The Best Way to Learn Spanish
By Russell Sabo
You’ve decided that you want to learn Spanish and perhaps you’ve picked up some books or audio courses. After going through a chapter or two, you’ve realized just how big of an undertaking this could be and now time management is coming to mind. So what is the best way to learn Spanish? What is the quickest way to learn Spanish?
The answer, of course, is: It’s all you!
Meaning: You get what you put into it.
Not thrilled with that answer? I understand. It implies that there’s a lot of hard work and time involved with learning Spanish. However, Time + Work = Results. If you’d like to improve the formula, you’d write, Time + Intelligent Work = Better Results.
You see how that works? Results versus Better Results. Or…the answer to the original question. It’s all you.
Spend the time!
No matter what you’re undertaking, you’re going to have to spend the time learning a skill to become better at it. Learning Spanish is no different. You’re going to put in hours upon hours of studying: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Scared yet? There’s no need to be. There are so many ways to spend the time doing these things. Of course, there’s your basic educational materials suchs as books and audio courses. Then you have all of the real-world opportunities. Watching the telenovelas (soap operas) on the local Spanish channel, watching movies in Spanish, buying Spanish music, reading your favorite book in Spanish if it’s been translated, speaking to native Spanish speakers or, better yet, visiting a Spanish-speaking country. There are countless opportunities that I haven’t mentioned, but if you use your imagination, there’s no limit to what you can come up with.
Work more intelligently!
I could have also said ‘Spend the time wisely!’ What does this mean? Do what gets you the best results. How do you learn best? Experience? Through booklearning? Through listening? Spend a little time in the beginning of your studies to determine what’s getting you the best results and focus on that. Determine if your new focus can be used with each of the four components: reading, writing, listening and speaking. If your focus is working well with reading and writing but isn’t working so well with listening and speaking, then you may need a new focus for your problem areas.
Your focus is determined by your resources around you. Educational books and audio courses tend to be easy to have access to and therefore, are the most common resources. Some people live in an area where there are many native speakers from whom they can count as a resource. Television, books and music are also common resources. The thing to remember here is to use the easiest resources that you have access to. You’re more likely to use something that you have easy access to.
Building your knowledge.
Just like a house is built from the ground up, so is your language learning. You need to start from the foundation before you build the walls, rooms and roof. Learn some basic grammar and very common words. “¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás?” You will use these often. Find a list of the most common words in Spanish and learn them. Once you learn them, find ways to use them in a sentence. A paragraph. A page. Turn words into phrases. If you can have fun doing this, the more likely you are to remember. Do this alongside learning from your books and audio courses. In fact, much of the course material uses the most common words and phrases in the language. You are free to use all of this material to further your education. That’s what you bought (or borrowed) this material for. Try to use everything you learn as extensively as possible, whether you’re having conversations with Spanish-speakers or you’re having conversations in your own head.
Nobody ever said that learning Spanish had to be boring. There will be boring parts, like when you’re learning how to conjugate verbs, but beyond that everything else can easily be made into fun exercises. My advice is to build your own sentences based on things that interest you or that make you laugh. Don’t underestimate the power of the ridiculous. Create insults to use on your friends (try not to use these on native speakers; you may get a different reaction than what you were expecting) or come up with weird stories using only the words that you know. When you’re having fun with the material is when you’re going to have the best retention of the words you’re trying to learn. Have as much fun as you can and you’ll be speaking Spanish much faster than a person going through a ‘normal’ language course.
Immersion is what it sounds like. Surround yourself as completely as possible with your resources. Set aside as much time as you can afford to ‘live’ in Spanish. Perhaps on a Sunday morning you can wake up and speak only Spanish until noon, listening to the music, reading the books, speaking with your Spanish-speaking friends. Or better yet, take an extended vacation to a Spanish-speaking country where you have no choice but to use the Spanish that you know. Can you find a way to immerse yourself in the language 50 times a day for 5 minutes at a time? Then do it! Don’t let an opportunity pass you by!
Make lots of mistakes!
Always remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and that more importantly, the more mistakes that you make, the more you’re going to learn. If you’re passing up the opportunity to make a mistake, you’re passing up an opportunity to try to communicate with someone else, which is the reason you’re learning Spanish in the first place. The mistakes you make are going to help to propel you along in your studies and they’ll provide you with valuable feedback when you realize that you’re not making as many mistakes as you were a month ago.
All of this is a part of working intelligently to achieve better results in your language learning. I hope you can see that the results that you want are totally up to you. The best way and the fastest way to learn Spanish are determined how much time you can afford, your resources, your willingness to work outside of the course materials, your sense of fun and imagination, and your willingness to make mistakes. The ability and willingness to use all of these will mean a much reduced time to learn Spanish than someone who isn’t able to make use of all of these. Determine what it is that you can do, and then go out and get results from there!
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