FluentU helps you learn real Spanish by turning authentic Spanish videos into immersive language lessons. Expose yourself to the language as it’s spoken by natives while learning from engaging and entertaining video clips.
No matter your level, the method and tools in the program will have you learning Spanish naturally and enjoying the process.
The Spanish Language
If you’ve been allured by the Spanish language, you’re not alone. Around 100 million people speak this Romance language as a second language—making the total number of Spanish speakers over a whopping 500 million people. It might surprise you to know that in terms of native speakers, it’s the second most spoken language in the world!
Not only is knowing Spanish helpful for career opportunities, but it opens a door to new cultures and experiences. Derived from Latin and refined over more than 1000 years since its emergence, the Spanish we know today is a rich, vibrant language full of passion and history.
Where Is Spanish Spoken?
Spanish is spoken all over the globe, from Europe to Africa to North, Central and South America, even a corner of the Pacific Islands. This means that learning Spanish opens up a world (literally) of people and places.
It’s the official language of 21 countries and territories: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.
And though not an official language, there are large populations of Spanish speakers in the United States—some estimates put the number of speakers as more than that of Spain—Belize, Andorra and Gibraltar.
How Long Does It Take to Speak Spanish?
This question is difficult to answer because it relies on many variables, the first of those being how you define being able to “speak” a language. Some assume this is fluency, while others would classify it as just being able to get the Spanish basics down and communicate simple needs—however slowly it’s done. To reach fluency, the U.S. Foreign Service Institute estimates it will take around 600 hours of language learning, while learning basic Spanish will be substantially less, around 150 hours.
It also depends on how much time you’re willing to dedicate (as demonstrated above), how much exposure to Spanish you get, plus how quickly you as an individual are able to learn.
What’s the Difference Between Spanish from Spain and Latin America?
Spanish from these two parts of the world has several differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. Here are the major ones:
- In most parts of Spain, the letters C and Z are pronounced as “th,” whereas this never occurs in Latin American Spanish.
- To address a group of people informally, in Spain they use the personal pronoun vosotros and its conjugations instead of ustedes which is used elsewhere.
- Day-to-day vocabulary words vary. For example, coche (car) is used in Spain, while auto or carro is used in other countries.
Spanish differs a lot not only between Spain and Latin America, but also between countries and places themselves. Because of this, it’s worth checking out the local lingo before you travel or before you chat with someone from a specific area.
That being said, you’ll usually understand—and be understood in return—pretty much wherever you go if you speak Spanish.
Why Learn to Speak Spanish?
We’ve already mentioned a few reasons that learning Spanish is beneficial, but let’s dive in a bit deeper for those of you who may be on the fence about starting your Spanish learning journey.
Discover New Cultures
Language and culture are firmly intertwined. So when you learn a language, you also learn a whole lot about the culture that goes with it. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to reach Spanish fluency without getting to know the culture well!
The cultures you’ll come across are extremely rich and diverse, and learning about them is one of the greatest things you’ll gain from studying Spanish. You’ll potentially open your mind up to different ways of thinking and new world views, experience delicious foods you never knew existed and discover incredible styles of dance and music. More importantly, you’ll meet and get to know people you never would have otherwise.
It’s Good for You and Your Brain
Language learning is more than a hobby. It’s intellectually stimulating, very rewarding and helps to create feelings of fulfillment and purpose.
It even has some physical benefits on your body: learning a second language helps improve certain mental functions like executive functioning, and is thought to delay dementia in older adults!
Explore Spain, Latin America and Beyond
If you can speak Spanish, your experience of the Spanish-speaking world will be completely different. While it’s possible to travel and live in a place that speaks Spanish without speaking it, the ability to do so will make your time there much easier, more enjoyable and even safer.
Whether you’re looking for bar recommendations, directions to a museum or deciding what to pick from the menu, it’ll help you navigate through everyday situations. In not-so-everyday situations, it can be of even bigger help, like in the case of medical emergencies or if you find yourself lost and in a dangerous situation.
And of course, knowing Spanish gives you the opportunity to acquaint yourself with the locals, which can completely transform your experience!
Business and Career Opportunities
With a huge portion of the world’s population able to speak Spanish and ever-increasing globalization, stay ahead of the game and add Spanish to your resume. Latin America holds lots of potential for new businesses, clients and markets, and Spanish allows you to form relationships in this space.
Also, having the drive and dedication required to learn another language looks great to prospective employers.
The Basics of Spanish
Once you get used to it, Spanish pronunciation is pretty straightforward, relatively speaking. It’s phonetic—unlike our dear old English—and the majority of words can be pronounced by learning a few consistent rules. Fortunately for us, this usually makes spelling rather easy as well.
The biggest thing you’ll need to remember is the vowel sounds. If you can get them down then you’re halfway to mastering Spanish pronunciation!
There are fewer sounds in Spanish compared to English, although you’ll discover new ones added to the mix, like the different R sounds which some people find incredibly challenging to pronounce.
If you know any French, Italian, Portuguese or Romanian, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it comes to Spanish vocabulary! As Romance languages, they share the same origin as Vulgar Latin and thus have many lexical similarities.
Arabic also played a role in the development of Spanish around the 8th century, when the Moors conquered the Iberian peninsula. They contributed many Arabic words to the Spanish language, though the pronunciation was adapted over time.
Lastly, English actually has many similar words despite it being a Germanic language. This is due to English adopting many words from Latin, French and even Spanish itself—you may discover that what you assumed were English words or place names are actually Spanish words! Mosquito, cilantro, cafeteria, Colorado, Florida and Nevada are all taken from Spanish. The more you know!
Spanish Verbs and Verb Conjugation
Spanish verbs and their conjugations are an essential part of speech, but are often a source of confusion for new learners.
Every Spanish verb ends in either -ar,-er or -ir. These verb forms are referred to as “infinitives“. They have no inflection—that is, they give us no information regarding subject, tense or mood. The English equivalent of an infinitive verb is any verb with “to” in front. For example: “to speak,” “to be,” or “to write.”
The conjugation of the verb is the tricky part: you need to change the ending of the verb to suit whatever you’re talking about and when. Every subject requires a different ending, and these can change depending on the tense and mood you’re talking in.
It will take some getting used to, especially because English verb conjugation is so subtle that you don’t even realize you do it! Don’t worry, though. With a little practice—and patience—you’ll eventually master it.
Spanish Nouns and Gender
As you may know, nouns in Spanish are gendered. This means that they can be classified as either masculine or feminine, and this classification plays an important role in how the nouns are used in sentences.
Other elements of the sentence, like articles or adjectives, will need to agree with the gender of the noun. For example, consider the phrase “the red house”. The article “the” and adjective “red” will need to follow the gender of the noun “house.” “House” in Spanish is casa, which is feminine. Therefore the phrase would be written as la casa roja, as la (the) and roja (red) are feminine—as opposed to el and rojo, which are the masculine forms.
The gender isn’t logical—take vestido (dress) as an example, which is a masculine noun. So as you learn the different nouns, it’s important to make note of their gender at the same time.
Conversational Spanish Phrases
Because you need to learn the basics of Spanish before you can form sentences, it’s a good idea to memorize a few phrases initially to get the conversation flowing!
Start with some generic phrases for getting to know people, and you should be able to have a basic conversation just with those.
- ¿Cómo te llamas? (What’s your name)
- ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?)
- ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre? (What do you like to do in your free time?)
Then, move on to more specialized phrases around topics that are relevant to you. Perhaps you might learn some phrases and words related to your hobbies, job or even where you’re from.
How to Learn Spanish
When looking to learn Spanish, there’s always the option to take a traditional course. As one of the most studied languages in the world, you’ll find Spanish classes at your local school, high school, university and private language schools as well.
They’re generally well structured and more intensive than learning solo, as you’re supported by a Spanish teacher and following a strict curriculum. Depending on your level and what course you choose, you may even be able to take intensive classes which are taught and carried out exclusively in Spanish.
They can be great places to meet people and socialize with fellow Spanish learners, though not as flexible as other options out there since you’re usually required to attend in person.
If you prefer to learn at your own pace, then you might want to opt for more informal learning. It’s self-driven, so you set your own study schedule and find your own resources. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be doing it all on your own.
You could choose to see an online tutor when it fits in with your schedule, buy textbooks or meet up with other Spanish students to study. The options for informal learning are infinite, but the overall idea is that you are the driving force and decision-maker behind your learning.
Apps and Other Online Resources
These days, the internet is replete with resources for pretty much everything, and that includes resources to learn Spanish! Whether you are a visual learner, prefer audio or concentrate better when reading, whatever you need is available to you—it’s just a matter of finding it.
Apps will also become your secret Spanish-learning weapon, as they can be used just about anywhere and are excellent supplements to your regular study routine. From verb conjugation apps to games to full-blown courses, there are endless apps for learning Spanish—and the best part is that many of them are completely free.
So while some online resources can be extremely pricey, price doesn’t always correlate with quality as there are some incredible free resources out there.
Have Language Exchanges
A language exchange is a method where two people, who speak different languages, exchange conversations to help each other learn their target language. In our case, we would connect with a Spanish speaker who’s learning the language we speak, and mutually help one another.
Language exchanges are often overlooked when it comes to Spanish learning, but what better way to learn than actually talking to native Spanish speakers?
It can be daunting, but there are ways to make the encounter low-stress. For instance, you can have exchanges over text messaging apps, so there’s no pressure to reply immediately and you have ample time to consult Google!
Travel to Spanish-speaking Countries
Traveling to another country and constantly needing to use Spanish can be confronting and uncomfortable, but there’s no doubt that it’s an excellent way to learn—it is, after all, how we learn to speak our mother tongues.
Not only that, but you’ll learn more natural speech, as you’re exposed to the language as it’s used in everyday life. After all, no one likes to sound like they’re reading from a textbook!
It’s also an excellent motivator. If you’ve got a trip coming up, it might just give you the push you need to study Spanish!
Spend Time in Other Spanish-speaking Environments
Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to pop over to Spain or Latin America for Spanish immersion, but there are other ways of going about it! With such a huge percentage of the world able to speak Spanish, chances are that there are native speakers near you.
Keep an eye out for things happening in your local community, like salsa classes, Latin dance parties (perfect if you also love reggaeton) and cultural events. Even visiting a Mexican or Peruvian restaurant may give you a chance to hear people speaking Spanish!
You never know, you might even end up making friends with a native Spanish speaker.
Watch Spanish Movies and TV Shows
Yes, watching Spanish-language movies and TV shows counts as learning!
It’s all about exposure to the language and familiarizing yourself with the sounds. Pick something that interests you. It needs to be challenging but not completely indecipherable. If you’re a beginner Spanish learner, avoid watching movies with advanced Spanish. Instead, opt for something with more basic vocabulary, such as a Disney movie.
It’s a good idea to keep a notebook and pen handy, in case you come across a new Spanish word or an interesting grammar element.
Utilizing the Spanish subtitles will also help with listening comprehension. If that’s too challenging, you can always change to English subtitles. You can also opt for FluentU videos which come with dual-language interactive subtitles. Whatever you do, just remember to pay attention instead of passively watching!
Immerse Yourself in Spanish
Finally, with a bit of effort, you can emulate an immersive environment from home. Your goal here is to switch any media you consume into Spanish and learn while just going about your daily life.
- Put your phone in Spanish. We all spend too much time on our phones, so may as well make it slightly more productive. You’ll learn lots of practical Spanish words and improve Spanish spelling if you switch your keyboard to Spanish (cheers, autocorrect).
- Read Spanish newspapers. Not only does this keep you informed on what’s going on in the world, but the language used is relatively simple. Plus, you’ll get a glimpse of life and culture in the Spanish-speaking world.
- Read Spanish books. If you’re a bookworm, consider switching your novels to Spanish instead. If you’re still a beginner Spanish learner, read children’s books or novels that you’ve read before.
- Follow native speakers on social media platforms. To boost your Spanish language skills even more, follow Spanish speakers on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok or other preferred platforms. With video increasingly prioritized by these tech giants, there are plenty of opportunities to practice your listening skills along with your reading skills.
- Listen to Spanish music and podcasts. Instead of spending your commutes listening to content in your native language, try swapping them out for some catchy Spanish songs or podcasts instead.
Common Questions About Learning Spanish
Is Spanish Easy to Learn?
Relative to other languages in the world, some consider it easy to learn Spanish, so it’s a great option if you want to learn a new language. That said, it’s still a skill that can take years to master.
It uses a variation of the Latin alphabet (which you’re familiar with if you can read this). Plus, the pronunciation and grammar are also relatively simple. So compared to German, Mandarin or Russian, Spanish appears more straightforward.
There will always be people who pick it up faster than others, but it usually comes down to how much time you’re willing to put into it—and whether you can stick with it when things get tough.
Can You Learn Spanish by Yourself?
Of course! Thanks to the modern era, it’s easier to self-study Spanish than ever before.
Everything you need to embark on your language learning journey is accessible online: a Spanish course or Spanish tutor, comprehensive articles for studying Spanish grammar, resources for practicing speaking skills, forums for advice from fellow language learners, people to practice with—the list goes on.
The big challenge lies with self-motivation. If you can make a plan, set a routine and stick to it, then nothing is stopping you.
What’s the Best Way to Learn Spanish?
Let me begin by saying there is no universal answer to this question.
Everyone is different, and what works well for you may not work well for someone else. Some people need the structure of Spanish courses or Spanish tutoring, while some flourish when left to their own devices. Others learn best when they’re not even trying to learn.
Generally, strategies like full immersion, intensive courses and consistent study routines are some of what we consider to be the best ways to learn Spanish.
Can You Learn Spanish for Free?
Yes, I’m happy to say that you can learn Spanish for free.
As we’ve discussed, there are a ton of completely free resources out there, mostly on the internet but you can also find them in places like your local library and even sometimes community centers.
Learning Spanish with FluentU
Some language learning methods are better than others, and ultimately you should aim to learn in a way that leaves you able to speak—and understand—real Spanish. Effective communication is the ultimate goal, and apps or programs which focus on aspects like reading or grammar will only get you so far.
FluentU prepares you for using Spanish in the real world by exposing you to the language used by natives. Just pick a video that looks interesting and get learning! You’ll familiarize yourself with how native speakers use and pronounce different words, react in different situations and even pick up a few cultural notes in the process—all of which contribute to more natural speech and better comprehension.
You can choose to use our website, or go with our iOS and Android apps which make learning Spanish more flexible than ever. Got a minute while you’re waiting for an appointment or riding the subway? Spanish study with FluentU works within your lifestyle.
Give it a go today, and see the difference it makes to your Spanish.