The Spanish language is becoming a necessity in the professional world. More and more companies are recruiting young people with bilingual skills due to the global economy; pushing this amazing language to expand even further. The question “How to learn Spanish?” is searched more than 12,000 times in a single month in Google, and Spanish is by far the most spoken language after English in the U.S.
This is why it is very important to consider some aspects of how to learn Spanish if you decide to begin the amazing journey of learning Español:
- Home tutoring: Having a private tutor is a good way to start if you are new to the Spanish language, or if you want to get a glimpse of what it is about. However, this kind of instruction is really expensive, and you will not experience real conversations and social interactions with native speakers.
- University: If you would like to get a deeper understanding of the Spanish language, or if you are pursuing a major in foreign languages, there are really interesting academic programs at accredited online Colleges and Universities across the web. Other great option is to learn Spanish online. Some of them offer additional subjects like Spanish literature and Spanish American culture as part of the curriculum.
- Abroad: However, if you are looking to learn Spanish first-hand with locals and live in a beautiful country like Costa Rica, this is a once in a life time opportunity:
Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA) offer lessons at CRLA go beyond classrooms and textbooks, and in addition CRLA offers extracurricular activities such as:
LEARN SPANISH & LEAVE A POSITIVE FOOTPRINT
CRLA students have the opportunity of contributing to make a tangible difference in our world and to leave something positive for future generations.
How to Learn Spanish: Prerequisites and Preparation
I think of learning in two parts: the planning and the execution.
If you spend a bit of time (not much) planning on how you’ll learn Spanish, you’ll waste less time actually doing so. You can also better gauge the effectiveness of your program if you outline goals ahead of time.
So there are three points here:
- You need to have a strong reason to learn Spanish.
- You need to set specific and measurable goals.
- You need to build a habit of daily practice.
1. You need to have a reason to learn Spanish.
The allure of a superficial reason will fade fast, so you need to find a strong why.
Trust me, you’re going to hit plateaus, where it feels like you’re not getting any better day-to-day. To combat that, you need to do as George Leonard says, learn to love the plateau. You can only love the plateau if you have a good reason for going through it in the first place.
For me, I fucking love traveling and have ambitions to travel South America (have a trip coming up to Peru and Mexico in February). Also, I love the culture in Spain, have been twice, and hope to spend a ton more time there in the future (most likely a another trip coming up this summer). I love the way the language sounds so there’s an inherent desire to learn it.
I’m also somewhat strange in that I like learning for learning’s sake, and I’m not super affected by plateau disappointment.
Whatever the case, know your reason and make sure it’s strong enough to withstand future distraction and disappointment.
2. Set reasonable but ambitious SMART goals.
Most people know that, when seeking to lose weight, they need to be specific. 10 pounds by Christmas is better than “lose some weight.”
Those same people that understand that tend to set a goal to “learn Spanish,” as if there is some magical end point where you kick back and say, “ahh I’m done learning Spanish!”
I’m not done learning English yet (I like to think I’m getting better all the time), so it’s important that I set discrete goals for Spanish, even though the process itself is continuous. In my case I used CERF levels (B1, B2, C1, C2, etc.) and a specific date to attain each. My exact goals:
- B2 by December 1st (succeeded)
- C1 by March 1st (pending)
Yours could be different, such as “be able to carry a 3 minute conversation in Spanish with a native by X date.” It just needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and time-bound (SMART).
3. Build a habit of daily practice.
Spaced repetition is better than binging (though don’t stop yourself from binging if you desire). Do something every day, the more the better, and the more varied the better.
How to Learn Spanish: My Daily Routine
Your routine can obviously differ, but here’s exactly what I did (and do) every day:
- Read a book in Spanish in the morning with my coffee (15-20 minutes)
- 1 Spanish podcast per day (usually Coffee Break Spanish, but sometimes Radio Ambulante) (20-30 min)
- 4 lessons of Duolingo (5-10 minutes)
- Flashcards before bed (5-10 minutes)
- Skype lessons with an instructor twice per week (Monday and Thursday – 1 hr each)
- Informal Spanish conversation with my friend Svitlana on Friday afternoons (20-30 min)
- Saturday Spanish meetups at the local library (I started this after attaining B2 level, but don’t go all the time – 1 hr)
- 1 Spanish movie each week (1.5-2 hours)
This adds up to about 12.5 hours per week, or a little over 1.5 hours per day. Highly do-able even if you’re not a full time language hacker or a language student.
In addition to this, I’d listen to Spanish music (Amaral is solid) when I could. I’d also squeeze Spanish into other activities, like watching Spanish dubbed movies on flights). I’d take every chance for a conversation with someone who knew Spanish as well. All the practice I can get.
And that’s pretty much it. That was and is my practice.
It’s really about 1) motivation 2) specific goals to keep your focus and 3) repetition and getting in the reps each day. There’s nothing hacky or sexy about it, but I’m moving forward every day and will be at a C1 level by March 1st.
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