native speaker. Plus, it’s also nice to see that foundation grow and become stronger as the weeks or months go by.
5. Immerse yourself
Immersion, as mentioned earlier, is really the best way to learn Spanish.
However, the frustrating question for a lot of learners is: how do I immerse myself without travelling abroad?
The good news is that, these days, you can pretty much bring Spanish culture to you by:
Watching Spanish TV and films
It’s easier than ever to access foreign media online. YouTube, Netflix and other streaming platforms are your friends here.
Latin music is increasingly present in English speaking countries. But you can still go the extra mile and source some real obscure gems in any niche genre you enjoy (as long as they have lyrics, of course!)
Sure, you might not get every sentence at first, but context helps a lot. In fact, you might be surprised how much you can understand from a newspaper article, even as a complete beginner.
Listening to Spanish podcasts
Another method can seem too advanced at first. But listening to people speak Spanish while you’re commuting or doing housework is a great way to train your ear to pick up the words you know – and assimilate new ones.
6. Practise with native Spanish speakers
Another thing that’s easier than ever to do, thanks to technology and the Internet. Even if you live in a place with virtually zero Spanish speakers, you can still find ways to strike up a conversation:
Join a language exchange programme
They exist offline and online, too. You can then arrange a time to practise with a Spanish speaker who wants to learn English via Skype, Whatsapp or any other communication tool.
It lets you start real-life conversations with native speakers who will give real feedback on your grammar, pronunciation and help you immerse yourself in the Spanish language.
7. Stay focused
There is no shortage of Spanish language apps, courses and textbooks available to everyone these days.
This is both good and bad.
On the one hand, it’s easier than ever to grow your toolset. On the other, it can be terrible for your focus.
In fact, many beginner learners believe that using more methods at once improves their chances of becoming fluent.
This could not be further from the truth. Keeping your learning structured and consistent is the best way to ensure you progress, so ideally pick a tool that balances a few techniques together.
8. Review frequently
Some people believe that the best way to really get a book isn’t just to read it: it’s to reread it.
The same principle applies to learning a language like Spanish. It’s something you do naturally every time you converse with Spanish speakers. But it’s also something you can do at home.
There’s even a name for it: spaced review.
The best teaching methods should incorporate it in their features, so it becomes completely natural and a part of you. Bonus points if it’s done in a fun way via quizzes, games and includes progress tracking.
9. Don’t aim for perfection
Some Spanish learners aim to pass as native speakers.
While an admirable aim, it might up become too overwhelming as challenge – especially when you’re just starting out.
It’s always best, therefore, to aim instead for a level that allows you to have a decent conversation.
What’s the difference?
Well, if you listen to yourself speak in your native language, you’ll be amazed at how often you fail to find the right word, hesitate before using an expression, or simply don’t know how to communicate your exact thoughts.
So why put so much pressure on yourself with a foreign language? Which ties in perfectly with our final tip….
10. Have fun!
Learning a language opens a ton of possibilities for friendship, careers and human connections.
But it’s not a succeed-or-fail kind of deal! First and foremost, it’s a journey – so you might as well have fun doing it!
Just remember not to be too harsh on yourself, take your time, and find the fun in the beautiful language that is Spanish.
Did you know you can learn up to 12 languages with Busuu?