Is Spanish easy to learn? What’s the quickest way to learn Spanish? What is the best way to learn Spanish?
These are just some of the questions that you asked yourself – and the internet – when you first started learning Spanish. There are plenty of ways that you can study Spanish – and plenty of debate around their effectiveness. But which are actually work?
Before we begin, let’s put to bed a question that touches the lips of a lot of first-time language learners: is it possible learn Spanish (or any other language) in a month?
In a word, no.
The U.S. Foreign Service Institute publishes a list of how long it should take to gain “professional working proficiency”, i.e. the point at which you can manage most situations in a new language with a reasonable degree of fluency.
For Spanish, considered one of the languages most similar to English and therefore easy enough to learn, you’re looking at 25 hours a week for anywhere from 24 to 30 weeks, or a total of up to 700 hours.
There is no getting around the fact that learning to speak fluent or even conversational Spanish takes time, hard work and most importantly, motivation. But don’t despair yet; there are certain ways that have been proven to help you learn to speak Spanish more quickly than others.
Let’s go through the best ways of learning Spanish according to the professionals – from the slowest through to the fastest ways of becoming fluent.
You’ve likely already attempted this method of learning basic Spanish. Disappointed by the results? You’re not alone.
Although most of our primary experiences of learning a language are through a traditional school or university class, there’s little proof to show that this method of learning Spanish is either fast or easy.
Partly, it’s because learning in a traditional class focuses often on removing words from a context and stripping them from anything that could make them particularly memorable. Seeing a word written on a blackboard (fish: pescado) and then being required to turn it into a sentence (I like fish: me gusta pescado) is unlikely to stick around in your brain for long.
What’s more, for most people, the act of attending day after day of traditional classes and not getting anywhere (something made worse by the fact that the focus of these lessons is often on listening, reading and writing, rather than actually speaking) can lead to rapid demotivation.
For many, teaching yourself Spanish is the preferred method, particularly as it’s the easiest way to learn to speak Spanish for free or at home.
Language programmes such as Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and Rocket Languages have proven very popular among those looking for the best way to learn Spanish online – although they can be quite an expensive investment.
Other techniques for how to learn Spanish on your own include apps such as Duolingo – which is great for drumming in grammar and common Spanish phrases and vocabulary – and flashcards such as Anki , which makes use of the spaced repetition system, a scientifically-proven method of helping you push new words into your long-term memory. Among plenty of experts in the field, these are considered among the best way to learn Spanish at home.
Podcasts in Spanish are another popular method of learning, with the free SpanishPod101 and paid FluentU good options, while listening to the radio or watching films in Spanish can also be effective at helping you to start tuning your ear to the sounds used in the Spanish language.
However, teaching yourself Spanish has a few issues:
1. It can feel like you’re taking a scattergun approach, particularly if you try and combine lots of different methods together.
2. It can be difficult to stay motivated; as we saw at the beginning of this article, learning to speak Spanish is not a fast process and you need to keep at it for months before you genuinely see and feel you’re making progress.
The fastest way of learning Spanish or any new language is through immersion. Why? Imagine you’re on a trip around Peru and pop into the San Pedro market in Cusco. You manage to point out the fruit you want to buy as the stall owner says the name of each item and finishes asking for “seis soles”. She holds up six fingers. Suddenly, the word “seis” has a meaning, as do the words for the different fruit you bought.
Next time you buy at the market, you have a go at remember the names of the fruit and manage “manzana” and “maracuya” and every day, little by little, your capacity to understand Spanish speakers and your own vocabulary grows, helped by the fact that context means the words stick better into your brain.
Ultimately, immersion is the best way of learning Spanish and works because of necessity . You need to be able to communicate in real-life situations and so you’re forced to find ways of learning the language.
Realistically, immersion is best combined with one-on-one or group Spanish classes taught in Spanish with a focus on quick vocabulary acquisition. This also helps you to ensure that you’re speaking as regularly as possible (the quickest route to learning a new language). Soon enough, the pressing fact that few people speak English should be enough of an impetus to keep you focused and learning.
It’s not as cheap as learning Spanish at home for free, but the constant daily practice in both class and new, real-life situations are guaranteed to make you more confident and more capable far faster.
This method is certainly the best way to learn conversational Spanish and to reach fluency, plus it’s guaranteed to boost your confidence and motivation as you can see tangible progress.
However you plan on studying Spanish, these tips should help you along your journey.
Interestingly, research has shown that the quickest way to learn a new language is to actually study another subject while you’re being taught in Spanish.
This has a lot to do with the fact that you’re contextualizing the vocabulary that you’re learning (not picking it up out of context with a focus on grammar rather than real-life experiences),
meaning the words – and learning – is more likely to stick.
For more information, check out our Spanish language immersion program that follows this scientifically-proven technique.
Studies have proven that studying before you go to bed or even a nap can help move what you’ve just learned into your long-term memory. This is particularly good for vocabulary learning and problem solving.
Perhaps one of the most used language learning techniques is spaced repetition. Put simply, it means that you revise vocabulary or grammar regularly to begin with, e.g. every few days, and then with increasingly longer gaps until it’s stored in your long-term memory.
Cue cards or similar are some of the best ways of enacting this form of learning.
It only stands to reason that learning common Spanish words and phrases that you’ll likely hear being repeated often – and which you can then use to make an informed guess at other words in the same sentence – is a top language learning technique. This is best combined with the space repetition system.
Check out this list of key Spanish words and useful Spanish phrases.
Before getting cracking with conversation or other elements of language learning, it’s essential to tune your ear into the new sounds that are made in Spanish and which differ considerably from English.
Not only will this help you to recognise words that are said to you but will help considerably when you start speaking yourself – and particularly with the dreaded double r and tricksy ñ.
Podcasts, movies, radio and even just earwigging conversations in South American cafés are great ways of putting this into practice.
If heading down the immersion route, not all Spanish-speaking countries use quite the same key Spanish words, phrases or accents – particularly in Argentina and Chile, which can make it even more difficult to pick up a language.
For that reason, countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru are considered the easiest places to learn Spanish; although, we and the experts – think that Peru is the best place to learn Spanish in South America.