Want to learn Spanish fast? Feeling overwhelmed yet? Stop over-complicating things! Depending on your goals, you may be able to simplify your studies and just focus on the basics of conversational Spanish. Here are five tips from online Spanish tutor Montserrat P...
If you’re reading this, congratulations! You have decided to learn one of the most beautiful and useful languages: Spanish!
As you’ve probably recognized so far, there are lot of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation rules to remember. How do you keep yourself motivated — and avoid getting overwhelmed — when there’s so much to learn? Depending on what your goals are, you may be able to simplify your learning to just conversational Spanish. Here are five things you can actually stop doing to make your time more efficient.
1. Learning Useless Vocabulary
Stop trying to learn complicated and specific words. Words such as melancolía (melancholy), etéreo (ethereal), and iridescente (iridescent) are not going to come up in day-to-day Spanish. Knowing these types of words will help you as you advance in the language, but not so much while in casual conversation.
Also, consider learning idioms. Tomar el pelo (“to take the hair”) is a phrase that expresses surprise, de sol a sol (“from sun to sun”) means “all day long,” and matarse trabajando (“to kill oneself working”) is “to work very hard.” These idioms are almost guaranteed to be in a casual conversation. If you master idioms, you are more likely to understand and be understood when speaking Spanish.
2. Watching Children’s TV Shows
Children’s TV shows deal with very basic vocabulary used in very simple conversations. While they can be an amazing resource in your very early stages of learning, ultimately, watching these shows will not lead you to Spanish fluency.
If you really want to become fluent, go for more advanced programming, and turn the Spanish audio and subtitles on. By doing this, you will gain the necessary listening training to be able to sustain a Spanish conversation. Additionally, you have the chance to read the subtitles of the show, which guarantees you will understand every word the characters are saying. (And if you don’t recognize a word, look it up!)
Even though watching your favorite TV show in Spanish with subtitles on may not sound all that fun, it is one of the most efficient ways to get your brain used to this new language. Listening and reading Spanish will help you to solidify your bases before you move on to face-to-face conversation. Plus, you get to watch your favorite TV show as homework. Doesn’t sound that bad anymore, does it?
3. Reading Too Much
While reading helps you to develop a wide vocabulary, do not spend all your time on it. Your conversational Spanish will not be taught to you by books alone; you need to get out there and practice!
So, instead of spending two hours of your day reading, dedicate one hour to your books and one hour to the people around you. Find a friend from your Spanish class and have some coffee together. Working one-on-one with a Spanish tutor is another great idea, as it forces you to fit in time for practice. The most important thing is for you to get those conversations going. After all, practice makes perfect!
4. Studying Alone
Studying Spanish by yourself can be very useful when it comes to understanding the grammar and learning new words, as you are able to study the language at your own pace, placing emphasis on those areas that give you the most trouble.
However, conversational Spanish needs to be studied with others. Volunteer with the Spanish-speaking community around you, book more regular sessions with your tutor, sign up for a study abroad program, or find a language exchange partner — just do whatever you can to get yourself involved in Spanish conversations. If you’re looking for an online language exchange, here are some great sites to check out:
5. Speaking with Non-Native Spanish Speakers
This one might be a little challenging, depending on your surroundings, but whenever possible, avoid speaking to only non-native Spanish speakers. Though speaking to non-native speakers is a great way to get your conversation going, speaking Spanish to native speakers is the most efficient way to become completely fluent in Spanish. After all, who’s a better teacher than somebody who grew up speaking the language?
You may feel weird and intimidated at first, but keep going. With time and practice, you will feel completely comfortable. Don’t be ashamed of making mistakes. Rather, be open to suggestions, and learn from your errors.
From Conversational Spanish to More Advanced Levels
Of course, this is not to say that you should not learn the more advanced elements of the language. Once you have constructed these bases, you will need to continue studying Spanish in order to acquire the building blocks that will allow you to become fully fluent. Not all your conversations will deal with easy vocabulary or non-trivial topics, and if you want to take part in these interactions, you need to master all levels of Spanish dialogue.
But don’t worry — even though dealing with more complicated Spanish sounds intimidating, it is easier than it seems. If you work on the simpler elements until they are solid, learning the more complex ways of expression will come naturally. And as you progress with the language, you will realize that some of the rules you thought were set in stone can be bent to accommodate your needs. Working with a teacher or tutor guarantees that you will be learning all these exceptions and new concepts correctly.
Spanish is a wonderful language. Now that you have this advice, go forth and continue working hard. Soon, the results will show in your conversational Spanish abilities! ¡Buena suerte!
Montserrat P. teaches Spanish lessons online. Originally from Costa Rica, she is now completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and has been teaching private lessons since 2012. Learn more about Montserrat here!
Photo by Demo