Spanish for Beginners: Here’s Exactly What You Need To Learn
There are 572 million Spanish speakers worldwide. This number is expected to grow to over 750 million by the year 2060. There are 21 countries around the world where Spanish is the official language (or one of them).
What I am trying to say here is that learning Spanish is pretty important.
If you’ve been on the fence about learning Spanish, don’t hesitate—you will be tapping into a tremendously influential (and beautiful) language.
But if you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post we’ll show you the most essential elements of Spanish to master as a beginner, step by step.
Let’s take a look!
- 1. The Spanish Alphabet
- 2. Spanish Cognates
- 3. Spanish Articles, Gender Rules and Plurals
- 4. Accentuation Rules and Accent Marks
- 5. Key Spanish Verbs
- 6. Important Spanish Vocabulary
- 7. Personal Pronouns and Related Words
- 8. Cultural Info for Beginners
- 9. Word Order and Sentence Building
- 10. Spanish Present and Future Tense
- 11. Spanish Present Progressive
- 12.Interrogative and Relative Spanish Pronouns
- 13. Spanish Verb Negation
- 14. Irregular Spanish Verbs
- 15. Spanish Imperfect and Preterite Tenses
- 16. Spanish Conditional Tense
- 17. Spanish Commands
- And One More Thing…
The guide below is listed in the suggested order you should tackle each task.
While you can follow the sections in any order you like, remember that the list has been carefully planned for maximum efficiency so that you progress faster!
How long it takes will depend on many factors—like how much daily study time you are able to dedicate, how much Spanish you know when you begin, the resources you use and your own personal learning speed.
Either way, as long as you learn everything on this list, you’ll be able to progress to intermediate and beyond!
1. The Spanish Alphabet
It may seem obvious, but the first thing you have to do when starting to learn a new language is to study its alphabet, plus learn the letters’ different sounds.
You will realize that there are letters in Spanish that English does not have (like ñ or ll). Likewise, there are letters that English uses like there is no tomorrow but Spanish tends to avoid (k and w are the best examples).
You can use this first step as a starting point to learn the correct pronunciation of single words, which will certainly help you later in your journey.
2. Spanish Cognates
A cognate is a word that sounds and means the same in two languages. And there are a lot of cognates in Spanish and English.
You already know much more Spanish vocabulary than you could have ever imagined! Once you know what cognates are, you will start seeing them everywhere!
Here is one to get you started: función (function).
3. Spanish Articles, Gender Rules and Plurals
English has three articles (“a,” “an,” “the”), but Spanish has eight!
Every new noun you study should have a corresponding article. They tend to give learners a headache in later phases if they have not studied them at the beginning. So learn them now! For example, learn it as el coche (the car), not just coche.
Spanish articles go hand-in-hand with gender and number (whether something is singular or plural), two of the easiest but also most important topics you need to cover while warming up.
By learning these two concepts, you will understand that each Spanish noun and adjective has a specific gender and number and you will begin to get a sense of how important these are to constructing sentences.
4. Accentuation Rules and Accent Marks
If you have ever seen written Spanish, you probably noticed that some of the letters have little accent marks above them. These are crucial if you want to read Spanish words properly.
By learning a couple of accentuation rules, you will know how to read and spell Spanish words correctly!
5. Key Spanish Verbs
You can now start learning the most important Spanish verbs. This is the point at which you are no longer learning isolated words—with the help of a few verbs, you will be able to start forming sentences.
Ser, estar and haber (all meaning “to be”) are the best way to break the ice. By learning these three grammar monsters, you will be able to talk about yourself and what surrounds you.
At this point, you can also start taking a look at how to conjugate regular verbs in the first (-ar), second (-er) and third (-ir) conjugations.
6. Important Spanish Vocabulary
By building vocabulary before you begin studying tenses and learning grammar concepts, you are ensuring that you will have enough words to work with when you are ready to begin building sentences.
Whether you use an app to learn new daily words or you learn them in chunks, it is a good idea to learn new words by themes. You can even try children’s dictionaries or Spanish apps that are for kids!
Keep it simple, focusing initially on commonly used words and simple phrases, and work your way up to more complicated topics.
Here are a few vocabulary lists to get you started, which include more in-depth vocabulary for later on in your Spanish learning journey:
- Basic greetings
- Numbers and telling the time
- The days of the week and the months of the year
- Daily routines
- The weather
- Travel and transportation
- Saying thank you
- Asking how are you
- Body parts
Every learner has to go through a beginning phase where there are quite a lot of topics that need to be learned in order to start taking their first steps by themselves.
The words you learn should be useful to you. There is no point in learning Spanish words if you would never use them in your life!
7. Personal Pronouns and Related Words
Pronouns are an important component to every language. You are already able to say “a car” in Spanish, but what if you want to talk about “this” or “that” car, or maybe “your” car?
- Personal pronouns (“I,” “you,” “he,” etc.) are a good place to start.
- Next could be demonstrative and possessive adjectives. These little words are a real treasure in any language, and will allow you to talk or write in more detail about anything you want.
- Direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns will also come in handy if you want to start feeling like a real native speaker.
Plus, pronouns are always perfect for those occasions when you cannot remember the noun!
8. Cultural Info for Beginners
Now is a good time to learn a bit more about the culture of the language you are studying.
If you want to know more about dialects, music or other interesting topics just to spice up your Spanish, feel free to have a look at the last three links or search for the topics you are interested in.
9. Word Order and Sentence Building
At this stage, you still do not have an idea of what Spanish looks like as a whole. This is the best moment to learn about word order and sentence building!
Don’t worry if you find words you do not understand or tenses that baffle you. In time, it’ll come together and you’ll understand whole sentences.
10. Spanish Present and Future Tense
The first tenses most Spanish students learn are the simple present and future tenses, in that order.
The present simple is used to talk about your daily routines, primarily. Spanish also loves using this tense for different purposes (including the future!), so it is a good idea to start with it.
The future simple helps you express all your thoughts about the future. In addition to the periphrasis ir a (going to) used with the infinitive, you will have all you need to talk about the future.
It will probably take you some time to master the endings of the present tense but once you do, the future simple tense will come very easily.
11. Spanish Present Progressive
To make present progressive sentences, your new favorite word is going to be the gerundio (gerund).
Once you learn how to form it in Spanish and pair it with one of the verbs you already know (estar), you will be ready to talk about what you are doing right now using the present progressive!
12.Interrogative and Relative Spanish Pronouns
Relative pronouns and interrogative pronouns are two groups of words that help us make longer, more specific sentences just by adding a few things here and there.
You use interrogatives to turn your sentences into questions, relatives to connect thoughts and sentences.
13. Spanish Verb Negation
Learning how to say “no” and how to negate verbs is one of the most useful things you can learn in a new language.
Every single sentence containing a verb can be converted into a negative! You can literally double the number of sentences you can say just by adding a few words.
14. Irregular Spanish Verbs
The verb gustar (to like) is a bit special. Get to know it and its siblings and discover a new dimension of the Spanish language!
But gustar is not the only verb that can behave in a weird way. Spanish has tons of irregular verbs that can make anyone go crazy.
Did you think you were done with verbs? Honey, the party has just gotten started! Irregular verbs are here to stay, so get used to them.
15. Spanish Imperfect and Preterite Tenses
These two tenses let us talk about the past, adding a new layer to the topics we can now discuss.
The Spanish imperfect and preterite tenses are very often studied together so that the learner can clearly see the differences between them.
In general, the preterite refers to discrete actions completed at one point in the past, while the imperfect is used to talk about an action that was performed repeatedly over a period of time in the past.
16. Spanish Conditional Tense
After surviving the imperfect vs. preterite, the conditional tense and conditional sentences will seem like a true piece of cake for you.
The conditional is used for a lot of purposes, from being polite to expressing things that you “would” do or like to do.
17. Spanish Commands
Finally, learn how to give commands with the imperative. Do not forget about the negative commands! (See what I did there?).
You can even practice the imperative with your puppy!
If you have followed this post step-by-step, then you are absolutely on the road to fluency.
To hear how native speakers actually use all of these points, try watching videos in Spanish, listening to Spanish podcasts or looking into a language learning program like FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Remember that if you put the work into it, you’ll improve your Spanish by leaps and bounds.
And One More Thing…
If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love 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, 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.
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 learning with the same video.