“If I had started studying Spanish years ago, I’d be fluent by now!”
We all might’ve been guilty of saying this at one time or another, but we know it isn’t true.
It’s the amount of effort we put into learning that matters more than anything else. It doesn’t need to take years to be fluent!
I’m not trying to imply that you’ll be laying down conversation like you were born in Spain. Not at all. But you can be conversant in a minimal period of time if those study hours are well-spent.
So how is this possible? I’ve got a plan that’ll put you on the fast track to rolling your r’s and speaking like you were born in Latin America!
Why Spanish Is a Snap to Acquire
The good news is, Spanish is considered one of the easiest languages to learn.
Although some might disagree with the ranking, the FSI (the US Foreign Service Institute) places Spanish in the category of one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. They estimate that you’ll need approximately 480 hours to reach a level of basic fluency.
Let’s think about that number for a minute. Do you realize that it breaks down into 20 days? That’s it—20 days of studying and you could be basically fluent in this language.
That means you’re far beyond alphabet, colors and basic greetings. You’ll be able to start and hold conversations, and you’ll be well on your way to advanced topics and lessons.
Okay, so we’ve established that learning can be faster than originally expected, but what about the “fun” part? Well, you may have doubts, but I promise it’s possible.
Keep reading to find five fun hints to learn Spanish in record time!
How to Learn Spanish the Fast and Easy Way! 5 Helpful Hints
There are a few things that can speed up learning by making the process fun and engaging. These hints bring language learning and practice into every part of every day and creates a habit—and habits are proven to facilitate learning.
1. Set goals
Don’t put off getting into the Spanish groove. Get started by thinking about what you want to achieve and set SMART goals.
The acronym means that your goals will be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. There are studies that show a clear correlation between goal setting and a positive outcome!
The theory behind goal setting is that setting a specific goal influences behavior because it inspires and determines self-management of the goal. In other words, if you decide you want something badly enough, there’s a good chance that you’ll get it if you set a goal and work toward it!
One study indicates that people who write their goals down are 50% more likely to achieve them, so grab your pen and paper and start mapping a plan to success.
To demystify SMART goals, here’s an example of what one of your goals might be and why it’s a “SMART” goal:
Goal: I want to learn 30 new Spanish words and phrases every two weeks. I will do this by watching Spanish videos for one hour each day. During this time, I will jot down words and phrases that interest me. I will also only speak Spanish in the evenings and incorporate those new words and phrases into my speech.
- Specific: Instead of saying something like, “I’m going to learn Spanish,” I’ve made my goal specific—30 new words every two weeks.
- Measurable: Since I’m writing down the words, I’ll be able to periodically measure how close I am to meeting my goal. If I see that I only learned five new words after one week, I know that 30 might be a little too overwhelming.
- Attainable: 100 new words a week isn’t doable, but 30 new phrases is.
- Relevant: Articulate why you want to reach this goal. Maybe you’re learning to speak Spanish so you can talk to the locals when you visit Guatemala next year. Knowing the reason behind your goal will make you work that much harder to achieve it.
- Timely: Two weeks gives you an opportunity to measure your progress and plan accordingly. Put a deadline on when you hope to achieve the final result.
2. Choose a course that helps you reach your specific goals
At this point, you might have multiple goals written down. The course or resource you choose might change depending on the particular goal you’re working on.
But once you know which goal you’re going to focus on, choose a course that would best help you meet it. So if your goal is to learn new words and phrases and use them in context, you’d want a course that allows you to hear native speakers and has fun and interactive content. That motivates most of us to want to learn!
Here are a few to choose from:
- FluentU lets you watch videos made by native Spanish speakers for a native-speaking audience and is an excellent way to hear authentic Spanish. The videos range from commercials and music videos to funny homemade mini-movies and speeches—so no matter your interests or level, you’ll find something excellent to watch.
- Busuu offers the option to download lessons to learn even when offline. With grammar units and an emphasis on vocabulary, it’s a solid method for learning.
- Duolingo teaches Spanish in incremental steps, building on vocabulary using a game-like program. There’s some pronunciation practice, but the emphasis is on vocabulary and grammar. What’s neat about this course is that it’s basically a game. There are performance “awards” so if you’re at all competitive, you’ll benefit from this type of program!
- Gritty Spanish is meant for a mature learner’s ears, but it’ll get your attention and give you lots of new, colorful vocabulary. Gritty Spanish is a learning program for Spanish students who want to know real-life Spanish “from the streets.”
I’ve hinted at this, but most of us are more likely to participate in activities that are fun. Kids and adults love to play. So the best way to approach this is to make learning fun!
When I think of fun, I think of games. Evidence shows that play encourages learning. Online and traditional games demand interactivity, provide instant feedback and show mistakes—with solutions to promote understanding of the material being studied.
A couple of online Spanish games are RockALingua and 123 Teach Me. Both provide more than one game option at different levels. When one level is mastered, it’s no problem to begin with slightly more difficult games.
While technology is ideal for language games, don’t discount old school favorites. Card games, like Uno or even poker, can be made Spanish language lessons as long as conversation and play is done exclusively in the target language.
4. Find pockets of time to practice
There’s evidence that the amount of practice given to a particular task actually physically impacts the brain. More practice, and the correlation between practice and the density of myelin matter (the white stuff that sends nerve impulses speeding through the gray matter that comprises the human brain) in regions of the brain related to that skill.
So we get it: practice accentuates brain response. But we’re all leading busy lives. How do we find pockets of time to ramp up the practice without completely eliminating every other thing that we do?
Easy. You add practice to your daily routine.
Are you headed to the grocery store? Write your grocery list in Spanish. If you don’t know the vocabulary for what you need to buy, look it up. It’ll only take a moment and the added words in your Spanish lexicon is a bonus.
When you’re in the store, read your list out loud. No, I’m not kidding! Try it, and you’ll see that everyone in the store is much too busy to pay attention to one person reading a list in Spanish.
Your daily exercise regime is a prime time for vocabulary practice. On the treadmill or stationary bike, jog through your vocabulary lists. Or consult your phone to learn words and phrases. Again, read the words out loud. No one will hear you in a crowded gym, and no one will think anything other than you’re practicing Spanish.
Going back and forth to the day job? Turn the daily commute to practice time. Try listening to a podcast. I listen to Radio Ambulante and Notes in Spanish. Time will fly and there are podcasts that address practically any facet of language learning. Choose one that appeals and turn up the volume!
5. DIY immersion! Yes, it’s a thing!
Since Spanish immersion in another country isn’t a possibility for most of us, we’ve got to figure out a way to get that result without actually leaving home.
And even if it sounds impossible—you can have an immersive experience without checking a bag or climbing on a plane. There’s no passport needed to bring culture to your doorstep!
Turning your surroundings into an immersive environment can be done with surprisingly minimum effort.
We all eat, and some of us cook. Look for recipes in Spanish and cook up a storm! Take that a step further and invite friends for a Latin dinner. Play music and if your friends are bilingual, speak Spanish at the dinner table!
Cultural events are a super addition to an immersive learning program. Check out events in your area for movies or plays in Spanish. Depending on where you live there may be a Spanish-language book club that meets a few times a month.
Check the nearest colleges and fitness centers for yoga classes, painting or even cooking classes taught in Spanish. They’re all good ways to gain experiences that are fun and filled with Spanish learning that doesn’t even feel like language learning!
A low-key way to bring Spanish into your day-to-day life is with a journal. It’s a great way to practice all facets of language learning, even pronunciation, especially if you read your entries aloud after you write them!
A language-development journal is the go-to way to begin this journey. It’s the place to record your SMART goals (remember, writing a goal increases the probability of success!) and the perfect way to keep track of vocabulary lists. Also, it’s nice to see your progress in your own handwriting!
Making a few changes to your lifestyle brings language learning front and center. When your focus shifts to what’s important—in this case, learning Spanish—you make that a priority.
With these hints, learning won’t be a drag and hardly feel like work. You’ll have fun, and by turning language learning into an exciting event, it puts you on the fast track to success!
¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)
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