There are so many ways out there to learn Spanish.
For a beginning learner, it might be overwhelming!
Where do you start? Which method do you choose?
Luckily, we have the answer.
This post will explain why immersion is the best way to learn Spanish and share some tips for using the method to learn Spanish, fast.
So take a deep breath and let’s dive into the Spanish language, head-first.
Why Immersion Is the Best Way to Learn Spanish
Learning a language through immersion is all about surrounding yourself with the language. In other words, instead of using your native language to learn Spanish, the key to immersive learning is to study Spanish… in Spanish.
This means using your native language as little as possible in your studies. Watch Spanish videos made for Spanish speakers, read books in Spanish, listen to Spanish songs and generally surround yourself with as much Spanish content as you can.
So now you know what immersion is. But does this method really work?
When immersion is used in schools to teach various subjects, kids benefit from improved problem-solving skills, they find it easier to learn other languages down the road and they often successfully achieve native-level skills in their target language. That sounds good, doesn’t it?
If you can actually get out and place yourself in a Spanish-speaking environment, the benefits are even more pronounced.
Immersion allows language learners to acquire a language in a natural and effective way. It really is the best way to learn Spanish!
How to Succeed at Learning Spanish with Immersion
Whether you’re using immersion or another method to learn Spanish, these tips can help you succeed in your studies:
Keep your goal in mind
Do you want to learn Spanish to talk to family or friends? Are you planning an exciting vacation to see Machu Picchu? Are you just trying to pass your language requirement? Whatever your reason, keeping your eyes on the prize can be a motivator as you hit bumps in the road.
Set reasonable expectations
While it’s important to have goals, you should never make those goals impossible to reach. Remember to take baby steps and not to expect immediate perfection. When we celebrate our small achievements, it’s easier to get over the missteps and mistakes.
Don’t be too hard on yourself for making mistakes
Remember the advice of Homer Simpson’s friend Lenny? “Everybody makes mistakes… That’s why pencils have erasers.”
This particular piece of advice was spot-on. In the case of learning a language, you’re sure to sound ridiculous at certain points as you’re trying to put all these new words together in a coherent manner. This shouldn’t stop you, though. As long as you learn from these errors, you’re heading in the right direction.
Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself
I had a friend who was at a very basic level of Spanish when we took a trip to Mexico. We were at the park one day and she decided to order some churros. She placed her order and the woman handed her a hot, sugary treat… then another… then another. Dumbfounded, she kept standing there until she had 10 churros in her hands. She had meant to order two.
Meanwhile, my other friend and I laughed. A lot. (I mean, we’re supportive friends, but it was really funny.)
But the good thing was that she also laughed at the situation. She wouldn’t make that mistake with numbers again, but she wouldn’t let that stop her from learning, either. The ability to shake it off when you make a mistake goes a long way toward making progress.
The Best Way to Learn Spanish: How to Use Immersion to Achieve Fluency
If you can afford the time and cost, traveling to a Spanish-speaking place is the best way to learn the language through immersion.
It’s best to go to a place without many English speakers so that you’re encouraged to use Spanish, whether it’s broken and messy or pure poetry. When you’re in a situation where you have to speak Spanish to get by, you’ll discover that mistakes aren’t the end of the world and you can continue to learn without fear.
For a guided program, you can go through an organization like Concordia Language Villages, which has programs designed for a variety of age ranges. You can also choose to study abroad with an immersive Spanish course or by taking part in a Spanish-language homestay program.
Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can hop on a plane and create your own experience; just be sure to find resources that’ll help with your learning, like a local language school.
Can’t travel? No problem. You can just bring the immersion to you!
When it comes to immersion at home, you really can’t beat FluentU.
The program takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences. It uses genuinely entertaining multimedia resources to create a one-of-a-kind Spanish-learning experience.
FluentU pulls vocabulary from the media you’re watching, utilizing real resources to expose you to authentic Spanish. There’s also a flashcard feature to help you retain what you’ve learned and a quiz feature which allows you to self-check your comprehension.
If you’re feeling a bit intimidated about learning Spanish through authentic content, FluentU can help you overcome that. The program makes Spanish immersion approachable at any level, with options for learners all along the fluency spectrum, from absolute beginners all the way up through advanced learners.
You can use FluentU in your browser or, better yet, download the iOS or Android app and take the immersion with you no matter where you go.
Watch and Listen to Spanish-language Media You Enjoy
When creating a Spanish immersion experience at home, you can do so with Spanish-language programs, music and other media. The key to success is to find things you’d watch or listen to in your native language.
This will allow you to get familiar with the language in a way that you find entertaining. When you absorb authentic content, you will pick up regional phrases and useful expressions that you might not get in a textbook. You’ll also be learning language that’s relevant to your interests, current events and daily life.
Don’t Rely on Passive Learning
It might be tempting to sit back and listen to Spanish music or binge your favorite Spanish show, but keep in mind that you won’t learn the language by just listening to it passively. The jury’s still out on whether passive learning is a valid way to learn a language, though we do know that it’s a good way to at least get used to the sound of the language.
So there’s no harm in getting some passive listening into your day, but don’t forget to also be more active in your learning.
If you want to listen to some Spanish music, for example, you can use a program like LyricsTraining, which asks you to fill in missing words from the lyrics as a song plays.
Or if you want to get some reading done, try getting a bilingual Spanish-English book so you can immediately check your understanding and note down words and expressions you don’t know.
Watching a movie? Respond to the characters on screen or repeat their lines back to them.
However you do it, actively engage with the Spanish content you use to immerse yourself in the language.
Think and Speak to Yourself in Spanish
When we’re just starting to learn a language, it’s easy to fall into the trap of translation: We translate words from and to our native language to process the language we’re learning.
Immersion encourages you to move away from this practice by actually using Spanish to speak and think.
It’ll take some time to get used to using Spanish without first translating from your native language, but with practice, you can achieve this important skill.
While you’re on your commute, waiting in line at the grocery store or even washing the dishes at home, try to think about what you’re doing in Spanish. Make note of the words you don’t know and look them up later. This is a great way to increase your vocabulary for things you actually encounter in your life and to encourage yourself to use Spanish in a natural way.
When no one’s around, speak out loud. It might feel unnatural at first but try to find someplace where you can have some privacy (even in the shower!) and use the language out loud.
Start with just a few sentences or even just some words. You can talk about your day or describe the movie you just saw.
Speaking will get your mouth used to forming new words, without the pressure of others hearing your gaffes. When you get comfortable forming sentences by yourself, you’ll be able to do so in front of others with greater ease.
Find a Spanish Conversation Partner
Finding the right conversation partner is another great way to get comfortable actually using Spanish. For true immersion, you can ask your language partner to use only Spanish when you speak, for a safe and comfortable place to practice listening to/reading and speaking Spanish.
The internet has resources to help you find language partners or you can look to your own community, depending on where you live.
One option is italki, where you can find a virtual teacher or language partner to help you hone your skills. italki has over 1,000 teachers and hundreds of native Spanish speakers who are looking to exchange language skills with others.
Or, if you prefer practicing with someone in your community, you can use a site like Meetup to find local language exchange groups or Spanish-speaking groups where you can practice your Spanish skills.
Meditate in Spanish
When all else fails, breathe.
Meditation apps are all the rage these days, and it turns out they’re another great way to immerse yourself Spanish while reducing your stress levels.
Medita Spanish offers guided meditation combined with Spanish practice. It describes itself as “mindful learning” and has programs for various Spanish levels.
We all know that stress can affect your ability to learn, so why not relax as you continue your studies?
With these tips, you can harness the power of immersion, which really is the best way to learn Spanish.
Just keep focused, keep laughing and keep learning!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.