Spanish learners work from the same basic recipe.
Add grammar structure.
Rearrange based on time and situation.
Vocalize appropriately, and repeat.
The end goal is also the same: to understand and be understood in Spanish.
However, there’s something that is unique and personal to you: the specific ingredients, tools and the process you use.
These recipes are how you can learn Spanish quickly and efficiently.
Even in the most strictly-run class situations, anybody making actual progress is going to be spending time on their own figuring out how to get words, verbal conjugations and sentence structure implanted in their synapses.
How to Learn Spanish Quickly: One Simple Tip
Memorization is something you’re familiar with already. Memorizing labels for objects and actions, ideas and explanations.
One less-conventional idea is to take this a step further and memorize longer chunks of Spanish, things you don’t understand yet. Quotes, songs, riddles, tongue twisters – whatever appeals to you.
Why Memorizing Chunks Will Help You Learn Spanish Fast
Here are 30 reasons why this is a good idea:
- 10 minutes while showering and getting dressed
- 20 minutes while commuting, walking, cooking, standing in line
Using the half-hour represented above for repeating memorized items in Spanish to yourself can dramatically aid the imprinting process and help you learn Spanish quickly. If there is a particular verb conjugation your brain currently refuses to accept, memorize something that includes it, repeat it regularly for a week, and presto – the word is yours.
Maybe, at the start of the week, the verb you’re working on is the only term in the memorized piece you understand. Don’t worry about it. Now that you have the item memorized, look up each of the other terms as time permits and before long all of them will be solid additions to your ever-enlarging Spanish Rolodex of vocabulary. The more you do this, the more likely it is that you will be exposed to nuances of various terms, which will make your vocabulary all the more useful to you.
An Example to Get You Started
Here’s a riddle for your memorization consideration:
Una caja muy chiquita,
blanquita como la sal.
Todos la saben abrir,
nadie la sabe cerrar.
The term-by-term translation:
A box very small,
white as the salt.
Everybody it (they know) to open,
no one it (he/she knows) to close.
What is it?
The riddle in English:
A very small box,
white as salt.
Everybody knows how to open it,
no one knows how to close it.
What is it?
La respuesta (The answer): un huevo (an egg)
It’s beneficial to the learning process for you to consider both the term-by-term translation and the actual, polished translation, especially at the beginning of your journey into Spanish. It’s thinking about the term-by-term version that helps you literally come to terms with the fact that “la” in the riddle is the article, “the,” when used next to the word for salt, but then in its next two uses it’s the feminine pronoun for “it,” standing in for the feminine noun for box.
Term-by-term consideration also speeds up your ability to get comfortable with Spanish verb conjugations. “Everybody” is plural, so the verb form needs to be the one that goes with “they/you plural.” “No one” is singular, so the verb form needs to be the one that goes with “he/she/it/you formal.” Repeating the riddle over time, knowing why a verb form is used where it is, aids your brain in selecting the correct verb tense automatically in the future.
The more you repeat memorized items aloud, the more progress you will make on pronunciation, a vitally important part of learning Spanish well. Like all muscles, those used for speaking need exercise in order to perform well, and the more you produce Spanish words the easier it will become and the better you will be at it. Yell. Whisper. Be silly. Exaggerate the Spanish accent. Try another accent entirely and then come back to the Spanish. This is all about you and your brain synapses, sweetie, and in my book that means you’re going to be the best expert on what works. Playing with this language you’re learning is healthy, and helps prevent the process from becoming a chore. I once decided that what I needed was to say, “plotting big trouble for moose and squirrel” in Spanish. With a Russian accent, of course. Try it yourself: “tramando problemas grandes para alce y ardilla.” It’s still one of the most reliable ways to make myself smile.
Showering is usually an excellent place to speak out loud to yourself without annoying anyone, and the acoustics are often pretty decent. Select a song you enjoy in Spanish – better yet, select two, one fast and one slow. Lyrics (“letras” in Spanish) for most songs can easily be found online by searching for the song title paired with the band name, meaning you can sing along right away. (Warning: Some posters of lyrics are more accurate than others.) “Sirena” by Sin Bandera has some lightning-fast lines that can sound like an unintelligible blur. Follow along with a set of lyrics, though, and the blurs separate into words. Words that, with practice, you can sing as fast as the professionals as you gain prowess in enunciating even at high speed. Use something slower, like “Tengo” by Franco de Vita, to work on vowels.
A Tip for Learning Spanish Numbers Quickly
Numbers giving you trouble? Especially longer numbers like, say, the year you were born? 1996 = mil novecientos noventa y seis. 1987 = mil novecientos ochenta y siete. 1950 = mil novecientos cincuenta. The average red light lasts around 30 seconds to a minute. If you say, in Spanish, the year you were born every time you stop at a red light for the next week, odds are good it will be flowing so smoothly for you that you will be looking for ways to work it into conversations any chance you get.
Give it a try. Add items of your choice to your recipe. Long before someone is fluent they can benefit from having memorized bits of text. It speeds up your ability to be comfortable with sounds and structures, and begins cementing certain vocabulary into your mind. You’ll be improving your pacing and pronunciation, and you’ll also be helping your brain develop a sense of what “sounds right” grammatically in your new language.
Onward to fluency!
More Examples for Helping You Learn Spanish Quickly
“Tener otro idioma es poseer una segunda alma.“ -Charlemagne
(“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” -Charlemagne)
“Encontramos deleite en la belleza de la mariposa, pero raras veces reconocemos los cambios que ha pasado por conseguir esa belleza.” -Maya Angelou
(“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” -Maya Angelou)
“Aquí estoy, átomos con la conciencia, materia con la curiosidad. Un universo de átomos, un átomo en el universo.” -Richard Feynman
(“Here I stand, atoms with consciousness, matter with curiosity. A universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.” -Richard Feynman)
“Si usted todavía está en busca de una persona que cambiará su vida, eche un vistazo en el espejo.” -Roman Price
(“If you’re still looking for that one person who will change your life, take a look in the mirror.” -Roman Price)
“El cerebro no es un vaso por llenar, sino una lámpara por encender.” -Plutarco
(“The brain is not a cup to fill, but a lamp to light.” -Plutarco)
“El cambio es el proceso por el cual el futuro invade nuestras vidas.” -Alvin Toffler
(“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.” -Alvin Toffler)
“Sigo convencido de que la adicción obstinada al lenguaje ordinario en nuestros pensamientos privados es uno de los principales obstáculos para el progreso en la filosofía.” -Bertrand Russell
(“I remain convinced that obstinate addiction to ordinary language in our private thoughts is one of the main obstacles to progress in philosophy.” -Bertrand Russell)
“La gente siempre lo llama suerte cuando has actuado más sensatamente de lo que han actuado ellos.” -Anne Tyler
(“People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have.” -Anne Tyler)
“El clero sabe que yo sé que ellos saben que no saben.” -Robert G. Ingersoll
(“The clergy know that I know that they know that they do not know.” -Robert G. Ingersoll)
“Una caminata vigorosa de cinco millas hará más bien para un adulto infeliz pero aparte de eso saludable que toda la medicina y la psicología en el mundo.” -Paul Dudley White
(“A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” -Paul Dudley White)
“Optimista – Una persona que se da cuenta de que dar un paso atrás después de dar un paso adelante no es un desastre, es un cha-cha-chá.” -Robert Brault
(“Optimist – Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.” -Robert Brault)
“Es gracioso: siempre me imaginé cuando yo era una niña que los adultos tenían una especie de caja de herramientas interior llena de herramientas brillantes: la sierra del discernimiento, el martillo de la sabiduría, el papel de lija de la paciencia. Pero cuando crecí me di cuenta de que la vida te da estas herramientas oxidadas viejas y dobladas – las amistades, la oración, la conciencia, la honestidad – y te dice ‘Haz lo mejor que puedas con ellas, van a tener que alcanzar.’ Y sobre todo, contra todo pronóstico, lo hacen.” –Anne Lamott
(“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.” –Anne Lamott)
“Me siento estúpido cuando escribo la palabra banana. Es como, ¿cuántos n-a hay en esta cosa? Porque yo estoy como b-a-n-a…sigue… Bananana. Maldita sea.” -Demetri Martin
(“I feel stupid when I write the word banana. It’s like, how many n-a’s are on this thing? Because I’m like b-a-n-a…keep going… Bananana. Damn it.” -Demetri Martin)
“Una lengua te coloca en un pasillo de por vida. Dos lenguas abren todas las puertas de ese camino.” -Frank Smith
(“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” -Frank Smith)
And One More Thing…
If you like learning authentic Spanish, then you’ll love FluentU. It’s a perfect resource for Spanish learners of any level, as you’ll get closer than ever to authentic Spanish as it’s spoken by native speakers from all over the world. You’ll have tons of options for new “chunks” of language to memorize—and FluentU actively breaks things down for you and helps you practice.
FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, movies, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into Spanish learning experiences. Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
Pick a region of the Spanish-speaking world, and you can bet we’ve video featuring native speakers from that region. Want to speak like a Spaniard? An Argentinian? An Ecuadorian? We’ve got you covered.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app for iOS or Andoid devices.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.