Starting out on your Spanish language learning experience can sometime seem a bit daunting. For a start, you'll need to know what are the best ways to learn Spanish, and how doing so will benefit you.
You can take comfort from the fact that one major decision is already out of the way; you have decided to learn Spanish so you are no longer thinking about the pros and cons of each individual language.
If you have absolutely no Spanish experience at all, then let us first begin by saying ¡Bienvenidos! Yes, welcome to the world of the Spanish language! You are probably dreaming of being fluent and conversing freely on the streets of Madrid. Whilst it is great to have objectives and goals, please bear in mind that at this stage it is baby steps which will ensure you keep progressing towards your goal.
By learning Spanish, you will expand your horizons and enter into the second most spoken native language in the world, after Chinese. This means that any level of Spanish will be advantageous to you.
Having a conversational level will allow you to learn the basic greetings and phrases to speak to locals whilst you are on holiday in Mexico. Having an intermediate level will allow you to move abroad to countries such as Spain, Argentina, Peru, and Chile, but to name a few.
In this article, we will explain why, as a beginner, you should learn how to speak Spanish, how you should go about it, as well as giving you some tips to keep you on track, and make sure you keep progressing on your Spanish speaking journey.
Why Should You Learn Spanish?
As we have already mentioned, Spanish is the second most spoken language by number of native speakers. In fact, Spanish speakers number about 440 million worldwide. It is a language that is spoken in 20 countries, and it is the principal language in Central and South America. You will hear people speaking in Spanish from the U.S border with Mexico, all the way to Ushuaia at the very southern tip of Argentina; a distance of over 6,000 miles, or 10,200 km.
This means that if you speak Spanish as a second language, you can communicate with a native speaker in Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, and Uruguay, showing that if you learn to speak Spanish, you will be opening up your travel prospects enormously.
This is great news when you consider that Chile was named number 1 travel destination for 2018 by the world's largest travel guide book publisher, Lonely Planet. What's more, Sevilla in Spain, San Juan in Puerto Rico, and Guanajuato in Mexico, all featured on their list of the top 10 cities to visit in 2018. Baja California in Mexico, Bolivia's capital, La Paz, and Lanzarote in Spain, were all included on their list of destinations offering the best value in 2018.
Spanish speaking countries offer some of the most beautiful and amazing places to visit in the world, and this is without even considering the rich and distinct history and culture that each one can boast. Speaking Spanish is the key to unlocking the full potential of each destination, and doing so will enrich the authenticity of your experience as you will be able to interact with the locals which could take you to cafes and restaurants not frequented by tourists.
You are probably thinking that this all sounds great, but perhaps you are still worried about how difficult it is to study Spanish. You can be reassured that the Foreign Service Institute placed Spanish in the category of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. This doesn't mean you should take your Spanish lessons lightly, but it does mean that with a little bit of dedication and personal motivation, you should see results and progress quicker than with languages such as Arabic, Russian, or Chinese.
How Will Learning Spanish Benefit You?
The sheer number of native Spanish speakers has converted the language into one that people want to learn to speak. As a result, it has taken on increased importance across the globe. Not only is it one of the official languages of the UN, it is also important in the world of business. This means that speaking Spanish can increase your employability immensely, as companies are constantly looking for Spanish speakers to help them do business in Latin America.
Many Spanish speaking countries have seen periods of increased economic growth at various periods over the last two decades, helped by economic agreements such as NAFTA and Mercosur.
What's more, many Hispanic countries are seeing a rise in their middle classes, which means that, in general, people have more disposable income to spend on goods, holidays, and non-essential items. Western businesses are keen to tap into this growing market, but having a Spanish speaking workforce is crucial to their success.
Outside of the economic benefits to you, you will also see a growth in personal development by studying the language of Cervantes. Just by learning a few words and phrases, Spanish speaking cultures will become more accessible to you. Aside from watching movies in Spanish to learn the language, you will be able to better appreciate the cultural meaning behind them. The same can be said of songs and books. After all, a translated book can never truly convey the exact same meaning as it does in the language in which it was written.
An increased cultural understanding will give you a different perspective on the world. You will understand things that happen around you better as you will gradually be able to apply a different way of thinking about them.
Ultimately, learning a foreign language, such as Spanish, will open a variety of doors to you. These will be in your professional life through job opportunities, and in your personal life through opportunities to travel and an increased cultural awareness and understanding.
Different Ways to Learn Spanish for Beginners
There are plenty of different ways for beginners to pick up the Spanish language. You will see Spanish courses being advertised at a local language school, options for learning Spanish online, as well as private classes with a Spanish teacher.
There is no correct way to study Spanish. In fact, the best way to learn Spanish will involve a variety of different approaches which you mix together. It would be advisable to find some Spanish classes. This will give your learning some structure, as well as offering the chance to interact with other people in the same position as you. Having a tutor there at the beginning is also a good idea for when you run in to difficulties and you need certain things clarifying.
However, you should not just rely on Spanish lessons as your sole approach to learning the language. You should use other methods, such as using books for learning Spanish. Research which is the best book to help you begin learning Spanish before you rush out to buy one as you will need one that perfectly suits you.
Learning Spanish with an app is another good way that beginners can support their overall learning experience. Apps have the advantage of being on your smartphone or tablet, meaning that you can use them of the go. They are often also designed for complete beginners and back you along the way as your develop your language skills in Spanish.
You can work on things such as grammar and vocabulary, whilst other apps focus on verbs and their conjugation.
As with any new language, you will naturally start by focusing on the basic Spanish that you'll need to hold an introductory conversation. This means that Spanish vocabulary is more important than Spanish grammar at the start. This is because vocabulary makes up the building blocks of how to construct a sentence.
Making a correct sentence is more important at the beginning than knowing the grammar behind it. And by making complete and correct sentences, you will start to give to give basic meaning.
So it is therefore essential that you commit the new vocabulary you learn (and there will be a lot!) to memory. Start by making lists of new Spanish words, and then try to memorize them. The first list that you will learn will more than likely be numbers, as learning a new language normally starts here.
But once you have the numbers assimilated, try with other lists of vocabulary. If you can, group words together. For example, you could have one list of colours, and another for physical features. These are the types of words that are useful when you start out learning Spanish.
General Tips for How to Learn Spanish
Spanish is a language that can be learnt by anyone. Obviously each student will require a different approach to learning the language. For example, teaching Spanish to a dyslexic child will require a different approach to that of an adult taking an intensive course. But in general, here are our tips for learning the Spanish language.
Flashcards are a great way to learn vocabulary. You should write down one word per flashcard, with English translation on the other side. To begin with, just see if you can say way the English word is when you see the Spanish word. As you grow in confidence and your level increases, see if you know the Spanish word when you see the English word.
Another thing you could do which words in a similar way is to label everything that surrounds you. For example, in your kitchen you could put a little sign on the fridge that says la nevera, and one on the microwave that says el microondas.
Practise Makes Perfect
Take every available that you can to practice. If you have a Spanish speaking friend, practise what you learn in your classes with them. If they are a native speaker, they can help you with your pronunciation.
As a new learner, you need to be practising as often as possible. This will help solidify what you learn in your classes, and through practising you will pick up the patterns in the sentence structure and grammar.
Use Different Ways of Learning Spanish
As we have previously suggested, you should try to utilise as many different ways of learning Spanish as possible so that they compliment each other. This is especially important if you want to teach yourself Spanish.
There is a wealth of resources out there (websites, apps, books, videos etc) so make sure you use them all to practise and learn. Videos in particular are a great way to learn and improve because they deal in depth with specific topics, such as the one below which looks at phonetics.
Patience is a Virtue
Don't expect your fluency to be flawless after just one less. Language learning is a long process. There will be highs and lows. Some times you will think you are progressing really well, and at others you will think that you have ground to a halt.
Don't lose faith in what you can achieve, just remember that ups and downs are natural. If you persevere, you will more than likely come out of the other side. If you do find yourself in a difficult moment, try going back and looking at previous notes and what you have learnt.
Reinforcing things that you might already know well can instil the confidence that you need to make the breakthrough that you crave.
Vocabulary is King
You will never stop learning new vocabulary. This is often the case in your native language too. You often come across new words which you don't necessarily know what they mean. The building blocks of any language are the words, so try to learn a few new words each day. Once you have learnt them, try to use them in a sentence to reinforce that you know them.
Spanish is a language which relies on around 1,000 common words which you will use day in day out, but once you reach this level, know that there is always more that you can learn.
When you learn new words, right them down! Try to group them together so that you can see patterns and common themes in what you are trying to learn.
The best way to learn any language is through immersion. The more you surround yourself with a language, the more you will absorb. The best example of this is by going to spend an extended period of time in a Spanish speaking country. Even when you think that you aren't learning, you will be absorbing what you hear on the radio, or during a conversation in the supermarket.
Even if you can't go abroad, listening to Spanish speaking music will help you tune your ear in to the Spanish pronunciation, even if you don't understand every thing that is being said.
What a great way to prepare for your Spanish lessons London or Glasgow!