Memories of speaking Spanish are not forgotten, but the words are.
And now you’re facing a sad truth.
Your Spanish is gone.
Lost to the gray matter that seems to have devoured all the vocabulary, grammar and idioms you once knew.
Don’t worry! You may think you’ve forgotten Spanish but listen up—it’s still there. And, the good news is that you can get it back.
You heard that right. Even if you think you’ve forgotten whatever Spanish skills you once had, you can relearn them. We’re going to tell you just how to do that!
Language is rarely as lost as we believe. Studies indicate that language acquisition is profoundly rooted in our minds and rediscovering what we didn’t realize we still knew is very possible. That sentence might be complicated, but it basically means that what you knew is still in your mind somewhere!
And if you learned Spanish during your childhood, you have a greater chance of speaking like a native speaker than a new learner will when you actually reclaim your language skills.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get busy recovering those skills!
You may be very surprised when you see that relearning is really only a matter of a few simple steps.
How to Relearn Spanish in 5 Simple Steps
1. Don’t Make the Same Mistake Twice: Think About Why You Let Your Skills Go
It’s best to identify the reason why you let your Spanish knowledge slide into the recesses of your brain. If you know why something happened, it’s possible to prevent that undesirable behavior from recurring.
There are generally a few common issues, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re the only one who’s lost sight of their language ability!
Often the initial motivation for learning was poor. Graduation requirements or family pressure are valid reasons for obtaining knowledge, but they’re not enough on their own to sustain a decent level of competency after the initial burst of learning.
Think about it. You wanted a certification or diploma, so you did what you had to do to receive it. Now that you’ve got that piece of paper hanging on your wall (or collecting dust on a shelf!), you don’t have the same gusto for verb conjugation or vocabulary building. Totally understandable.
Or maybe improper learning the first time around is the core issue. A well-meaning relative or fast-track, minimally-intensive course isn’t the greatest way to master anything.
But the most common reason for letting a language slip away is lack of usage. It’s the old “use it or lose it” adage—which in this case is true. Languages need to be used to remain easily-accessible.
It wouldn’t hurt to gauge your level of retained knowledge. It’ll help you decide what level to concentrate on when you begin your relearning program.
2. Gather Materials for Your Relearning Repertoire
The first time you embarked on your Spanish language journey, you probably had a toolbox designed for learning. This time your needs are no different, so let’s reassemble that kit.
One of my favorite study tools is definitely old school. I love flashcards—both the self-made index cards and the ones installed on my phone. Each has its advantages. Make your own and tailor the vocabulary to specific words and your personal goals.
Download an app for either Android or iOS and you’ve got an on-the-fly, study-anywhere tool that fills any spare time with Spanish words and phrases. See? Win-win, whichever option you choose.
Another must-have is a good dictionary app. This resource is indispensable for looking up words you don’t understand or even build a vocabulary list.
Remember the first toolbox for the initial go at Spanish? If you’ve got any of those materials lurking on your shelves or in your closets, dig them out. They’ll spark your memory. Even if they don’t seem familiar at first, they will as you get further into them.
Choose a course. Find one that appeals to you, with content that will keep you interested. Remember, you want to become newly-inspired, so really think carefully when you select a course. Decide what sort of language learning techniques appeal to you.
This time you’re going to stick with Spanish (right?). We all know that if something is fun (appealing), we’re more likely to continue with it. Set yourself up for success from the very start. Here are some courses to consider:
- FluentU — FluentU uses authentic video clips, subtitles and a super cool feature that allows you to click on any word to see not only a definition but examples. Content is really native and the selection is so immense there’s sure to be lots to pique your interest.
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.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, 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.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. 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 recommends examples and videos for you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
- Busuu — This platform uses native speakers, grammar units and a vocabulary building technique to teach. It’s also possible to download lessons to use when you’re not connected to the internet.
- Verbal Planet — A website that offers online language lessons via Skype, this platform allows for face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) learning with native speakers who are also language learners like yourself.
- Gritty Spanish — This is a resource not meant for the delicate (or young) learner’s ears, but it’ll get your attention and make learning the language fun. Gritty Spanish is a learning program for Spanish students who want to know real-life Spanish “from the streets.” You’ll get an earful of colorful language in each lesson that will help you stick with the language this time!
3. Adjust Your Lifestyle to Accommodate Language Lessons
This is a very important step and it essentially boils down to one word: schedule.
We lead busy lives—no one will dispute that. Between family obligations, work, school and tons of other activities, we’re all stretched pretty thin. But learning a language takes time and that means readjusting schedules to allow for learning.
So if you’ve got to suspend that basket-weaving course or give up an hour of texting each evening…well, won’t it be worth it to have less baskets and fewer text buddies when you’re laying down the Spanish like a native?
Set SMART goals when you determine your schedule. SMART goals are just that—smart and an almost surefire way to achieve competence. If you’re not familiar with the term, SMART stands for:
- Specific — Your goal must not be vague. “I want to learn Spanish” isn’t specific enough, but “I want to learn 10 new words each week” is.
- Measurable — Your goal has to be something you can measure so you’ll know how close you are to meeting it. This blueprint for success means determining just what it’s going to take to get you from Point A (forgotten language) to Point Z (being a Spanish whiz).
- Attainable — This is something you’ve got to decide. Is your goal to relearn Spanish attainable? Theoretically, yes. But that’s also a personal issue in that you’ve got to want something enough to be willing to work to attain it.
- Relevant — The “why” of your goal. Why do you want to pull Spanish from the dusty corners of your mind? Only you know the answer to that one!
- Timely — Set a time goal. Want to be at a definite level of proficiency by a certain date or for a specific event? Circle that date in red on your calendar and structure your schedule accordingly. It may mean giving some extracurricular activities the boot, at least temporarily, but if time is of the essence, you’ll have to do what it takes.
When you’ve adjusted your schedule to accommodate your studies, begin! Start your course, open the apps and pull out your flashcards.
Remember, this is a relearning process, so start with the basics. Ease into things by refreshing your memories. Before long, you’ll be pulling words and sentences from the recesses of your memory that you were convinced were no longer there.
4. Once You’ve Got Your Groove Back, Mix Things Up!
It’s possible that boredom contributed to your languishing language skills. This time around, strive to prevent monotony. There are honestly so many interesting resources to add to your program that it’s more likely you’ll be struggling to choose which activities to incorporate rather than feeling bored!
If you enjoy games, keeping your Spanish skills on point will be a snap. Games reinforce what you’ve already learned (think vocabulary, grammar and counting) while introducing new abilities (reasoning and reading, just to name two). They also make your mind react quickly—think fast often enough while playing and you’ll find you’re doing the same even when you’re not gaming.
Find a language exchange partner to practice with. Chatting with a native speaker via Skype is a cool way to hone pronunciation, ramp up vocabulary, pick up bits of slang and have fun while doing it!
The benefits of reading can’t be stressed enough. Reading is a huge vocabulary builder that has the added advantage of bringing your mind deep into the context of the written word. If you choose Spanish language books about Spanish culture or history, that’s an even bigger bonus.
Graded readers work really well if you’re not ready for the bestseller list. Any exposure to reading is a plus, so don’t discount children’s books, either.
Who doesn’t love a good movie? Movies are an excellent source of Spanish learning—with the added benefit of being entertaining! Hearing native speakers brings the nuances of a language to life. It also increases vocabulary—keep a pen and paper close to jot words or phrases you miss—as well as comprehension. So grab some popcorn and watch some flicks.
5. Stick with It
A habit is formed after 66 days, so don’t give up on your relearning program! Keep at it, remember your reason for wanting to relearn Spanish and stick to your schedule.
Engage a language partner for accountability if that will help. It works for other types of learning and behavior modification, so it’ll work for relearning a foreign language, too.
Journal about the process of relearning Spanish. Writing in a foreign language is a wonderful way to order your thoughts and reinforce language skills. It allows you to fine-tune grammar and sentence structure while encouraging creative thinking.
So that Spanish you thought you’d forgotten? Now you see, forgotten doesn’t mean lost. It’s very possible to relearn the language.
And this time around, don’t give up on your language skills—use them, don’t lose them!
¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.