‘Learning a language’ God damn SEO tips keep telling me to write explanatory blog titles but the inner pun-creator in me wants to make things funny. I can’t help it. It’s a condition.
This blog post is a guide to learning any language but I’m going to speak from my experiences with Learning Spanish for this. I’ve been keeping my new language a secret from the blog side of things for the last 7 days. So I could reveal in a few weeks that I’m completely competent and fluent en Espanol and knock your socks off.
The issue is…
Learning a language is hard.
Last year I spent 5 weeks glued to Duolingo and could barely string a well-rehearsed sentence together. Learning a language isn’t about practising the same words over until you get them right, it’s a lot more complex than that.
I’ve done a hell of a lot of research on how to quickly (and effectively) learn a language and I want to share my tips and advice with you.
Find a Langauge you love
Firstly, you’re here because it say’s Spanish. So I’m assuming you want to learn Espanol? and if you don’t ‘want to learn‘ a language – I mean, really have the commitment to study it, you probably will never make it.
- Find a language that speaks to you and put these tips in that place to get what you want – If you really want to learn a language it’s best it’s something you love.
Dedicate time to that language
Learning new things takes time. Set aside an hour a day (when possible) to learn your new language. I like to separate my week using audio lessons, telenovelas and ‘written’ days where I write down my most important new pieces of information.
Teachers give students homework to remind us of previous lessons and to push us to dedicate our own ‘free time’ to learning.’
Write things down
Set yourself homework – The most useful thing I’ve done on my journey to learning a new language was to dedicate a note book to Spanish. I use my large notebook (£3) as a dictionary mostly but I also add phrases I say regularly. My Spanish-English note book’s layout is as such;
Page 1: Emotions and short phrases that can help me explain my emotions. E.G Happy – Feliz. I am… how are you?
Page 2: Basic questions and short phrases. E.G Que-What. Como-How. How much is…? Where is..?
Page 3: Travel phrases. E.G Bus.Train. Beach. Holiday etc.
Back of the note book contains words I want to research and small references for sentence structures and ‘homework’ I have set myself. Homework is normally something like “Write out 50 words I learned this week” then next week I’m unable to use those words and have to try harder, “translate an English song in Spanish – Every sentence is worth 1 point”.
Listening & Learning
One of the first things I was thinking whilst learning a lnaguage (Spanish) is that when it is spoken naturally it is super fast! How are they speaking so fast?
This was a huge problem for me when I first got into Spanish properly. I could understand the words on paper, I could read and write a fair amount of Spanish and pass a Spanish quiz pretty quickly. However, the second someone would speak to me, or I’d listen to Beyonce’s Listen (Oye in Spanish), everything I had learnt had gone!
It is so frustrating to feel you’re getting somewhere in a language but conversational dialect has you stumped!
There is no quick fix to this issue, the more words and context you learn the easier it will get to understand. E.g The word they’re exaggerating isn’t ‘carro’ for a car but actually ‘caro’ for expensive, words are similar to the ear but on paper, you could be a master!
Singing is even worse for listening to a new language as when a word is sung they’re an adding rhythm, letters and whole words can be extended and changed with the beat of the song so beware of this and eventually…
Small parts of the language will eventually click which leads me to this…
Knowing how quickly native speakers talk means your slow lessons on apps and learning disks won’t be enough. You need to jump in the deep end and wrap yourself in the language. If it’s something you really love you will want to put everything into it. Dive in get tu fiesta en! (your party on).
The more you surround yourself in the culture, the language and the passion for learning it. The more you will pick up! Learning little words that are repeated to you in silly soap dramas. Or the woman doing the clothing haul on youtube saying the word ‘ropa’ every five seconds. You’ll pick up that those words are connected to the actions;
- Telenovelas; The dramatic, the engaging and.. the easy to understand. It’s like a colour by numbers for learners! I’m completely hooked on Tierres de Reyes at the moment. I watched 32 hours of it in 5 days.*Make sure they’re in the right language, a huge issue I had after 6 days of learning – it turned out it was actually Mexican. Find the best Telenovellas for learning spanish
- Listen to Spanish music; It was one of my first stops in learning Spanish. I have always been a huge fan of Eurovision and it brought in a variety of new languages and cultures to me. If you want a playlist of my favourite and easy to learn Spanish songs click here.
- Youtube Channels, type in your search bar what you want to find and select ‘Spanish’ as your search language or browse my playlist for your own selection.
What I’m listening to:
I’ve subscribed to Holly & I’m listening to Spanish music on my playlist, probably only every few days (she speaks ridiculously fast) but It has helped me grasp the conjugations a bit better! I’m also absolutely hooked on Tierras de Reyes – I’ve been watching 1 hour episodes for 6 days straight and I’m utterly hooked on it. If Samuel doesn’t end up with Andrea I’m quitting!!
I realised (19 episodes in) that it’s not even Spanish they’re speaking. It’s Mexican! Which is fairly similar but definitely not the same! So make sure you are researching the right shows and languages first!
Listening a language is is never enough when you’re just learning words (vocabulary), find a great app that can do both things for you. There’s a whole world of apps offering audio, and written support for you. So, whether you’re a visual or audio learner you’ll have a great headstart on this language. Make it easier on yourself. Like above, if you’re submerging yourself int he language you will pick it up fairly easily but it’s always helpful to have some tools on your side too.
The best apps (and I’ve tried the top 10)
- Tweeba: Very basic but it’s completely free and I’ve used it for flash cards and prompts, I’d say this is better for more structured learners. People who only want to see words and translations will benefit greatly.
- Flashcard – Spanish: Simplicity at it’s best. Flashcards (and audio) that let you learn how you want to. If you’ve learnt it within the first day of seeing the new word you can cross it off and add it to a list. At any point, you can quiz yourself with match the cards and a quiz!
- Ati Studios – Learn Spanish words and phrases: This one is very in depth, it offers a very expanded language learning platform. Quizzes, flashcards and multiple-choice prompts.
- Memrise: As far as free apps (although this has a limit on how much you can learn each day) this app offers the versatility of Duolingo and the simplicity of tweeba definitely a must-have if you’re a dedicated learner!
- Mosa – Learn Spanish free: Mosa is very versatile! It has all of the flashcards and fun interactive options that memrise has with no restrictions on it!
Babble is another version of Duolingo but it’s format wasn’t beneficial to my personal learning. I learn by seeing the English word-Spanish word- a phrase to remember them both and then a quiz to embed it in my mind. Babble has a jumble of these methods in a different order so try it out alongside duolingo (see my full review of Duolingo) and see which is better for you.
Fluent-in-3-Months was a huge help for me to decipher the main chunks of Spanish. (To at least make sense in Spanish). So if you want a jumping start read this article!
I tend to study using the tools, specifically; Memrise, Mosa and Duolingo, whilst listening to my soap opera (Teirres De Reyes) and a Spanish playlist I’ve created to sing-along to. I’ve had great results in using a GCSE revision book for re-writing phrases and for homework.
Speak the language
If in doubt – do it anyway!I learnt last year that just learning the words is great for reading the language and for assembling parts of a language but not for speaking it. I spent 5 weeks and wasted so much time on learning the words for the language but not the actual language.
I learnt last year that using apps and listening to music is great for learning the vocabulary and reading the language, even assembling small phrases but not for speaking it. After spending 5 weeks last year it felt like a complete waste of time – learning the words for the language but not the actual language.
Something had to change, and the only thing I wasn’t doing? was actually speaking Spanish!
After watching Benny Lewis’s video (below) on how to learn a language I’ve picked up so much more Spanish and it seems to be sticking with me so I’m extremely grateful for his insights.
No learner is fluent!
Every language is constantly developing. There will always be a new word or a new way of wording things so don’t get fixated on getting perfect grammar or conjugating your sentences properly at first. Focus on being understood in your new language.
“Apple and me” Is perfectly understandable if you’re in a buffet and want an apple. Noone is expecting a learner to understand everything in their language. With all these tips and pieces of advice, you’re almost there. You have the information at your finger tips you just need to apply it.
My top tip for quickly learning a language is to set aside 20-60 minutes every single day. Keeping information fresh in your mind is the best way to absorb it. Hence ‘revision’ sessions before a big exam, let’s say your new language or your abroad holiday is your exam. For an easy guide on how to prepare for a productive day you can put your language lessons in a time slot and spend 30mins (or what ever time you have) a day practising.
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
For me a huge help was encouraging others to learn with me, or at least let them know I was learning a language. Speaking Spanish around people can make you feel uncomfortable but more often than not, they would like to learn too! I’ve been teaching my partner and nephew a few phrases and it’s really helped me to engage with them and speak it out loud confidently!