Learning Spanish is a rewarding challenge. It opens the doors to communication with 500 million speakers in 21 countries across the globe. Speaking another language is a hugely useful skill if you plan on traveling abroad, but studying Spanish also comes with a wide range of other unexpected benefits.
But if you’re looking at learning Spanish as an adult, you might feel that it’s more than an uphill battle. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right?
Well, not exactly. Not only is it possible to become fluent in Spanish as an adult, but there is a range of ways of doing so – with some far more effective than others. Let’s find out exactly what they are.
Before getting cracking on your Spanish language learning journey, it’s important to be aware of the different goals that you have for language learning.
Also, it’s important to be realistic about your dedication:
Bear in mind that there’s no quick fix for language learning and whatever method you choose, committing time and energy – whether that’s three 20-minute windows of study weekly or a month-long course studying Spanish abroad – is the only guarantee for success.
Although you might want to learn Spanish in a week or six months, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how long it takes to reach a conversational or fluent level, and patience and dedication are essential.
How to learn Spanish as an adult is very different from children picking up languages and can seem a lot more difficult. However, it is possible to become fluent in Spanish, regardless of your age.
We’ve gone in detail into the different ways that you can learn Spanish fast and effectively, but for a quick recap:
Spanish language classes taught at a local college or university are the go-to method for learning Spanish for many adults. However they’re probably the least effective way of learning.
This is partly because these types of Spanish language classes often focus on listening, reading and writing, over actually speaking, which can lead to rapid demotivation.
Studying with an online tutor is similar to learning through a beginner’s class but more beneficial as this generally includes one-on-one tuition that is tailor-made to your level and thus ensures much faster progress.
This is one of the best methods for becoming conversational prior to traveling abroad, particularly if you use a tutor who speaks Spanish from the same country that you’ll be visiting. Note that South American Spanish is different from Spanish from Spain and countries such as Peru and Bolivia are well-known for having accents that are easy to understand.
Teaching yourself Spanish can be the preferred method for many, particularly as it can work out as the cheapest form of study. However, it also can take the longest of all the different methods.
Many people start with free apps such as Duolingo, which helps for learning grammar and basic Spanish phrases and vocabulary, and flashcards such as Anki, although both can often feel a little bit out of context and not necessarily teach you vocabulary that’s going to be very useful.
Language programmes such as Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, FluentU and Rocket Languages are popular for adults looking for the best way to learn Spanish online – but bear in mind that they can end up being an expensive investment (and almost as expensive as, if somewhat less effective than, immersion mentioned below).
In addition to self-guided study, it’s important to focus on reading as much as possible – both novels and articles online – as well as listening to music, the latter of which helps you to tune your ear in and begin to start to identifying and understanding Spanish sounds and words.
Be aware that learning Spanish as an adult by teaching yourself can have its own issues, particularly in that, if you know you struggle with motivation, not having the pressure of regular classes to hold you to account can be difficult.
It can also take several months before you really begin to see your progress.
The fastest and most effective way of learning Spanish or any new language is through immersion.
There are various ways you can do this: the cheapest, easiest means of studying Spanish is by joining language exchange meet-ups in your hometown. Bear in mind that these are normally aimed at language learners wishing to practice a new language and so you won’t get any tuition (and will need to be pursuing one of the two options above).
However, the most effective way of learning Spanish for adults is with an immersion program abroad, which can last anywhere from a few weeks (for gaining conversational aptitude) to a few months (to become fully fluent).
You can choose one-to-one or group classes taught in Spanish at a school within a Spanish-speaking country. This helps with rapid vocabulary acquisition and also helps to contextualize what you’re learning – particularly as you can go and practice what you’ve studied in class straight out of the classroom.
Depending on where you choose to study, learning Spanish abroad can wind up being more expensive than the other options, although bear in mind that studying Spanish in Peru, Argentina or other countries in South America where living costs are low, can help to make this a really affordable means of becoming fluent in Spanish.