Why Can’t I Learn Spanish? 10 Tips to Tackle the Biggest Learning Blocks

If you’ve ever struggled with studying Spanish—just couldn’t memorize those conjugations or get your mouth to pronounce the right sounds—you might feel like you’re fundamentally unable to learn the language.

Don’t give up, though. Take a look at the most common obstacles students face when learning Spanish and follow our ten tips to start taking action today!


“There’s So Much to Learn, It’s Overwhelming!”

Why is the rain female (la lluvia), but the ocean is male (el océano)? Is that verb ending with -er, –ar or –ir? What’s with the difference between estar (to be) and ser (to be)?

And let’s not even mention the existence of the subjunctive mood.

All in all, Spanish can feel overwhelming for non-native speakers. But just like driving, riding a bicycle or cooking starts to feel fluid and intuitive over time, so can Spanish. Here are some tips for this.

1. Learn cognates and words that come from English

What do we do when faced with a new challenge? We stick to things that are familiar to us!

You’d be surprised at how similar English and Spanish can actually be, particularly when it comes to the logic of verb tenses and vocabulary. In fact, if you know the words actor, capital, crisis, musical, natural or vulnerable, you already know some español!

Not only do these words exist in Spanish, they also have the exact same meaning. Why not start by taking advantage of Spanish cognates you’ll instantly recognize and familiar Spanish words that came from English?

Suppose you also speak a Romance language other than Spanish. In that case, you have even more of an opportunity to focus on the many cognates, borrowed words and similar grammar rules among this group of languages.

2. Focus on words and grammar that are relevant to you

Study vocabulary or grammar that seem more relevant to you, rather than learning vocabulary that you’re unlikely to use or be interested in. This will help you narrow down your study materials and set specific goals based on what’s meaningful to you.

Working in Spain? You may be interested in business-related lingo. Are you an exchange student? Start by focusing on colloquial language for your target country. Who’s interested in some slang from Spanish-speaking countries?

3. Use resources that encourage learning

Another great tip is to use resources that are specially designed to encourage an environment of learning. If you can slowly incorporate Spanish into your everyday life, you can overcome these early hurdles. 

Of course, there are plenty of ways to “Spanishify” things you would do normally. If you love TV series, try throwing some telenovelas into the mix. If you have a specific interest, photography, for example, find a Spanish-language blog that covers it. 

If you’d like a way to immerse yourself in Spanish content with a little less guesswork, consider an immersion-based language learning program. For example, FluentU teaches Spanish through video content with integrated learning features.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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“I Can’t Seem to Learn, No Matter How Much I Study.”

Here you are again: face to face with a grammar handbook, staring at conjugation tables and endless vocabulary lists like it’s the first time.

Maybe you spent time and money on an intensive Spanish course… from which you remember absolutely nothing.

And as much as other other people seem to get it right, you might just feel like you’re wasting your time. You’ll remember none of these things by tomorrow. Sound familiar? Here’s what you can do.

4. Use both conscious and unconscious learning

Human beings have different ways of acquiring and retaining information and not all methods work equally for everybody. So stop insisting on a learning methodology that just isn’t the best for you! 

The first step is acknowledging that there’s a difference between conscious learning and unconscious learning.

Completing a university Spanish course qualifies as conscious learning. Listening to Spanish music on your way to work or watching movies in Spanish could qualify as unconscious learning.

Self-teaching at home with manuals and online materials is conscious learning. Living in Colombia and listening to people around you speak Spanish daily is unconscious learning.

Combining just the right amount of both methods could do wonders for your Spanish skills! You do have to keep an open mind and experiment with different methods to understand what works best for you.

5. Combine different learning methods and resources

Do you learn best from dynamic, highly visual content or more formal, structured materials? Do you prefer to study a little at a time, or follow intensive courses? Are you able to focus on your own, or is the classroom the best place to provide some sense of responsibility and accountability? You decide!

Your overall method can be a combination of different tricks and sources, rather than a boring repetition of the same old routine. This isn’t just possible, it’s also advantageous.

For example, you could join a class (in a traditional classroom or online), while using apps for learning Spanish and surrounding yourself with Spanish media such as telenovelas (soap operas), movies and music.

“I Find Studying Too Boring.”

Churning through a textbook or drilling flashcards works wonders for some students, but many need something a little more engaging to succeed.

Forcefully memorizing grammar, tables and vocabulary can work for the first two or three days, but even the most steadfast students can start to get distracted, impatient or just plain bored without some other tools in their language learning tool belt.

You can’t stick too long to something you find boring, unproductive and unrewarding! Here’s what you can do instead.

6. Make learning fun and dynamic

You want to make Spanish learning feel fun, exciting, productive and dynamic. You want it to feel relevant to your life. You want results, preferably without hours of needless sacrifice and boredom.

Fortunately, there are tons of learning resources out there that make this possible.

Why not try revisiting three or four of your favorite books—this time in Spanish? Why not watch your favorite movie for the gazillionth time, only this time with Spanish language dubbing or Spanish subtitles?

7. Watch YouTube to learn Spanish

If your Spanish level is quite advanced and you’re in need of some serious fun, try bringing YouTube channels in Spanish into the mix. 

You can learn how to get a job, make friends or talk about zombies with the YouTuber HolaSoyGerman! He’s one of the most famous Spanish-speaking YouTubers. 

While you’re at it, make sure you visit Butterfly Spanish‘s channel. The teacher there will teach you how to talk about being sick in Spanish, how to take a taxi in a Spanish-speaking country and will even reveal the coolest tricks for correct Spanish pronunciation.

“I Don’t Use Spanish, so I Keep Forgetting It.”

Whisking off to Spain, the Dominican Republic or Cuba to practice the language would be great, but that simply isn’t an option for most of us.

If you live in a city or state where a Spanish-speaking community surrounds you, that’s a great alternative opportunity to strengthen your Spanish. But this is also not the case for many of us.

So what to do when you don’t use your Spanish at all?

8. Bring Spanish immersion to your home

Even if you can’t travel to a Spanish-speaking country right now, you can still imitate that immersive language learning environment at home.

Learning Spanish stops being optional when you need it to get food, navigate your city, date and make friends. The trick is to create a similar feeling without leaving your house. Your brain must be tricked into thinking it’s urgent to learn this language.

Surround yourself with Spanish music and watch Spanish TV series or movies on a regular basis. Change the language settings on your phone, computer and other devices to Spanish. Write your to-do lists in Spanish and switch your news diet to Spanish-language outlets.

One easy, fun and effective trick is to label items around your house in Spanish. You don’t even have to make the labels yourself—check out Vocabulary Stickers.

The more you can incorporate the language into your everyday life, the better!

9. Talk with native Spanish speakers

Interaction is one of the best ways to trick your brain into thinking you should be learning Spanish… like, yesterday! So why not start connecting with Spanish speakers around the world through a specialized website like italki?

italki allows you to find private language tutors, connect with others who are learning the same language as you through the community tab, and also take group classes. 

10. Go to gatherings and meetups

If you’d rather take your immersion offline, meeting up with other language learners or native speakers in person could be a great way to give you that extra push forward.

You could check out Meetup for the coolest Spanish learning meetings in your town or area. Simply put in “Spanish language club” or “Spanish language meetup” in the search bar, along with your city. 


Hopefully, these tips and tricks will have helped you recover that sweet Spanish learning drive!

Remember that your Spanish learning skills can always be challenged, improved and pushed forward.

Make sure you don’t neglect your inner student who feels curious about the world, and you’ll certainly master Spanish and everything else.

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.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. All annual subscriptions now on sale!

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