Learning a new language can be a time-consuming and demanding undertaking — there’s no way around that. No matter how much you study, you won’t wake up the next day fluent. But don’t let that stop you!
While there are no quick-fixes when it comes to learning Spanish, there are tricks and strategies for making sure you’re not wasting any valuable time. And whether you’re studying Spanish in school, taking lessons after work as a hobby, or gearing up for a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, there’s no sense spending time studying if you end up forgetting the new material the next day. (We’ve all been there, right?)
Below, we’ve rounded up the best tips to help you study Spanish… try them all and see what works for you!
1. Identify your learning style.
The first question to ask yourself before you study Spanish is, “What is my learning style?” Decide whether you are a visual, auditory, kinesthetic, logical, or verbal learner, and then use that info to decide which tricks and techniques feel most comfortable to you.
2. Pay attention when you learn new material the first time around.
As you study Spanish vocabulary and grammar rules, it’s important to make sure you pay attention the first time you learn new info! Consider the new idea and pretend that you will have to reteach the information immediately. Repeat the information back to yourself, and this will help to anchor the information in your brain.
3. Implement mnemonic devices.
These are a system of rhymes, rules, phrases, diagrams, or acronyms that help you memorize dates, facts, figures, and so on. When you use a mnemonic device, you take original information and turn it into a more appealing version that your brain can more easily remember. A good example is ROYGBIV (colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
4. Use different forms of multi-media.
You retain knowledge better when multiple parts of the brain are working together. Read about new info, write it down, listen to an audio version, and speak about it out loud. Try all of these modes of communication, and you will learn more info at a quicker pace.
5. Remember what you already learned.
Connect new concepts with old concepts that you’ve already mastered. This helps to improve recall speed and comprehension of new material. For example, if you’re learning about elements of the culture, like Spanish holidays, go back and review your lessons on food and travel vocabulary.
6. Label your surroundings with post-it notes.
One of the best ways to learn new Spanish vocabulary is to label all of the items that you see every day. You will start to connect the physical act of seeing, touching, or using this item with the new word that is attached to it, and it will stick in your mind. Tip: Check out FlashSticks for pre-made vocabulary sticky notes!
7. Use the chunking technique.
Our brains are wired to remember seven pieces of info at a time. When you chunk information, you break it up into smaller blocks of info that your brain can process and remember. Remembering someone’s phone number is a perfect example of how this works.
8. Learn by osmosis.
Repeat new concepts and vocabulary words out loud and record yourself saying this new information. Then, listen to it over and over again even while you’re sleeping. You’ll start to retain the information without even realizing it!
9. Make a mind map.
This is a great way to burn new information into your brain. A mind map is a visual representation of new concepts. Use note cards, pictures, and paper to draw out facts, explanations, and organized concepts. Pin it up on the wall and look at every day. The links and connections will get visually stuck in your mind, and you will be able to draw upon those images when you need them later.
10. Immersion: Fully immerse yourself in all things Spanish.
Watch Spanish TV, listen to Spanish music, read the newspaper in Spanish, and try to speak in Spanish whenever possible. The more you immerse yourself with the culture and the language, the more information will stick in your head.
Bonus: Work with a Spanish Tutor!
The tips above will help you as you spend time studying alone, but don’t forget the power of working with a Spanish tutor! Reading books and listening to audio can only get you so far — getting that conversational practice is truly key to mastering the language.
As you practice with your tutor, you’ll learn how to understand cues, translate information quickly, and also learn about more informal ways of speaking. Plus, having a set time for lessons will hold you accountable and ensure consistent practice. Combine your private lessons with the tips above, and you’ll be well on your way to learning the language quickly and efficiently. Good luck!
Photos by Trish, Julie Kertesz, waynewhuang, Spry, Michael Summers, Ignacio Palomo Duarte, Wrote, Lynn Friedman, Wally Gobetz, Larry Lamsa