Olympic athletes do some incredible things.
It takes a combination of innate talent, thousands of hours of practice and an impressive level of dedication to excel at their skill so much that they make it look easy.
But that does not mean it actually is easy.
Learning a new language, like running a marathon or high-diving into an Olympic pool, is not an easy task. It, too, takes a bit of talent, lots of practice and plenty of dedication.
We all know it will not be easy. But we still have to ask ourselves at some point: “Is Spanish hard to learn?”
And this is a valid question. You want to know if you should put your time and energy into something that might end up being as difficult as, well, getting into the Olympics!
So, just how hard is it to learn Spanish? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
In this post, we break down some factors that make Spanish difficult—and some that make it super easy—to learn. You can decide for yourself how difficult learning Spanish might be for you after reading these reasons.
How Hard Spanish Is to Learn Depends on You
Before we even look at Spanish, there are a number of personal factors that will affect the ease at which you will absorb the language.
One of the best indicators of how quickly and easily you can master Spanish is if you already know a second language. Knowing a second language makes learning a third (and fourth and fifth…) language much easier.
This is especially true if you have already mastered another Romance language, since a large part of the construction and many of the words are similar in this group of languages.
If you do not know any language other than English, then things will be a bit more difficult for you as you will be starting from scratch.
You may also have an easier time learning Spanish if you have access to a community of Spanish speaking people. Practicing with others in person is an important part of the learning process, and having Spanish speakers near you gives you more opportunities to actually use your Spanish skills.
Learning Spanish can also be easier if you started at a young age. Kids find it easier to learn new languages because they do so organically, picking up information and internalizing it just like they learn their native language.
The good news is that if you took Spanish classes in school, you may already have a basic foundation of the language to build from. Having that head start, however small, can make the process easier.
Should You Try to Learn Spanish Anyway?
Were you really expecting a different answer?
Learning a new language is always satisfying, even more so if you have the odds stacked against you.
Sure, it might not be easy. But if a bit of a challenge stopped people from trying things, the Olympics would be very boring to watch.
One caveat, though: You will not get far if you approach Spanish as a chore. Find a reason that inspires you to study. What motivates you to learn Spanish? Use that as a source of strength when things get difficult.
Before you begin working on it, you should also decide what level of fluency you want to achieve. If you just want to learn some basics for an upcoming trip, then your learning journey will be much easier than if you want to become completely fluent in the language.
Whatever your reason is for studying, the journey will be well worth it.
Is Spanish Hard to Learn? 6 Factors to Consider Before You Start Your Studies
Spanish is a complex language. Some aspects of the language will make it harder to learn, while others will make things easier, especially since you already know English.
Let’s go over some of the challenges you may face along the way.
3 Reasons Why Spanish Is Not Hard to Learn
You already know many words thanks to cognates
English and Spanish share many words that look similar and have the same definitions, like adoptar (to adopt) and participar (to participate). These are called English-Spanish cognates, and they make Spanish easier to learn.
Since you can tell what a cognate means just by looking at it, you will be starting the learning process with a stack of vocabulary already under your belt.
However, it is important to realize that there are also false cognates. These are words that seem similar but have different meanings, like sopa, which actually means soup (not soap).
It can be easy to fall for this trap so make sure to study the false cognates to prevent confusion!
The sentence structure is similar to English
Spanish and English have very similar sentence structures, which is half the battle! Except for a few differences (like adjective order, for instance), Spanish and English both use the “Subject, Verb, Object” (SVO) sentence structure.
There are languages that use completely different word orders, so the similarities here mean one less thing to learn!
Spanish has many rules and patterns to follow
Like English, Spanish has many rules that have long lists of exceptions. But there are plenty of patterns and rules that really do work, and the more of them you know, the more of the language you will master. Look for these patterns in your learning to make Spanish just a tad easier to learn.
For example, conjugating a verb or building a sentence are both fairly uniform throughout the language, requiring you to just learn the rules (we will discuss exceptions to this in a bit).
Patterns are everywhere. You will notice quickly, for example, that nouns ending in -o are often masculine while nouns that end in -a are often feminine. Even the exceptions to this have patterns: nouns that end with -ema are nearly always masculine, like el poema (the poem) and el tema (the theme).
Keep an eye out for more patterns to make your language learning easier.
3 Reasons Why Spanish Is Hard to Learn
Spanish has many irregular verbs
Irregular verbs will make your Spanish learning journey harder.
Many common verbs are irregular, so you are likely to use them in everyday conversations. This makes mastering the most common irregular verbs crucial.
Although it might seem overwhelming at first, you just have to put the time in and learn these challenging verbs. As you study, you will notice some of those patterns we mentioned before which will make your life easier.
Remember that this is one of the most difficult parts of the language, so do not give up if it takes you a little while to learn these.
It is a gendered language
Unlike English, Spanish nouns have assigned genders. In the beginning, this will take some getting used to.
Genders are often attached with no rhyme or reason: In many cases, you are simply expected to remember if a word is masculine or feminine.
And gender is important: the gender of a noun affects words around it like adjectives and articles. It can be frustrating at first, but if you study new nouns with their gender attached, you will have an easier time remembering them in conjunction later on.
And although they often seem random, there are some rules surrounding genders, too. As you learn, you will start to get a sense of why things are certain genders throughout the language.
For example, a group of mixed gender people will always be referred to in a masculine way, while many animal nouns can be either male or female, depending on the animal’s actual gender.
If you are not sure how to study this aspect of the language, start by learning the rules.
The pronunciation can be difficult to master
Most of the letters in Spanish are identical to those of the English alphabet. However, Spanish pronunciation differs significantly from English, even if the letters it uses are the same.
You should be especially careful with vowels, which use different pronunciations from their English equivalents.
In a way, vowels in Spanish are easier to learn: Unlike English vowels, which have a number of different pronunciations, Spanish vowels are usually pronounced the same no matter what. For example, the letter e is pronounced with an “eh” sound, like in “met.”
But nailing those sounds can be challenging for non-native speakers. And do not get us started on the notorious rolled rr sound!
It will take some practice, but you will eventually master it.
How to Make the Spanish Learning Process Easier
No matter how difficult you find the language, there are ways to make the Spanish learning process easier.
Here are a few tips!
Find your learning style
Everyone has a different learning style. Find yours before you get started for a learning boost.
For example, if you are a visual learner, then Spanish podcasts might not be the best way to learn.
The key is to study smarter, not harder.
Make time to learn
Learning a new language takes time. You will never get anywhere in your studies unless you set time aside to learn. To achieve your Spanish goals, plan to work toward your goal on a regular basis, even if it is just 15 minutes per day.
Make studying a part of your daily routine to ensure that you actually keep up with it.
Choose to use Spanish every day
In addition to setting aside time, you should try to use Spanish in your everyday life.
You can do this by narrating what you are doing in Spanish, labeling your household items, playing Spanish music, reading the news in Spanish or any other way you can think to actively use Spanish on a daily basis.
The best way to learn is through practice!
Use the resources you have available
Thanks to the internet, the resources available to you for studying Spanish are nearly limitless.
You can even find authentic, immersive videos on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It is an entertaining method to immerse yourself in Spanish the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary.
If that is not enough for you, YouTube has literally millions of videos for your learning pleasure.
The world of Spanish learning is at your fingertips! Just reach out and find the learning methods and resources that work best for you.
And finally, just keep learning!
The best way to make learning Spanish easier is to believe that you can do it. Just keep working towards your fluency goals and go for the gold!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.