Hello my name is Jade and I started studying Spanish in High School back in 7th grade. I was excited to finally be learning a second language, but when I started I found class to be very boring, and it took 2 years before the teachers started to teach different tenses. After a few years of Spanish in High School, I came to the conclusion that I would never learn how to speak.
After a few years of looking over methods I finally found a method that worked for me. It was so simple and right before my eyes. You see you can buy a lot of software, take a lot of classes, and read a lot of books but at the end of the day, they won’t get you to the point that you want to be at. I even tried Rosetta Stone once–now, I’m not going to criticize Rosetta Stone, because it does have its uses, but if you seriously want to learn, just sitting down with Rosetta Stone alone will not help.
In language learning, facilitators are things that will help you along the way, but will not necessarily make you fluent. The books, software, etc. you buy and the teachers in your classroom are just facilitators, at the end of the day they can’t truly teach you this language. That means the majority of the effort is up to you. But what’s the point of taking these classes and doing these things? There isn’t anything wrong with taking classes, take this for example: an athlete has a coach, the coach tells the athlete what to do. But despite the coach telling the athlete what to do, it’s up to the athlete him/herself to know just how hard they have to work and when enough is enough. The coach cannot force an athlete to train if they don’t want to. If an athlete feels they need more work, they need to make themselves go into overtime. When it’s time for game day, the coach is on the sideline and it’s up to the athlete to learn and make decisions for themselves.
Language learners are like athletes, the teachers are our coaches our brains needs for training. We ourselves have to put the work in if we want to see results. And this is the first mistake people make when they begin learning a language, in this case Spanish. They instantly go out and find people that they think will make them proficient in this language, when all you need was just yourself.
Making a Timetable
Making a timetable is not a must but it helps. A timetable helps keep you organize your time and it also helps you to guide yourself. Now for the first month or two of learning a new language, I recommend using a timetable. After the first few months of learning you can divert a little from this timetable and just begin to listen and speak in your second language. A timetable for a beginner must have these 4 aspects of learning: speaking, listening, writing and reading. In the beginning, there should be a lot more input than output, so more reading and listening than writing and speaking.
divide your time right
This is to ensure that you do not spend too much time on just one aspect or topic. Within the first three months there should be some amount of gain in your Spanish learning. Spanish is a language that is hard at first, but after the initial stages, there are so many similarities to English. Also, Spanish is a somewhat predictable language, e.g. often times grammar rules do not change. For absolute beginners you can use courses such as Assimil just to get you started. Then as your timetable progresses you can add more podcasts and books into the mix.
do not divert from your goals
If you spend a few months or even weeks without practicing your new language, chances are you will forget a large portion of it. In between each big goal are mini goals. So the big goal by the end of the 6 months is to be able to speak Spanish. Then mini goals would be to listen to X number of podcasts in Spanish, download X number of free eBooks in Spanish and read them, etc.
Go out and find resources
As your learning progresses, you are going to get better, don’t spend your time on materials that are made for beginning students when you are really at a more advanced level. There are a lot of resources out there and something that works for one person might not work for someone else. You can check out reviews of certain products on several sites.
If your aim is to actually be able to communicate with speakers one day, you have to listen to them in order to mimic them and learn from them. Often times we find in a classroom setting less time is focused on listening and more on writing comprehension. How are you going to learn pronunciation if you do not listen? Listening will eventually help you to speak. A tip is to repeat everything you hear out loud to access your pronunciation (agreed! that’s precisely what I recommend – Andrew).
Realistically speaking you will not be absolutely fluent in a second language you have never learned before with just a few months of study. However, it is possible to be proficient within 3-6 months. If you go absolutely all out, within six months you will surprise yourself with your achievements. One thing I should point out is that in different Spanish speaking countries there are different idioms and phrases, beware of these. For example, how men call their friends varies in different countries. In Spain they will say (tío), Argentina(che) and Mexico (compinche). The point is some words and phrases are different in different countries, if you come across a word that you don’t know don’t freak out and feel as if you lost your ‘proficiency’, not even Spanish professors know it all.
Speaking with native speakers is so important, there are many websites that will help you to find a speaking partner. Verbling is probably the only website out there that was designed for Speaking practice, there are also a lot of native Spanish speakers on Verbling. Livemocha also has a large number of Spanish speakers from all over the word to chat with.
I found out the best way to learn the language, is firstly: you have to want to learn it. Passion is is probably the main thing that will get you started in learning Spanish.
It’s all about creating that environment yourself, I can speak Spanish without ever leaving my country (with the hope of one day being able to of course). In fact I could maintain a basic conversation in French after just two weeks of learning. It’s all about the passion and finding time. The resources you choose also impact the speed of your learning.
A Quick Note from Andrew Before We End: if you’re interested in teaching yourself Spanish…
I have a short post and video (that are free to read and view of course, won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time) on how to do precisely that with the system that I put together which allowed me to become fluent in Spanish in just 6 months after years of trial-and-error by watching Spanish-language TV shows (like telenovelas, hence the name of the system) and movies, reading Spanish books and comics, and listening to Spanish music. If this sounds interesting to you, check it out by clicking the link below (the following link should open in a new tab or window for you when you click it so I’m not asking you to leave this article here):
I also include some quick and valuable tips for learning Spanish as well as a couple of the most useful free Spanish-learning websites that I recommend.