Everyone who has decided to learn Spanish is told roughly the same thing: study vocabulary, learn grammar, practice listening skills and make bilingual friends to speak with. But while these may be simple enough tasks, they’re not always that fun or easy to put into practice, particularly if you’re just starting out. Sometimes it takes a little imagination and unorthodox study tactics to get excited about a language.
Trying something new might be the key to success for you, particularly if you’ve been studying Spanish for a while and haven’t been able to make much progress. Everyone has different learning styles which work best for them. Keep in mind yours may even evolve over time as your motivation to speak Spanish changes and you become interested in different aspects of the language, such as improving your conversational skills or discovering more about the culture.
What’s important is finding a way to integrate language learning into your daily life so you get regular exposure to your new tongue. This both reinforces your existing knowledge and helps you learn new phrases and words. No matter how you learn, be sure to keep a dictionary and flashcard tool close by (Lingua.ly has a free one) so you can review your words regularly and remember everything you look up.
Easy to practice tips
There is so much advice out there on how to become fluent in a language. You don’t need any complicated programs or innovative methods if you stick to the basics and remember a few simple guidelines:
Speak up Language is for communicating. If you don’t speak and speak often (even if it is just to yourself), you will not be ready to hold a real conversation. Anyway, speaking is easy, particularly if there’s no one there to hear your mistakes. Keep in mind you can memorize as many new words as you want, but for them to be available, you need to use what you learn.
Live in the now Grammar stresses people out. Don’t let it get you down or inhibit your speaking practice. Stay in the present tense as often as you can. It will simplify things for you in the beginning and help you build up the confidence you need to tackle other tenses. If you need to move into past of future, just stick a time word marker in there and carry on. Eventually you’ll want to learn the correct verb forms and with motivation learning is that much easier.
Look around you One of the reasons why Spanish is easy to learn is it’s the second most spoken language on the planet. That means there is plenty of it on the back of cereal boxes, on street corners and all over the Internet. Pay attention and focus in on your new tongue– you’ll start to see it everywhere!
Love what you learn There is no point in learning words you are not likely to use. If you hate sports then skip the jogging and gym vocabulary and concentrate on something you are interested in, like cooking or movies. To speak Spanish you need to use what you learn and you can make this happen by learning words you are interested in.
Above all, start small, be consistent, have fun, speak Spanish as often as you can and work up the motivation to participate in a class or sign up for a private tutoring session.
6 Unorthodox Approaches
In order to be successful you have to ensure you enjoy learning a language and associate it with positive emotions. Here are a few things you can try!
1. Read your wrappers Most products in the US (and even sometimes in the UK) will have Spanish on the label. It’s a good idea to see what’s in your grub for health reasons, but it’s also really good for your language skills! That’s because you’ll see common ingredients such as azúcar (sugar), maíz (corn) and huevo (egg), over and over again and will learn them through repetition. And when it comes to associations, what could be more powerful than pairing chocolate and candy bars with language learning?
2. Get a wall calendar Hang it somewhere prominent where you’re likely to pass by it every day. You’ll learn the days of the week soon enough, as well as all of the holidays. When you add dates to your diary, try writing them down in Spanish. Appointment is cita. You can find doctor, dentist and hairdresser by looking them up in your dictionary. The cognitive energy you expend searching for new words will help you remember them. Plus, you’ll have the calendar as a record of all of the words you learned throughout the year!
3. Follow Twitter accounts Instagram works too. Either find a famous actor, singer or sports personality who speaks Spanish or follow the Spanish account of a familiar brand. Companies in particular are likely to use similar language and introduce you to new verb forms that show up in persuasive text. Imagine looking at a feed full of MacDonald’s meals or Ikea furniture every morning and seeing the new vocabulary and catch phrases that go with the images.
4. Watch soap operas If you live in the US, there is likely a channel you can find where all of the programs are in Spanish. Spanish speakers love their family dramas and soap operas are plentiful both in Spain and South and Central America. They’re great for learning mild swear words and slang because they tend to feature fairly transparent story lines and lots of expressive language. To make sure you can look up the words that are spoken, put closed captioning on so you get written text on the bottom of the screen (subtitles in Spanish if you like).
5. Listen to familiar songs You know the words to your favorite songs so why not try listening to them in Spanish? You can often find classics and holiday tunes in both languages. You won’t have to struggle with meaning and will gradually begin to acquire new words. For example, Blanca Navidad = White Christmas. Music is also excellent for learning the rhythms of a language and strengthening pronunciation skills. The iTunes store will have plenty of music in Spanish and while you’re at it, you might try searching for some traditional tunes as well!
6. Read newspaper headlines You can use Lingua.ly to scan the daily news in Spanish. Look at headlines under sections you care about (Arts, Sports, Politics) and learn new words as they come up. Eventually, you’ll be brave enough to dive into the articles or to practice with a regular section like your horoscope. Just take it one sentence at a time and use an app like Lingua.ly to make sure the text is full of vocabulary you recognize.
Do you have any language learning tips to add? Share them in the comments!