Updated: Jun 24, 2018
Discover 7 key areas to focus on when learning a new language
I’ve drawn on my experience of learning 3 languages and identified the key study practices that result in you being able to actually speak Spanish as quickly as possible...
Without moving abroad
Without quitting your job to study full-time
And without marrying a Spanish speaker … at least, not yet!
Remember the key to been a successful language learner is to do a little bit each day. Dedicate 30 minutes to an hour each day and stick to it!
The Big Picture
Before we dive into the tips, let’s take a step back and consider what you will have to achieve in order be successful.
Learning a language can be quite complex but it can be broken down into a few key steps...
Build a sizeable vocabulary
Master elementary Spanish grammar
Understand spoken Spanish
Practise speaking a lot
Have decent Spanish pronunciation
Get used to the language
Stick to the study process for long enough for it to work
So, let's see how to do it…
1. Build A Sizeable Vocabulary In Spanish
Words are the building blocks of a language.
As you set out to learn Spanish, not much matters if you don’t know enough words.
Now, the ideal way to grow a sizeable vocabulary in Spanish over time is by learning as you go – use Spanish in your daily life and learn the words and phrases that you find most useful.
However, because we’re under some time pressure here, you need to take a more direct route.
Here’s the key fact…
Studies of Spanish word frequency tell us that the 1,000 most frequent words in Spanish account for 87.8% of all spoken Spanish.
This means you’ve only got to learn around 1,000 words to understand the vast majority of everything you will hear in Spanish.
By doing everything else I recommend in this article, you’ll naturally learn a lot of useful vocabulary, but to speed things up, I would sign up to Memrise.com (free) and begin the course of “First 5000 words in Spanish.”
Work your way through it diligently – you won’t regret it.
2. Take A Self-Study Spanish Course
A popular and accessible way to learn Spanish is to use one of the many programs and Apps available online. Here are a few I would recommend:
Have a look at all three and pick the one you like most.
People are often surprised when I recommend using these programs, but the reality is that they contain everything you need to learn Spanish as a beginner, so why not use them?
Be diligent - these programs have been designed to be used on a daily basis. The key is little and often.
3. Find A Spanish Tutor Online
Whilst the above programs are a great way to learn vocabulary and introduce yourself to basic grammar, it is essential that you get an opportunity to practice your new language skills. A tutor can help you to better understand the mechanics of the language and can provide you with that all important speaking practice!
At My Spanish Tutor we provide professional online tuition and have an extensive library of self study resources available. Why not book your lesson today?
4. Don’t Obsess Over Grammar
One of the biggest traps beginner Spanish learners fall into is the desire to learn Spanish grammar perfectly.
Now, while it is important to learn the basics, you can actually get quite far with an elementary knowledge of grammar, because Spanish sentence construction is often similar to English.
And you certainly don’t need to know all the ins and outs of Spanish grammar in order to communicate well.
I don't wish to undermine the importance of grammar in Spanish, but the point is that there’s always a big risk, namely that you'll end up worrying too much about perfect grammar, which will slow you down.
So, learn the grammar taught in the first few chapters of your textbook, but then place your focus squarely back on the core tasks of learning vocabulary and speaking.
5. Read Spanish As Much As Possible
As a complete beginner, you’ll struggle to read much, because you don’t have enough vocabulary.
However, as soon as you’re ready, you should make reading Spanish something you do daily.
You’ll grow your vocabulary quickly and learn grammar in a natural way, as you see it being used in context.
If you can also find the audio version of the text, then you can listen along at the same time.
This helps you form connections between the written and spoken word, and will help you understand native speakers.
6. Make Spanish Part Of Your Lifestyle
This piece of advice is often at risk of seeming a bit empty…
But, in fact, it’s far more important than you might think.
Here’s the thing…
If you’re doing this Spanish thing fairly intensively for 3 months, at times it’s going to seem like a chore.
At times you’re just going to want to kick back in front of the TV.
So, the more you can stop thinking of studying Spanish as something you have to find the time for, and instead make it something you just do as part of your daily life, the less stress you’ll feel and the more progress you’ll make.
How do you make Spanish part of your lifestyle?
Get your daily doses of TV, YouTube, news etc. in Spanish rather than English
Join local Spanish societies and attend events
Attend classes (yoga, salsa, drawing) delivered in Spanish
Go to local language exchange events and practise with people
What we’re talking about here really is changing out activities you might otherwise do in English with equivalents in Spanish.
All the extra exposure you get over 3 months of this will soon add up, really help you get used to the language in use, and ultimately learn Spanish fast.
7. Be disciplined - Set a schedule
Learning a language requires hard work and dedication. Ensure you set aside some time each day to study.
OK, now you know how to learn Spanish fast – in theory – what would it look like in practice, alongside a busy work schedule?
07:00 – Spend a solid hour studying a chapter from your textbook. This is your core study time. (60 mins)
08:00 – Listen to your audiobook on the way to work. (30 mins)
11:00 – Quick session on the Memrise App during your morning break, learning new vocabulary. (15 mins)
13:00 – Read a chapter of your Spanish short story book at lunch, or review the chapter from your textbook this morning. (15-30 mins)
17:00 – Listen to your audiobook on the way home. (30 mins)
18:00 – Watch cartoons in Spanish with the kids, or review your vocabulary on Memrise.
20:00 – Class with your Spanish tutor with My Spanish Tutor. Spend the time practising what you covered in your textbook this morning. (30 mins)
Alternatively, go out and attend a Spanish event near you! (2 hours)
22:00 – Read a chapter of your short story book in bed.
Learn Spanish Fast – Conclusion
As you can see, to learn Spanish fast requires some dedication, but it is possible!
The secret is to stay focused on the big-picture techniques that will actually help you learn the language… and speak it!
With these 7 tips, you’ve got a condensed version of everything I’ve learned about language learning from the 10 languages I’ve studied to help you learn Spanish fast.
¡Buena suerte con tu español!