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What Is the Best Way for You to Learn Spanish?

Updated on May 16, 2017
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Dreamworker is a certified Spanish, English and ESOL teacher with 26 years of nationwide secondary classroom teaching experience.

Spanish, with more than 470 million native speakers worldwide, is the third most spoken language in the world behind English and Mandarin. It is also the official language of a number of international organizations.

Therefore it makes sense that people should try to learn as much of it as possible.

Doing this is no small task because even though it is one of the easiest languages, learning it still will take time and effort.

This article will show you the most effective methods for doing so.

There are several methods people can use to learn Spanish.
There are several methods people can use to learn Spanish. | Source

Spanish Is Easier to Learn

Spanish is one of more than 5,000 languages in the world, but fortunately for native English speakers, it is easier for them to learn than the others because

  • words are mostly spelled the same way they sound,
  • there are many cognates, and
  • pronunciation is simple

For example, the words casa, sol and amigo are very easy to spell and say if you know how to pronounce these five vowels:

  • a is "ah"
  • e is long "a"
  • i is "ee"
  • o is "oh" and
  • u is "oo".

Spanish is also loaded with cognates or words that look similar to and mean the same as in English. Some examples are:

  • hospital,
  • contento,
  • familiar,
  • popular,
  • vocabulario,
  • instante and
  • terrible.

These are words you can learn quickly and provide an instant vocabulary base if you take the time to memorize them.

Ways to Learn Spanish

If you only want to communicate verbally in Spanish, you can learn to understand and speak the language by

  • teaching yourself from professionally prepared programs that use books and tapes,
  • spending a great deal of time in the company of people who speak Spanish and/or
  • using immersion techniques.

(Immersion means placing yourself in a position where you must use only Spanish if you want to be able to function, such as when you move to a foreign country where your language is not spoken at all.)

As long as you keep practicing on a regular basis, you will retain what you have learned. However, if you stop or leave large gaps between one communication event and the next, you will forget most of what you have learned.

This is why joining a weekly Spanish conversation group, or talking regularly with native speakers is so important.

Conversing with people who are native speakers of Spanish makes learning the language easier.
Conversing with people who are native speakers of Spanish makes learning the language easier. | Source

Where to Find Conversation Groups

You can find these groups through the Foreign Language Departments of high schools and universities. Usually they cost nothing to join, and are very rewarding to use.

You can also take conversation classes through your local college or public school adult education programs.

Self-Teaching Programs

It is easy and fast to use programs that teach you vocabulary and repetitive sentence structure, and many people do this because of the quick and satisfying results.

They are good products for those who either

  1. want to brush up on the skills they learned in school so that they can do a better job of using them when they travel or
  2. need to be able to basically communicate with native speakers for business purposes.

Self -teaching programs use a series of simple techniques that provide students with basic sentence structures that can be combined with vocabulary.

Me llamo (My name is) is a perfect example because it can be combined with endless combinations of names:

  • Me llamo Pablo (My name is Paul)
  • Me llamo Sr. Jones (My name is Mr. Jones)
  • Me llamo Doctor Smith (My name is Dr. Smith)

There are a number of these programs right on YouTube that allow you to learn the basics.

However, you may want to buy comprehensive learning materials that you can keep on hand and use as time permits.

I like the Living Language series because it is a complete program that takes you from beginning learning through advanced and provides all of the materials you need in one learning kit.

I have used this program when tutoring adult students and have found it excellent.

You may also want to take a look at the popular Rosetta Stone program. Either one will suit your purpose if your goal is to gain an in-depth understanding of Spanish, but both should be used in conjunction with conversation groups.

Self-Teaching Program Problems

Although you know what you are saying, you will not understand why because you do not yet have enough knowledge to do so. For example:

"Me" as used in the above example, means myself. "Llamo" means "I call, which is the first person present tense of the verb llamar (to call).

In Spanish you place the reflexive pronoun before the verb, so you actually are saying "I call myself" and then add a name at the end.

The normal tendency for a learner is to want to say "Me llamo es" because he will think "me" is the same as "my","llamo" is name and "es" should be added because it sounds like "is". However, this is totally incorrect.

As you can see, there is a great deal of underlying knowledge that one must learn in order to understand and be able to properly use a language. Self-teaching programs do not provide this because their main purpose is only to teach conversational skills.

Even though they may teach some grammar, unless you combine this type of program with constant conversation, it is difficult to make use of the lessons.


Many people are able to learn Spanish simply by moving to a foreign country and living there for a long period of time.

They become quite fluent while doing this, and some even are able to gain basic reading and writing skills.

The only problem is that once they return home, unless they find a conversation group, they quickly lose all that they have learned.

The younger people are when they practice immersion, the faster they learn and the more they return. However, older people don't do quite as well.

Nonetheless, anybody can learn quickly if they immerse themselves in a country where Spanish is the main language.

Living in a Spanish speaking country allows you to learn about the Hispanic culture as well as its language.
Living in a Spanish speaking country allows you to learn about the Hispanic culture as well as its language. | Source

Formal Learning

To truly learn Spanish you must be willing to commit yourself to it by

  • taking formal classes,
  • employing a tutor and
  • joining conversation groups

Doing this takes time and effort, but it is the only way to give yourself a firm grasp of the language that will stay with you and be usable for a lifetime.

The good news is that doing this is fun. It also gives you an opportunity to meet other people with the same interests as you and learn more about Hispanic culture.

Where to Find Formal Spanish Classes

If you want to expand your understanding of Spanish language and culture, the best thing for you to do is to take some classes at your local college or university.

It will be extremely helpful if you also join a conversation group and spend some time visiting or living in a Spanish speaking country so that you can get the benefit of immersion.

There may also be groups and activities in your area for those who are studying the language that allow them to socialize together. You can learn about them from the Foreign Language Department of your local university.

The Choice Is Yours

Although it is easier and faster to learn conversation skills only, retaining them will require constant effort.

Formal instruction, while more difficult, expensive and time consuming provides you with an ability that will prove enriching as well as helpful throughout your life.

Either way, you will learn, but if you are going to expend the effort, why not make it give you a lifelong reward?

Buena Suerte y Vaya con Dios. (Good Luck and God Bless You)

Which way of learning Spanish would you prefer to use:

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© 2017 Sondra Rochelle


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