¡Hola, amigas y amigos de SpanishCompadres.com! Welcome to a new, amazing post. My name is Husim Espinoza and I am one of the founders of this blog. Apart from being a licensed language instructor, I also have a business degree from a public university in my home...
Contrary to what many people think, the best way to start learning Spanish (or any new language, actually) is becoming aware of the mindset that is needed in order to provide our brain with the ability to download, install and operate a new language in a proficient way. I know this may sound a little ethereal, but the first thing you need to know about how to start learning Spanish is a harsh truth: learning a new language is a process that will require, more than any other thing, the practice of self-discipline. There will be many times in which you won’t feel like going through the process of learning (quitting distractions, concentrating, doing the drills, pronouncing difficult phonemes, and so on). On these occasions, your self-disciplined action, rather than your language learning ability, will determine your success or failure on this quest. After this key point is internalized and turned into a habit, language learning is like any other process. You need to set goals, understand the big picture of the process, and follow the steps (i.e. taking action!).
Here is a list of the topics that will be covered in order to help you get started.
Table of contents
- How can learning Spanish benefit you
- How can I start to learn Spanish
- How can we learn the Spanish language
- How can I learn Spanish fluently
- How can I learn Spanish on my own
- Useful resources
- Share with your friends
How can learning Spanish benefit you
Being conscious of how Spanish can help you make progress is an important piece of knowledge, since it will give you extrinsic motivation to start learning this language. In our article entitled “Why is it important to learn Spanish?”, we outlined six powerful reasons to give you a little push to become a language learner:
#1 English speakers can take great advantage of two similarities and a fixed system of sounds
#2 Spanish is a widely spoken language
#3 The level of English in Spanish speaking countries is generally low proficiency
#4 Spanish can help you avoid becoming a victim of tricksters and cheaters
#5 Hispanic culture is fascinating
#6 Spanish is the language of love
In sum, learning Spanish is important because it will definitely open doors. Being the official language in 21 countries and spoken by 534.3 million people around the world, Spanish has the potential to open more doors than other languages, bringing up exciting opportunities for their users, from meeting new interesting friends to building international collaborations for study or work purposes. Due to its shared roots with English, these languages have a lot in common: both use the Roman alphabet and have a high number of similar words that can be used to boost your comprehension from the very beginning. This can help you learn Spanish faster and more easily than other foreign languages, and put your new skills into practice really soon with its many speakers. Your Spanish will be very useful when visiting Spanish speaking countries where, in general, English is not widely spoken by locals. Even more, it will protect you from crime and allow you to participate in Hispanic communities and cultures, which are many and quite diverse, and could never be fully experienced without Spanish. And, last but not least, Spanish is a beautiful musical and emotional language that will definitely flow deep into your heart and make you mind fly!
How can I start to learn Spanish
As we said earlier, the first and most important thing you need to consider before start learning a language is self-discipline. In other words, you need to be aware of the fact that you won’t always feel like practicing Spanish, no matter which method or course you’re following. Learning a language is like working out to stay fit. If you only work out a couple of times a week for a short time, most likely you won’t have any results. But if you work out every day for only thirty minutes, the results will be considerable better. The same happens with languages and Spanish is not an exception. Being bilingual is a privilege reserved only for those who have been persistent, willing to put in the hours and the conscious effort to achieve goals. Now that we’ve discussed the SELF-DISCIPLINE mindset that is necessary for language learning, let’s look at other factors you need to bear in mind before you start learning Spanish:
- Set clear language-learning goals in terms of what you need Spanish for. This simply means that going on vacation for a month to a Spanish speaking location is not the same as going to a Spanish speaking as an exchange student for a year. Your needs will be totally different in terms of the kind of language you will need to learn. A tourist who is going on vacation for a short period of time will need to learn language for making hotel reservations, moving around in the city, ordering food at a restaurant, buying products in the local market, etc. The focus will be on listening and speaking skills, since most of the language use contexts will be spoken. On the other hand, an exchange student will want to learn language for socializing, asking questions in class, taking a bus to school, and so on. The focus will be on all major language acquisition skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. In addition, do you need to validate your Spanish language level through an examination? If so, which exam is it? Are there any exam-specific courses that will help you get a good score?
- Look for goal-specific material o a goal-specific course. Now that you have set clear goals in terms of what you want to accomplish, look for material or a course that is specific to you needs. If you want to learn Spanish on your own, make sure that the material you purchase comes from a reputable source, since the quality of materials in the language learning industry is variable. For example, if you need to to improve your Spanish grammar, a simple search for the terms “Spanish grammar…” on Amazon can be very helpful to our purposes, since Amazon offers a wide range of results and user reviews often indicate the quality of the material. If you want to take a course, make sure that the course is taught by a prestigious institution or instruction. Most serious language institutes can be recognizable because of their history, their staff experience and number of students.
- Make a plan to cover the material or complete the course. Now you need to add “Spanish learning” to your daily schedule. We highly suggest having a daily planner in writing, so you can see how learning Spanish will become part of your routine. If you will learn Spanish on your own, dedicate at least half an hour a day to work on your material. If you will take a course, your instructor will tell you how much time you will need to dedicate to your daily practice in order to achieve the desired outcome.
- Execute the plan and stick to it with SELF DISCIPLINE. Now comes the most important part of your plan: execution. This means daily Spanish practice for at least half an hour for at least the next 6 to 12 months. Make Spanish a part of your daily life by quitting all distractions like social media, TV, music or any other to help your brain focus on the task at hand.
How can we learn the Spanish language
A very interesting question that I often get asked is “How can human beings learn a language?” We learn a language by developing four skills:
In most language language learning courses, the most basic levels focus on receptive skills (listening and reading). Productive skills (speaking and writing) are introduced gradually as learners make progress.
You can understand what each language level means in terms of the things you can do with language. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) is an international standard that has six levels, called A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. A C2 language user is a native-like user of the target language. Most international language examinations are designed following CEFR standards. If you want to learn more about this topics, check out the links in the “useful resources” section at the end of this article.
You also need to add vocabulary and grammar into the mix in order to make the perfect Spanish learning recipe.
Another question that we get asked all the time is “How can I learn Spanish fast for free?”. The answer to this question will depend on what the learner considers “fast”, the goals, and many other variables. Can you learn Spanish for free? Of course! You just need to find high quality materials that will suit your needs and using it rigorously without unnecessary distractions around you.
How can I learn Spanish fluently
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), it takes between 600 and 750 class hours (24 weeks) to achieve professional working proficiency in the target language. This information is based on the time US diplomats usually take to reach such level. A Spanish language learner may take shorter or longer depending on factors like the learner’s natural ability to learn a language, their previous linguistic experience, and guided learning time.
Note: In the FSI timelines, Spanish is a “category 1” language, meaning that it’s in the “languages more similar to English” group, along with Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Swedish. Learning any of these languages would take an average of 24 weeks. If you practice everyday for 24 weeks, it would take around 4.5 hours a day for you to achieve working proficiency (meaning you’d be able to land a job in which the target language is used).
There is more info on this interesting topic in our article entitled “How long does it take to learn Spanish”. Check it out!
How can I learn Spanish on my own
There are many ways in which you can learn a language by yourself at home. These are some of the ways in which you can learn Spanish at home, at your job or on the go:
- Use an app like Duolingo
- Buy a textbook on Amazon
- Buy an online course
Remember that the most important aspect of language learning is self discipline!
In this article, we covered some of the most important points that you need to consider before committing yourself to learning Spanish. The most important variable in the Spanish learning equation is self discipline. Like any other skill, language is acquired through systematic practice, which requires being able to stick to a course or program even when we don’t feel like practicing or attending classes. Setting language goals, finding materials or courses that meet those specific goals, making a plan and executing it are key components of any serious endeavor to acquire a second language. Developing listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in combination with vocabulary and grammar activities will accelerate your Spanish learning process. You can test your language level with any of the standardized language examinations that are designed following CEFR standards.
- FSI’s Experience with Language Learning: https://www.state.gov/key-topics-foreign-service-institute/foreign-language-training/
- Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR): https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages
- Global scale – Table 1 (CEFR 3.3): Common Reference levels: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale
- Self-assessment grid – Table 2 (CEFR 3.3) : Common Reference levels (Spanish): https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168045bb53
- 2019 Dele Exams, Deadlines and Exam Dates | Spanish Diplomas: https://www.dele.org/
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