Did you know that the Spanish language has the second-most native speakers behind Mandarin?
In addition to the 483 million native Spanish speakers, as well as another 75 million people who speak Spanish as a second language. Spanish is spoken as a first language on four continents, making it, along with English, one of the true global languages of the 21st century.
Furthermore, Spain and Latin America are both beautiful destinations to travel and learn about a new culture! Don't believe me, just watch some videos! Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for good reason.
Making the decision to learn Spanish is a wise one for those interested in travel, increasing job opportunities as well as opening up possibilities for cross-cultural learning and understanding.
Where to start?
A Spanish lesson does not have to be costly or difficult. An effective Spanish lesson will involve language immersion, where Spanish learning takes place in an environment where every person is encouraged to speak Spanish all the time. Such a type of Spanish class is widely available, and gives students an opportunity to build their conversational Spanish as well as learn Spanish grammar.
Beginners may be interested in Spanish classes which teach basic Spanish, such as learning how to introduce yourself and order food. Luckily, Spanish vocabulary is often very similar to English, which allows the learner to begin the Spanish learning process with some prior knowledge. For example, ‘-ity’ words in English often become ‘-dad’ words in Spanish, such as ‘electricity’ to ‘electricidad’.
Beginners may also want to start with simple phrases which will provide a fun way to begin communicating in Spanish. You can start by watching a video of important Spanish phrases online. An online video lesson will cost you nothing and will get you started speaking the language!
Typical Spanish courses will involve a Spanish teacher facilitating a group which learns from each other, while a private one-to-one Spanish class will involve the learner practising directly with a native Spanish speaker.
It requires a lot of practice to build fluency in Spanish. Conjugation can be one of the most difficult aspects of Spanish lessons, especially for native English speakers. Language courses which take place in a physical classroom provide ample opportunity to practice correct grammatical form with other students in a dynamic setting. Online Spanish lessons can be very effective for all types of leaners, however in particular for advanced Spanish learners, once the nuances of conjugation, pronunciation and basic conversation have been developed.
When choosing Spanish courses, consider the following: Am I looking for an intensive Spanish course? Am I looking for an immersive language environment? Do I want to speak Spanish fluently, or am I more interested in reading and writing? Do I need more help with grammar, or sounding more like a native speaker?
Answering these questions will help you narrow down your preferred Spanish learning method. You could go for a one-to-one class with a private tutor, or you could seek group classes, either face-to-face or online through institutions such as ‘El Patio’ in Melbourne’s CBD.
A really effective way to find your ideal Spanish school is to go online and read various reviews from former students of each language school. They will provide honest information such as the quality of the course, the teacher and the number of hours you will have to commit.
Some other factors to consider are budget, time frame and prior knowledge.
If you have already achieved some level of Spanish proficiency, then you may want to take intermediate Spanish classes or even advanced Spanish. These courses will start to use the language as a tool to explore issues within language and culture more broadly. You could even study Spanish/Latin American history entirely in Spanish! All this will help you to formulate logical ideas and express them fluently in Spanish, which will take your Spanish to the next level.
The crowning achievement of taking Spanish classes may be the ‘DELE’ for you. This is the Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language, as is awarded through the Spanish Governments’ Cultural outreach program called the Cervantes Institute. Preparing for this Spanish test will require a high level of written and conversational Spanish, as well as accurate pronunciation and comprehension. If you want to learn Spanish, acquiring this Diploma could be a lofty but achievable goal for your Spanish learning journey.
Free Spanish Courses?
So you want to learn to speak Spanish, but don’t have the budget to pay for Spanish language courses. Never fear, there are many ways to learn Spanish, many of which cost no money at all.
To get the basic vocabulary of Spanish without paying anything, you can use some of the great free language apps going around, which focus on teaching learners the most important Spanish words and how to conjugate the most used Spanish verbs. Apps like ‘Duolingo’, ‘Memrise’ and ‘Lingodeer’ all offer free lessons which achieve this purpose.
You can also learn how to speak Spanish by utilising free trials with companies, and unsubscribing before they charge you anything. Busuu and Pimsleur both have great Spanish language courses, which you may even feel like paying for after your trial!
You could also attend Spanish language exchanges to develop your skills, while also helping people learn English. These take place in every major city, and can also be done online through apps such as ‘HelloTalk’ and 'Tandem’.
Furthermore, if you’re a Netflix on the couch kind of person, download the Google Chrome extension called ‘Language Learning for Netflix’. Then, put on your favourite Spanish speaking series and read the Spanish subtitles along with the show. When you don’t understand something, just hover your mouse over the word and a translation will appear, how good is that?!
Latin American Spanish
You may find Spanish courses or tutors who are teaching ‘Latin American Spanish’ and ask yourself “what’s the difference between this and European Spanish and which should I be learning?”
Truth be told, learning either style of Spanish will make you intelligible in both geographies. The differences in terms of language are subtle, like British English and US English.
The most notable difference is the absence of the pronoun ‘vosotros’ in Latin America. This pronoun means ‘you (plural)’, however in Latin America they use ‘ustedes’, meaning ‘you (plural/formal)’ for both formal and informal situations.
Spanish in Australia
Recent migration patterns have seen students and workers from Latin America move to Australia in droves! These communities are a lot more visible in Australia’s cosmopolitan cities such as Melbourne than 20 years ago. Just walk down the supermarket isles in any Melbourne suburb and you’re likely to hear some Spanish!
This means that it has never been more practical to take a Spanish course, giving yourself the possibility to communicate with many more members of society. It’s highly likely in the next 10 years you will have a Colombian, Peruvian or Chilean co-worker.