How much do you really know from your Spanish lessons or classes? While there are a few Spanish proficiency tests available online, there’s an easier way to test yourself: simply ask yourself 15 practical questions. Read on as Fairfax, CA tutor Jason N. explains…
Learning Spanish can enhance your life in innumerable ways, such as having more competitive job opportunities, understanding Spanish films and poetry, and — most importantly — being able to form deep connections with people who only speak Spanish. Contrary to what many believe, you do not have to be young to learn a new language (although it helps). That said, learning a new language can be one of the most demanding goals you can conquer.
The depth of practice necessary to root Spanish into the brain so that it sticks for the long-haul can discourage many Spanish learners, and they give up before they are able to see the fruits of their efforts. This article is about preventing that, by keeping the bigger picture in mind when faced with seemingly insurmountable roadblocks.
You can think of the following questions as indicators of where you are, and that can point you in the right direction to get you “back on track” and not throw in the towel too soon. Each question follows a chronological order, and reflects a progressively more advanced command of Spanish. Effective language learning rewards persistence and repetition over a long time span. If you are reading this blog, you already learned one language, proving you can definitely learn another!
1) Can you sing the alphabet in Spanish? This is key to understanding, spelling, and pronouncing basic Spanish. Most Spanish classes start here. I start here with my students who are new to the language.
2) Can you conjugate a verb, especially hablar or comer? Without knowing how to conjugate verbs, we would not be able to form coherent sentences. Just like English, conjugating verbs is essential to learning Spanish.
3) Can you count to 100 in Spanish? Numbers are key to a basic knowledge of a language.
4) Can you differentiate between masculine and feminine nouns? Between ser and estar? Between por and para? Unlike English, every noun in Spanish has a gender! Learning their genders is just as important as learning the noun. The same applies to the differences between ser and estar, and por and para.
5) Can you routinely pluralize the articles and adjectives of any given noun? Plurality tends to follow nouns around in Spanish, unlike in English. For example, in English, we say “the red beautiful cars,” whereas in Spanish, we would say Los carros bellos y rojos.
6) Do you struggle with Spanish without giving up or feeling lousy? Struggling is where a lot of the learning happens, so be patient! Unfortunately, this is where many people give up. If you are being too hard on yourself when you haven’t learned a certain concept or word, pause and remember how difficult learning a new language is, by nature.
7) Is your vocabulary strong enough to order a meal or choose the correct bus or subway line without faltering?
8) Can you read an article in Spanish and get the general idea?
9) Can you formulate a complete sentence in Spanish?
10) Do you ever think in Spanish, or are you constantly translating words and phrases from English to Spanish in your head? On your road to truly becoming proficient in Spanish, you should gradually start to think in that language. This can be as simple as “How are you?” (¿Cómo estás? in Spanish) to as intricate as “I wonder why the person sitting in front of me at the coffee shop drank three coffees, but still fell asleep?” (¿Por qué la persona en frente de mí quedó dormida después de tomar tres tazas de café?) If you’ve been practicing for years, but are still mentally translating, see this link to practice Spanish on mobile applications, or even better, work with a tutor regularly!
11) Can you listen, read, write, or speak for more than 20 minutes without feeling like your brain is on a frying pan? Believe it or not, if you are a native English speaker, you once struggled to learn English as an infant and child. You were not always verbal. You have years, possibly decades, of English practice under your belt now. If you feel overwhelmed after practicing Spanish for 20 minutes, stop and take a breather. This is simply an indicator that you need more practice.
12) Can you watch a movie in Spanish without subtitles and not feel totally confused?
13) Do you dream in Spanish? A language really begins finding its way into the core of your neutrons when it influences your unconscious mind and habits. When studying Spanish in Costa Rica in 2010, I had recurring dreams of my Costa Rican friends and classmates correcting my Spanish grammar and pronunciation as I spoke to them. This isn’t exactly the kind of dream I am referring to, but I still associate this with when I truly started to become fluent. This was the first time in my life where I was writing, reading, speaking, and listening to more Spanish than English on a daily basis. Ask anyone who has successfully learned Spanish as a second language, and he or she will have a similar story.
14) Do certain words or phrase come more readily available to your mind in Spanish, before English? If you are listening, reading, speaking, or writing in Spanish frequently, you will know you’re doing well when you can think of the Spanish word or phrase before the English one every now and then.
15) Do you feel understood when you are in a context where only Spanish is used?
With language, you either use it or lose it. These questions are meant to motivate you! Six years ago, I knew fewer than 40 words in Spanish, and now I work primarily with Spanish-speakers in one job and teach Spanish in my other job. It’s a long-term process, and your efforts (although not always tangible immediately) will reap incredible benefits if you stick with it!
Looking for a more interactive Spanish proficiency test? Here are some of our favorites:
- Spanish Proficiency Test via Transparent Language
- Spanish Test Online via don Quixote
- Placement Test Spanish via Lengalia
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here!
Photo by Reeve Jolliffe