How to Speak Spanish Fast: 12 Time-saving Tips for Rapid Learning
Naturally, when you decided you wanted to learn Spanish, you wanted to learn it fast.
When learning a language, the process can seem drawn out.
After all, most traditional courses are structured around years of study.
Luckily, there are faster ways to do it: all you have to do is choose the right study methods to learn Spanish quickly.
- Why Learn Spanish Fast?
- Tips to Learn Spanish Fast
- 1. Immerse Yourself
- 2. Use Spanish in Your Daily Life
- 3. Make Studying a Habit
- 4. Practice Listening
- 5. Make Learning Fun
- 6. Find a Language Partner
- 7. Learn By Socializing
- 8. Make Your Own Vocabulary Lists
- 9. Try Spanish Shadowing
- 10. Set Goals
- 11. Establish Learning Incentives
- 12. Learn Some Idioms, Proverbs or Lingo
Why Learn Spanish Fast?
One popular reason to learn Spanish fast is for an impending trip. If you know you’re going to an exotic locale soon, chances are you’ll want to improve your language knowledge. At the very least, you’ll need to learn the basics to ensure you always get your free bar of soap and extra towels.
If you’re not traveling, you still might want to learn Spanish quickly in order to get immediate results that’ll motivate you to learn in more depth. There’s no doubt about it: immediate results feel good. If you learn some Spanish very quickly, it just might kickstart your journey to fluency.
Finally, you might want to learn Spanish quickly in order to communicate with native speakers. For instance, if you have friends, colleagues or in-laws that speak Spanish, you might want and/or need to communicate with them sooner rather than later. There’s no time like the present to finally connect with Spanish speakers in their native tongue!
Tips to Learn Spanish Fast
1. Immerse Yourself
The FSI (US Foreign Service Institute) says Spanish is 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. It breaks down into just 20 days. That’s it—20 days of studying and you could be basically fluent in this language.
Whether it’s on an adventure abroad or from the comfort of your home, immersion is the quickest way to learn Spanish.
“Immersion” is a common language learning technique that involves surrounding yourself with and using your target language as much as possible. Research shows that immersion is highly effective for learning languages.
To immerse yourself in Spanish, there’s no better option than traveling abroad to one of the many Spanish-speaking countries on the globe.
Here are a few options for in-country immersion experiences:
Stay with a host family abroad. Living with a local family is a great way to speed up your learning process and experience the country’s culture and way of life. Organized programs such as My Family Abroad or Enforex offer host family options for many Spanish-speaking countries.
Work in a Spanish-speaking environment. Volunteer opportunities or paid jobs in Spanish-speaking countries will allow you to immerse yourself in Spanish language and culture. With a TEFL certification, you can teach English abroad. You could teach yoga while living in another country, or even work on a farm. Two sites that are useful for finding work abroad are Work Away and WWOOF.
Do a course in a Spanish-speaking country. If you’re not quite ready to take a course in Spanish, you could do one in English and still have the opportunity to chat with locals. You could be wine tasting in the vineyards of La Rioja, Spain, learning to paint in Barcelona or taking photography lessons in Buenos Aires.
If you can’t go abroad right this minute, though, don’t panic! Here are some options for achieving immersion at home:
- Use Spanish immersion software programs. They’re designed to get you thinking in Spanish and practicing consistently no matter where you are.
For example, FluentU immerses you in Spanish through authentic, bite-sized videos made by and for native speakers that cover a variety of topics. They come with interactive subtitles and full transcripts, and you can review what you learn with multimedia flashcards and quizzes.
You can access the program through iOS and Android apps for use on the go.
- Live with a native speaker. Be honest with your potential roommate that you want to practice with them, and soon you’ll reap the rewards of speaking Spanish on a daily basis.
- Practice Spanish during your downtimes. Check out the app In 24 Hours Learn to Speak Spanish, which will teach you the most common Spanish words and phrases. It’s designed with recreational and business travelers in mind.
Learn Spanish Quickly offers more than 1,100 phrases to learn. You can quickly study the most important categories (obviously food and shopping!). Quizzes and flashcards help you test your knowledge, while a favorites list helps you tag certain words for future review.
- Here are six more powerful ideas and resources for achieving Spanish immersion without getting on a plane.
2. Use Spanish in Your Daily Life
Beyond roommates and apps, you can incorporate Spanish practice into your daily life in other ways to help you get to fluency even faster.
- Change your phone settings to Spanish. You’ll have no choice but to practice when you use your phone—and you probably spend a lot of time on your phone every day.
Additionally, if you have a voice-enabled option, you can get extra speaking and listening practice. Did you know Siri can speak Spanish? Go to Settings, click General and then click Siri to change her language.
- Think in Spanish. One of the best (and often overlooked) opportunities is to practice Spanish in your mind! No need to overwhelm yourself, though. Just start by doing one minute a day.
While you’re thinking, jot down any words you’re unsure of or phrases you can’t express. To fully reap the benefits of this practice, you’ll need to look these up afterwards.
This could be a frustrating exercise if you’re brand new to Spanish. But progress will come from consistency. Slowly increase your Spanish thinking time as you progress.
If you give it serious effort, your understanding of Spanish will skyrocket and you’ll eventually find yourself thinking in Spanish automatically without even trying.
- Keep a journal. You can write as little as 3-5 minutes every day. Consistency is key. Write about something cool or crazy that happened to you that day, something that you’d like to remember, or something you’re looking forward.
If you don’t know how to say something, just ask Google. Or, to keep the writing flowing, write words you don’t know in English with parentheses. A sentence from your journal might look like this: “Hoy fui al supermercado y compré manzanas, (kale), leche y pan.”
Afterwards, you can go through your writing and look up the words in parentheses (during which you’ll find out that kale is “col rizada”).
3. Make Studying a Habit
Speaking of habits, make studying one of yours to learn Spanish even faster.
There’s evidence that the amount of practice given to a particular task physically impacts the brain. More practice correlates to a higher density of brain matter related to that skill.
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. Add Spanish practice to your daily routine.
- Schedule a daily lesson. Make your daily study sesh as much of a priority as brushing your teeth. Don’t use the bathroom sink as the prime spot for this habit, though. Take it somewhere fun, like a coffee shop or the park. Of course, sitting at your kitchen table for a lesson works too!
Headed to the grocery store? Write your grocery list in Spanish. If you don’t know the vocabulary you need, look it up. It’ll only take a moment and the added words in your Spanish lexicon are a bonus.
When you’re in the store, read your list out loud. No, I’m not kidding! Try it. You’ll see that everyone else is much too busy to pay attention to one person reading their list in another language.
- Practice Spanish during your exercise session. On the treadmill or stationary bike, jog through your vocabulary lists or consult your phone to learn some new words and phrases.
Again, read the words out loud. No one will hear you in a crowded gym. Even if they do, they’ll be impressed you’re working out your body and your mind at the same time.
Habits can take a while to form but it’s well worth developing your Spanish learning habit. I mean, you’ll hopefully carry your language skills with you through the rest of your life, so building a long-term habit is an excellent step to take.
4. Practice Listening
Your listening skills are essential to your speaking skills—the two are intrinsically linked. After all, if you never hear spoken Spanish, there’s no way you’ll be able to perfect your pronunciation or accent.
There are easy ways to do this:
If you’re not ready to dive into Spanish movies and soap operas, start by watching your favorite TV shows. You’ll pick up useful Spanish vocabulary while having fun watching something you already know you like.
You can improve your listening comprehension and your reading skills by watching with Spanish subtitles. This way, your brain won’t be translating back and forth from English to Spanish, but will be forced to think solely in your target language.
Turn on a Spanish TV channel or radio station. Listening to native speakers and authentic news will improve your understanding of Spanish subtleties as well as relevant current events.
Download some Spanish podcasts and turn your daily commute into practice time. There are many options to choose from via iTunes and Google Play; look for ones with high ratings or good reviews. Try Radio Ambulante or Notes in Spanish to get you started.
Use cooking or cleaning time to play Spanish music. You could even take it a step further and download the lyrics so you can eventually sing along!
By listening to Spanish as often as possible, you’ll pick up the rhythms of the language and internalize grammar and vocabulary. The more you practice, the faster this process will be.
Here are some more resources for listening practice:
- KeRapido. It’s run by a native Spanish speaker and offers MP3s and audiobooks to helps you fine-tune your pronunciation of tricky sounds and improve your accent.
- Gritty Spanish. It promises realistic, entertaining Spanish dialogues, with a specific focus on learners who want to pick up Spanish quickly.
- SpanishListening. It offers terrific listening activities featuring speakers from a wide array of Spanish-speaking countries. This will help familiarize you with regional accents and vocabulary variations.
- Spanish Resources. It has great listening activities, plus accompanying practice materials like worksheets and quizzes. The website may be under maintenance when you visit, but you should still be able to access most of the available resources.
5. Make Learning Fun
You’re bound to learn Spanish quicker if you enjoy studying. But once you get the basics down, delving into the nitty-gritty can seem boring or frustrating.
Fortunately, it isn’t hard to make learning fun so you can get your motivation back up! The same things you enjoy in your downtime can be great learning tools.
- Try watching movies in Spanish to boost your comprehension skills.
- Advance your reading level with a heart-stirring Spanish novel (or an old favorite).
- Keep up with current events and learn about issues affecting the Spanish-speaking world.
And what’s more fun than 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.
Some online Spanish games are RockALingua and 123 Teach Me. Both provide game options at different levels. When one level is mastered, you can begin playing 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 into Spanish language lessons as long as conversation and play is done exclusively in the target language.
Even board games can have a place in your Spanish studies. Try Scrabble Spanish (love this one!) and KLOO.
6. Find a Language Partner
Speaking Spanish daily with another learner or a native speaker will definitely move your language skills into high gear. Speaking forces us to think quickly to not only understand what our conversation partner is saying but also to formulate a reply.
Whether you’re living abroad or at home, it’s likely there are conversation classes or intercambios (conversation exchanges) that will give you plenty of opportunities to practice your Spanish.
- Use MeetUp to sign up for events and meetings happening in your area so you can practice Spanish in person.
- Conversation Exchange will help you find a Spanish conversation partner. The site allows you to choose based on location, so if you’re planning a trip to a certain Spanish-speaking city or country, look for a new friend in that spot.
- Skype brings learners together no matter where you are. With it, we can welcome the global community to our doorsteps—or our living rooms—so it’s an ideal method for speaking in real time with another Spanish speaker.
- Find a language partner through the Couchsurfing community. A social network for travelers, it will help you find others on the road who may be looking to improve their Spanish skills as well.
- Converse with a group of Spanish speakers on LingQ. This oddball Spanish learning space has a ridiculous amount of cool features. I say “oddball” because it’s just so unique. The stand-out feature is the opportunity to have group conversation lessons and/or one-on-one lessons.
- Meet other Spanish speakers in Facebook groups. This is a great way to find conversation groups that already exist around the world. They often hold consistent, in-person meetups too!
To make sure you and your language partner get the most out of the experience, remember these tips:
- Spend equal amounts of time speaking in English and Spanish (15/15 minutes or 30/30 minutes).
- When one of you makes a mistake, the other corrects it immediately.
- Meet once a week at the same time to make it a standard weekly meeting—and a habit!
- Ensure you’re on the same page about the topics you’d like to discuss.
- Have fun!
Whether you’re meeting someone for a coffee or glass of vino, you’re bound to build up your vocabulary quickly, as well as that all-important confidence.
7. Learn By Socializing
An ideal way to practice Spanish is to make friends who speak Spanish! It might be easier to do this while living abroad, but with some research, you can likely find similar activities near home too.
- Find people with the same hobbies.
Is there an activity you enjoy that you do regularly? Maybe you like dancing, playing Ultimate Frisbee, drawing or playing guitar. Whatever it is, there are definitely Spanish speakers out there who enjoy the same thing.
Take a class in Spanish related to your favorite activity. You can practice something you like while also communicating with others in your target language.
Best of all, your social life will benefit too! You’ll likely meet people from all over the world who share an interest in this activity. Maybe you’ll start hanging out outside of class, and guess how easy it will be to practice Spanish then?
- Only socialize in Spanish—especially if you live abroad.
If someone speaks to you in Spanish and realizes it’s difficult for you to understand what they’re saying, they’ll usually switch to English. But if everyone keeps switching to English because you don’t understand, how in the world will you ever progress?
Be bold. Say that you need to practice your Spanish skills, and then do it. Don’t switch to English when someone else does; continue answering in Spanish and they’ll get the picture. Many native speakers will be delighted you’re going to such great lengths to learn their language, so they’ll be more than happy to help you out.
Always, always use Spanish when you hang out with Spanish-speaking people. Don’t get lazy, because this is how some people live abroad for years and still don’t speak the local language: they never use it.
- Go on dates in Spanish. If you’re single and looking for love, why not combine that search with your quest to learn Spanish?
Yes, dating can already be daunting. But if you end up meeting someone interesting (or even the person of your dreams!) it could be your ticket to some fast track learning.
8. Make Your Own Vocabulary Lists
Since only you know what words and phrases you’re inclined to use often, making your own vocabulary lists is an excellent way to ensure you focus on those words and learn them quickly. You won’t be wasting time on words you already know or that you’re unlikely to encounter.
Jot down any words or phrases you think would be useful to you. You can even brainstorm to think about the words and phrases you use most often in English to find their Spanish equivalents.
Meanwhile, while you’re reading, watching or listening to content in Spanish, take note of any unfamiliar words or phrases and add them to your lists.
Once you have your vocabulary lists ready to go, keep them handy to study during any spare minutes of your day. This will ensure that you’re making the most of your Spanish practice and retaining new words, so you can boost your vocabulary as quickly as possible.
If you need help getting started on your vocabulary lists, you might try Spanish Sentence Magic. This audio program focuses on teaching you “high-frequency vocabulary,” or common words that you’re likely to encounter often in Spanish. Plus, Spanish Sentence Magic provides tools so you can put that vocabulary to use by building your own original sentences.
9. Try Spanish Shadowing
Shadow in Spanish by watching or listening to Spanish resources. Immediately after you hear a word or phrase, repeat it. Attempt to speak whether or not you understand what’s being said. Say it even if you’re sure you’re not pronouncing everything correctly. Those details will come with practice!
Shadowing challenges learners to do their best to sound like a native speaker. The more you try to mimic native Spanish speakers, the easier it becomes!
- Short videos work well for shadowing. Repeat dialogue as soon as it’s spoken by the characters on the screen.
Videos with accurate subtitles are extra helpful here, like those in FluentU videos; they’re interactive, so you can tap a word to see detailed information about the term and pause the video at the same time.
- Cooking videos are another excellent choice for shadowing practice. Think about how everyone mimics Julia Child and sounds just like her. That’s because when she speaks, we shadow her comments.
I speak like a Spanish Julia Child with cooking videos in my kitchen. It’s a fun, fast way to increase language skills—and it also means we eat some pretty awesome meals!
An authentic cooking channel that’s perfect for shadowing is “De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina” (From My Ranch to Your Kitchen) which showcases all sorts of meals prepared in a Spanish grandmother’s home!
- If you live in a Spanish-speaking country, try shadowing in a busy park, café or transportation hub.
Try to repeat anything you hear, even if it’s just a fragment of a sentence. Do you best to repeat it as similarly as possible to the original speaker to improve your accent, inflection and pronunciation.
Shadowing will also help you learn to recognize words that occur often—like local slang, phrase structures and common verbs.
10. Set Goals
To learn Spanish quickly, set SMART goals.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Studies show a clear correlation between goal setting and a positive outcome!
One study indicates that people who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve them, so grab your pen and paper and start mapping a plan to success.
Here’s an example of what one of your goals might be and why it’s a “SMART” one:
Goal: I will learn 30 new Spanish words or 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 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,” your goal is specific—30 new words every two weeks.
- Measurable: Since you’re writing down the words, you’ll be able to periodically measure how close you are to meeting your goal. If you see that you only learned five new words after one week, you’ll know that 30 might be a little too overwhelming.
- Attainable: 100 new words a week isn’t doable, but 30 new phrases in two weeks is.
- Relevant: Your reason is your motivation. 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 progress and plan accordingly. Put a realistic deadline on when you hope to achieve the final result.
11. Establish Learning Incentives
Make rapid-learning Spanish a short-term “employment” gig. Even if you make your Spanish learning as fun as possible, it’s still hard work! And, like any work, you deserve to be compensated and rewarded for it. Right?
Establishing incentives is a good way to nudge yourself into establishing and maintaining behaviors. Plus, it can encourage you to study regularly (so you can get your reward regularly!).
- If you have the funds, try setting up a system of monetary compensation. Decide how much it’s worth to learn Spanish quickly, and then put the funds aside. It’s a great incentive to know the cash is waiting for you.
- No money? No problem! A reward can be anything. Treat yourself to some dessert at the end of a week of learning. Add five minutes to your evening walk for every hour you study. Put aside your really exciting book or TV show and don’t continue it until you’re done with your studies. Anything that you look forward to can be used as an incentive to study hard!
- Don’t make the goal? Don’t beat yourself up over it—but don’t pay yourself, either. No dessert for you this week. Donate the money that was waiting for you to charity, instead. That book or show will just have to wait until you finish your work!
12. Learn Some Idioms, Proverbs or Lingo
Fast learning doesn’t have to be dull if you focus on some of the fun parts of Spanish vocabulary. Aren’t we all more enthusiastic about grabbing the interesting parts of speech than we are about pulling “basic vocabulary” into our skillset?
The necessary foundational vocabulary and grammar will follow in time. I speak from experience here. Fun signals adventure, and adventure draws us in every single time, so think outside the box and let yourself have some fun!
- Do you feel adventurous? Then try learning some cuss words to add flavor to your conversations. You don’t need to start swearing like crazy. I’m just saying that most of us pick up a few of the more colorful words and phrases when we begin to learn Spanish. They come in handy and make conversations a tad more interesting. And even if we’re not fluent, we feel somewhat more authentic, don’t we?
- Get hooked on a Spanish vlog. Vloggers cover unlimited topics and typically speak in a natural conversational manner. Following a Spanish vlog is an ideal way to grab some idioms and lingo.
For example, watch Mariale for Spanish listening practice, but also to pick up fashion, food, entertainment and news information. She uses tons of idioms, too! If Mariale isn’t your kind of content, there are plenty of other Spanish vloggers for you to check out.
Most importantly, don’t give up if you’re not learning as quickly as you’d hoped. Instead, try other methods, and have fun with it.
Learning a language can take time, but finding the best method for you will put you on the track to success!