Learning Spanish is a skill that will open up a variety of doors for you in life. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world by number of people who use it as their mother tongue, with only Mandarin Chinese boasting a higher number of native speakers.
In occupying second place, the Spanish language is spoken by a staggering 440 million native speakers, with 20 different countries having Spanish as an official language. Outside of Spain, these countries are primarily in Latin America.
They include countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica in Central America; Argentina, Colombia, and Peru in South America; and Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.
Latin American Spanish and European Spanish do differ slightly, but this is more in terms of the accent and a few different grammar points, so having communicative issues between the two should be kept to a minimum.
Language learning has long been seen as an important skill to have, and the widespread nature of Spanish means that it is often at the forefront of choices for a beginner looking for a new language.
You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how can you start to learn Spanish?
You can learn Spanish in a number of ways, but not all of them are suitable for beginners. Having a step-by-step plan for learning Spanish is a good idea in the long run, but you will need to get started in order to start following such a route of progression.
So here at Superprof, we have decided to put together some ideas and tips to get you started as a new learner of the language of Miguel de Cervantes, Pablo Picasso, Penelope Cruz, and many others.
When it comes to learning a second language such as Spanish, having a positive attitude is absolutely non-negotiable.
You can sign up for a Spanish course, take as many Spanish classes as you like, or even by as many Spanish grammar books as your heart desires, but if you are not committed and motivated, you won’t make the most of them. Any guide to learning Spanish for beginners should start by making this clear.
If you want to study Spanish, you should start by having an end goal. This could be something such as having a conversational level in order to go on holiday to a Spanish speaking country. Or aiming to reach fluency in order to move abroad and live somewhere where your Spanish skills will be important in your day-to-day life.
Why do you want to learn Spanish?
Defining your goals in Spanish will give you a constant aim to strive towards. It will also help to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And it will get tough.
You might struggle with a specific part of the grammar, or you might just have a bad class where it doesn’t seem to be clicking. This is all completely normal, and it actually happens to everyone multiple times during their language learning process.
The key here is to not get to despondent. If you want to learn to speak Spanish, you will have to learn to manage the difficult moments in order to overcome them. If you take Spanish lessons with a Spanish teacher, then they will help to motivate you, but you will still need to motivate yourself too. After all, some people actually consider motivation as the key to language learning.
Further to keeping yourself motivated, don’t expect everything to fall into place overnight. This is applicable to both students and teachers, and it therefore doesn’t matter if you are learning Spanish on your own, or if you are teaching Spanish to kids.
The targets set should reflect the student and their level, and their overall aim for the Spanish language.
Examples might include committing to learning the conjugation of a certain number of verbs each week, or focusing on learning so many words from the Spanish vocabulary. Whatever the targets are, they should be achievable and not far too difficult to reach.
Setting such targets will help to keep the student on track, and help them to feel like they are making real tangible progress. The sense of making progress is invaluable when it comes to being motivated to keep learning Spanish.
There are a whole host of different ways to study Spanish. You could opt for the traditional Spanish courses option whereby you go to a local language school and have a classroom styled education with a Spanish teacher.
Or a slight twist on this is to have a tutor come to your home to give you personalised classes tailored specifically to you. Websites, such as Superprof, offer platforms for you to find a tutor in your local area who can teach you Spanish at an often very reasonable price.
If neither of these options appeal to you, then you could use a wide range of different technological advances to learn Spanish online, through websites, apps, and even podcasts. The internet is a great source of information, and you can even find free Spanish lessons online.
Whether you want to learn Spanish online, or with a book, find the method that works best for you
Finding a way of starting with beginner Spanish won’t be the problem, the problem will be finding a way that perfectly suits you, your learning style, your goals, and your budget.
These are all different criteria to think about because you will need something affordable, that suits how you learn at the same time. At the end of the day, we don’t all learn in the same way or at the same level. Therefore you should be aware that just because one method worked for your friend, it might not necessarily work for you as you set out to learn Spanish.
Having you end goals in mind is also important. This is because if you just want to learn conversational Spanish in order to have some basic Spanish to help you communicate with Spanish speakers during a two week holiday to Spain, then an expensive language course probably isn’t for you. Likewise, if you want to become fluent in Spanish, online Spanish probably isn’t going to give you enough depth and support to achieve this.
Whatever method you choose, buying a Spanish book to accompany you, and using other resources available to you (such as YouTube videos) will help you advance at a quicker pace. Who knows, before you know it you might find yourself having dreams in Spanish.
Whatever you do, don’t jump in at the deep end when learning Spanish. Things like the subjunctive, the conditional tense and indirect object pronouns will all come later, but to start try focusing on:
Once you have these basics, you can move on to using these foundations in more complicated scenarios.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Spanish for kids, or Spanish for adults, both groups will start by introducing themselves and saying their name and age. So you will learn some grammatical structures without even knowing it. That’s the basis of starting to learn any language. Knowing the verbs that you are using, and the tense that they are being used in will follow soon after so don’t get carried away too soon.
What’s more, this is the same way that native speakers learn as children. So if it’s good enough for them, then why not for you?
Do you think Penelope Cruz started speaking Spanish with complex grammatical structures or Spanish basic vocab?
The key to improving at anything you do in life is to practise. By practising, you can develop any given skill, and reinforce your knowledge of it. It doesn’t matter if it is a musical instrument, playing a sport, or learning a language. If you don’t practise, you won’t improve. It is as simple as that.
When it comes to learning Spanish, practising acts as a way of keeping the language fresh in your mind. If you don’t practise, you risk losing whatever progress you have made. This would be the same as playing the piano, for example. You could reach a high level, but if you don’t play for a period of time, you’ll be rusty at best when you come back to play again.
In terms of how to practise, this will depend a lot on the level that you are at. To start with, you will need to work on your vocabulary. This can be done through repetition, or even by using a number of different websites which offer different ways to practise the Spanish words that you have learnt.
As your language level develops, you should try to practise is as many practical ways as possible. This could be something as simple as explaining to yourself about an activity that you are doing, or by having a conversation with a native speaker. Any practise you do will benefit you, but try to develop you four main components (speaking, listening, reading and writing) equally).
Speaking can be practised through speaking to a native speaker, listening by listening to Spanish music and radio, reading by reading short stories in Spanish, and writing by trying to write down your thoughts or opinions about a specific topic, or even your day.
Language is a creative endeavour in the sense that it is one primary way of communicating how we feel and think. Learning Spanish should reflect this, and in doing so your skills will improve in a way that makes them much more useful to you personally.
Where could learning Spanish take you?
A lot of people immediately want to know how long it takes to learn Spanish, as soon as they begin studying. After all, we want to know roughly where the end is going to be! However, this is a difficult question to answer because it depends on an incredibly diverse range of factors, including your own motivation, how long you spend studying each week, and your natural ability to pick up words and phrases, as well as how good you are at conjugating verbs.
One thing is for certain, the quickest and most efficient way to learn Spanish is through immersion. The best version of this is moving to a Spanish speaking country for a period of time.
Whilst you are there, you will be constantly picking things up, even when you are not conscious of the fact. What’s more, what better place to improve your Spanish pronunciation than being surrounded by native speakers.
Your trip to the supermarket could turn into a Spanish lesson, and coffee with friends could teach you about Spanish verbs.
However, we understand that this is not a feasible option for many people who want to know how to speak Spanish. The good news is that immersion isn’t limited to moving abroad. You can immerse yourself in Spanish in a number of other ways too, such as by listening to Spanish radio, watching Spanish movies, and even by changing the language on your smartphone to Spanish.
So know you have all of the information you’ll need to get started, what are you waiting for? Remember, there is no age limit for learning Spanish, so why not start your Spanish adventure today. You never know where it will take you…