They say children’s brains are like sponges and that they are much better than adults when it comes to language learning.
I have heard a million times that the younger you are when you start learning a language, the more fluent you will become.
But is it really true?
Research confirms what language teachers like me have been telling y’all for years: Adults are actually better at learning a new language than kids!
But we are not here to debate who is better.
We are here to tell you that it is never too late to learn a new language.
You might have been discouraged by previous attempts to learn, or maybe you really believed that you could not learn because of your age. No matter what has been keeping you from taking that first step, we are here to help.
This article will go over 17 ways you can learn Spanish as an adult… especially as an adult. You have more of an advantage than you might think!
And we will begin by asking a very important question: Why do you want to learn Spanish?
4 Reasons to Learn Spanish as an Adult
Each of us may have our own reasons for wanting or having to learn Spanish at an older age.
The truth is that motivation and the will to learn are the only things you need if you want to succeed.
For all those readers out there who are still hesitating and wondering whether they should embark on this new journey or not, I have come up with a list of the four main reasons why we, as adults, may want or need to learn Spanish at this stage in our lives:
Yup, learning a new language can be a pleasure! I am one of the crazy guys who feel this way. I love learning languages and learning about the culture of the country or countries where they are spoken, about the food, the people, the traditions…
Learning a new language can bring you so much satisfaction! And even though we all know learning a foreign language is a never-ending journey, you will feel so proud of yourself every time you hit that milestone called “the next level.”
If you are a person with a thirst for knowledge, learning Spanish will open a whole new world to you.
You have finally made up your mind to travel to a Spanish-speaking country for your next vacation, but you do not even know how to say “Hello!” (that’s ¡Hola!, by the way).
What better reason is there to learn Spanish than being able to communicate with the locals during your trip?
There is nothing we love more than a foreigner trying to speak our language! Do not miss out on this opportunity and start practicing those skills now so you can order a beer como Dios manda (properly [lit. “as God commands”]).
3. Study/work abroad
Okay, sometimes pleasure and leisure will not be involved at the outset of your adventure. But who knows what the future can bring to your life while abroad?
Traveling to a foreign country because you have decided to study abroad or have landed that super job you wanted is a great reason to start learning Spanish later in life.
This one is for the romantic and adventurous, for those who believe in love at first sight, long-distance relationships and eternal flames. If you have fallen in love with a Spanish-speaking person and you want to win them over, the first thing you should do is learn their language.
They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, but a heartfelt te quiero (I love you) is much more powerful than all the tacos in the world.
The Advantages of Learning a New Language as an Adult
I firmly believe that age does not matter a bit when you want to do something.
There may be hundreds of advantages to learning Spanish as an adult, but based on my personal experience, the following are the four most valuable ones:
Freedom of choice
We are not children anymore. Learning a new language as adults allows us to decide what, when, where and how we want to do it. The freedom we have to choose the method, the time and everything else regarding our study is something children do not have.
Take advantage of that!
Managing your own path
Do you want to learn Spanish for business? Maybe you would rather start with vocabulary lists? Or do you want an intensive course with a private tutor?
Whatever you want to do, you are the sole decision-maker and the one to draw the path of your learning. Choose what works for you, work around schedule and do not waste a single moment with a learning method that is not working.
Knowing what you want and need
You are mature enough to know why you want to learn that new language. You know what you want from your classes or courses and you can say “Next!” if things do not go as planned.
Knowing what you want and need will definitely save you time and money, and that is another great advantage you should not take for granted.
Not wasting your time and money
To continue on from the previous advantage: You are old enough to know whether you want to pay for learning a language or not. You can decide if buying the premium version of that app may pay off, if you want to invest a few hundred in a thorough learning plan or if you would rather use entirely free resources.
Your money is your money, and you will not give it away freely to the first pseudo-teacher you find online. Wasting money and time is something we as adults should flee from as fast as we can. You have the power to decide when and where to invest your money. Be wise!
Learn Spanish as an Adult with 17 Great Methods
If you have decided to continue reading, I have probably convinced you to start learning Spanish. Congratulations!
The rest of this post will be focused specifically on techniques and methods you can use to your advantage so that your language learning path is interesting, quick and (hopefully) fruitful.
The first three sections below are general pieces of advice you can apply during the whole learning process. The rest of the section is divided into categories so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Set Personal Learning Goals (and Reach Them)
Now that you have decided to study Spanish, start by planning your learning. Make a list of small goals you want to accomplish and a big, fat, final goal that will be your final destination. Allot some specific time to each of your small goals and try to reach them one by one.
The best strategy is not giving up and not skipping any of your goals! Go step by step and do not start your next goal until you have accomplished the previous one.
What goals you set depends entirely on you, what you want your learning to look like and the time you can devote to studying. Some people prefer dividing the goals by grammar topics, others go for vocabulary areas and there are those who even give themselves a specific time to reach a page number!
No matter how you divide your tasks, always keep them in mind and re-read them from time to time so that you do not lose track of your destination.
Make Learning Spanish a Habit
I know it is easier said than done, but the more you treat your Spanish studies as something you have to do at specific times on specific days, the more it will become ingrained in your brain and the faster it will turn into a good habit.
When I am learning a new language (which is pretty much every single day of my life) I dedicate at least 30 minutes to it every day after work. I know I am not allowed to go to bed until I have finished my learning session. Over the years, this has stopped being a compulsory activity and it is now more of a pleasant habit that allows me to unwind and relax before going to bed.
Try it for a couple of weeks and you will feel the difference!
Track Your Progress and Review, Review, Review!
From time to time—say, once a week—you will need to look back to track and assess your progress. Make notes and compare where you are with where you should be according to your goals. If you feel that you gave yourself too little time for some goals, rewrite the plan and keep on updating and adapting it to your current situation.
Changes do not mean failure. We are adults and we all have lives!
Give yourself at least a couple of days between small goals in order to review what you have learned so far. Reviewing is as important as the act of learning itself. While reviewing, you will be able to see what you have really learned and what needs more work on your part.
These couple of days dedicated to reviewing will also relieve some pressure, because you will not have to focus on reaching a goal—you will just be working through what you already know.
The Learning Methods
The theory is clear, but how on Earth do we start learning this beautiful language? What are we supposed to do to ensure we make the most of the little time we have and get results ASAP?
The following is a list of 17 methods you can use in order to learn Spanish easily and quickly. I have grouped them into four categories: “very easy,” “easy,” “slightly harder” and “beyond your comfort zone.”
You do not have to do all of them, of course! Choose the ones you feel comfortable with and those for which you have the time and the resources. The rest is up to you.
Easy Ways to Learn Spanish as an Adult
1. Label your house, literally!
Take some notepaper and write the words for furniture, household items, electronic devices, etc. on them, both in English and Spanish (or just in Spanish). Then, stick them to the corresponding objects so you can see their Spanish name every time you have a look or reach for them!
Are you brushing your teeth? Then you should be looking at yourself in the espejo (mirror). Heating a meal in the microondas (microwave)? The sticky note sure says so! Maybe you are going to take something from the fridge? Every time you get close to it, you will see it is called frigorífico or nevera in Spanish!
It really is as easy as it sounds. Plus, seeing the words in Spanish every single day will help you memorize them with literally zero effort.
2. Get immersive with FluentU
Do you like watching fun video clips? Do you want to learn with authentic videos?
Combine the two with FluentU!
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 gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
3. Go one topic at a time
One easy way to start building your vocabulary is by learning vocabulary words by themes. Start by studying the numbers, the colors, some weather expressions, the animals, etc. You decide!
Pick a topic and focus on it. Learn everything there is to know about it: the basic vocabulary, the expressions, the grammar behind it, the pronunciation of each word and so on. Do not go on to the next topic until you have mastered the one you are working on and know the meaning of all the words you have chosen.
You can use flashcards or make your own vocabulary lists to help you study.
4. Turn your hobby into your biggest strength
This is somewhat related to the previous method because you will be focusing on one topic at a time. First, make a list of all the hobbies you have. From cooking to mechanics, wine tasting to stamp collecting, all of us have at least one or two areas of interest we know a lot about.
Use this knowledge to your advantage and look for vocabulary lists or books related to that topic. In Spanish, of course!
Try to get to know as much as possible about that topic you love so much. Learning about something close to our hearts is not only easier, but can also be useful!
Imagine you love baking. You can learn about topics like food, cooking techniques, the imperative (widely used in recipes), etc. After that, you can search for recipes online or even buy a bilingual cooking book and translate longer sentences.
There will come a time when you will be able to simply search for a recipe online in Spanish and follow it without any problem. Practice makes perfect, as they say!
5. Memorize and repeat phrases, sentences and expressions
Some of my students prefer to follow what I call The Parrot Method. They make a list of the words and expressions they want to learn and try to listen to them and repeat them out loud as many times as they can.
Repetition is a great technique for those who may have a mild allergy to grammar rules and prefer a more hands-on approach to learning a language.
If you are a lover of perfecting sentences by repeating them over and over until you sound like a real native, this is a great place to start. Besides, this method goes very well with the next one…
6. Talk to yourself in the mirror
No, I am not crazy. I do it myself and it works wonders. However, I always try to do it when I am by myself so that no one thinks I have gone nuts!
Talking to yourself in the mirror and repeating Spanish words and expressions you have been practicing is a great way of seeing how your mouth, tongue and teeth move when you talk.
You can compare your mouth movements with those of natives and see where you can improve. You can even imagine that you are talking to another person and practice some small talk and simple conversations! Once you get beyond the feeling of embarrassment (and stop laughing at yourself every two seconds) you will be able to effectively practice your Spanish in front of the mirror.
I normally look for YouTube videos that teach pronunciation of interesting or important expressions, turn up the volume, take my laptop to the bathroom with me and start talking to myself. (Yes, I need a dog…)
7. Make YouTube your best friend
That is exactly what I do! But YouTube can be used for much more than just talking to yourself in the mirror. You have literally millions of videos that can teach you Spanish from scratch. You can look for specific grammar topics you are studying, vocabulary lists, reading and listening exercises… Everything can be found there.
There are even YouTube videos that will teach you Spanish while sleeping! I have tried them and they do work (at least, for reviewing), although you need to be consistent if you really want to see results.
But knowing where to find the perfect channel is half the battle! Enter FluentU Spanish YouTube. A YouTube channel dedicated to exploring the excitement, culture and nuance of Spanish society and language.
The channel is your introduction to enjoyable learning from content from a team that really knows their stuff. The collection features videos covering the latest trends in Spanish television, TED talks, tasty recipes, and many other topics that are all high value.
You’ll be able to binge on YouTube without feeling guilty after. It’s a win-win situation.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure you subscribe and click the notification button, so you never miss a new video.
Why not start with a video about how to take advantage of Spanish podcasts and then take it from there?
8. Download language learning apps
Learning with the help of phone apps is getting more and more popular.
There are apps for every kind of student, from little children to adults like us. Think about what you want to practice through apps and download the ones you enjoy the most.
There are literally thousands of apps waiting for you just a finger away!
9. Use the proper grammar books
Not all grammar books are the same, just as no two students are the same.
As with phone apps, there are thousands of grammar books available to gorge on some juicy, good old grammar, but you need to choose the one that works best for you. Whether it is a book full of explanations and examples or a workbook to get your pencil and brain moving, have a look a different grammar resources before choosing one.
Try to avoid all those magical “fluent in two days” books, though. If you really want to learn Spanish beyond hola (hello) and buenos días (good morning), you had better find a good grammar book.
10. Play games in Spanish
Everyone has their favorite board game, myself included! Try to get a hold of the Spanish versions of your favorite games. They will be a great asset and will let you have fun while learning!
I personally buy “Scrabble” for every single language I learn. Other games I really enjoy are “Trivial Pursuit” and “¿Quién es quién?” (“Guess who?”). Remember, you are only allowed to talk in Spanish while playing, so take your grammar guide and dictionary with you!
The only downside of this method is that you need other people who are learning Spanish, but there are millions of learners around the globe! I am sure you will find some friends who talk Spanish or are studying it!
Slightly Harder Ways to Learn Spanish as an Adult
These methods are not as easy to do just because they are rather advanced or they require a little more money than the previous ones.
11. Practice your listening skills with podcasts
If you are a total beginner, listening to podcasts from day one may be a bit of a stretch. But if you have already studied some grammar and vocabulary and you choose the right ones, podcasts can be a great way to practice your listening skills and improve your pronunciation.
Always choose podcasts hosted by native speakers and start listening to them every chance you can, be it on the bus, in your car, while cooking or just while being a real couch potato.
12. Read bilingual books
Bilingual books have always been popular, but they are mushrooming lately. There are bilingual books for every reader, for every topic and at almost any level. Just choose the right ones for you and start your adventure.
Reading bilingual books may not be for everyone, though.
It is true that you will be seeing the translation right away, but the more knowledge you have about the target language, the more useful bilingual books will become. This is because you will not only be adding vocabulary to your word bank but you will also be able to spot grammar rules and patterns and learn how to use them to your advantage!
13. Buy language courses
There are millions of language courses you can buy, install on your computer and start using in the blink of an eye. Most of them are divided by level and sold separately, which can make them cost a little more. Others are complete and include all the resources you will ever need to go from knowing nothing to being conversational.
Out of the infinite number of courses out there, Rosetta Stone, the Michel Thomas method, Babbel and a number of other excellent programs are definitely worth a try.
14. Attend a language course
Going to a group language course is more affordable than having a private tutor come to your place or teach you through Skype.
However, if you are the kind of person who likes one-on-one learning or are not very fond of socializing and having 20 other people begging for attention in the classroom, this method might not be for you.
Beyond Your Comfort Zone
The last three methods can be expensive, difficult and even plain crazy, but they are the most effective if you want to learn really fast.
15. Talk to native speakers
Talking, chatting and writing to native speakers gives you the best and most direct feedback you could ever have. If you are a shy person, this may sound like going a little too far but I can assure you that it works!
You surely will make mistakes and you might even have some embarrassing moments when you will say what you should not, but this real-life practice is priceless. Tell your native friends to correct your mistakes as you speak or write. Take notes and apply what they say to future conversations.
16. Get a private tutor
It can be expensive, I know. But effective! If you really want to make a good investment, hiring a native Spanish speaker is the best way to go. But beware! Not all native speakers are good teachers. Make sure your tutor has experience in teaching and has the qualifications needed to be one.
As a language teacher and translator, I dislike it when people from other trades think they can teach just because they are also native speakers. I have a heart but I would not perform a heart implant. So do not let a false teacher teach you Spanish! Always check the reviews for tutors.
17. Actually go abroad and get immersed in the language
This last method is only for the brave of heart and for those who have the resources and time to be able to spend a few months in another country. If you are one of the lucky ones, do not hesitate to pack your bags and travel to a Spanish-speaking country.
Living immersed in the culture and having 24/7 access to the language is undoubtedly the best way of learning it. You will be able to listen to native speakers talk all day long about thousands of different topics.
You will also have to use the language if you want to eat, drink, find a place to sleep and pretty much every other aspect of life that requires communication.
If you choose this method, try to avoid English-speaking people in your country of choice or you will end up talking more English than in America!
If it is unavoidable, tell them from day one that you will only listen to them when they talk in Spanish. You are not spending your time and money to speak English, so make the most of your trip because you are one of the few lucky people who are able to learn Spanish the best way possible.
And that is all for today, my friends. I hope I have been able to convince you that learning a new language as an adult is more than a good idea. It is a great idea!
It is never too late to learn new things, especially a language as beautiful as Spanish.
Choose the methods that suit you best and start learning right away. I am sure this new chapter of your life will be full of new and exciting adventures… in Spanish!
Stay curious and as always, happy learning!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.