It’s very easy to feel like learning a language takes an eternity, but it doesn't have to be this way. You can become fluent in Spanish, fast with these 12 easy tricks.
Have you ever wondered how captains managed to get their ships to extremely far away places hundreds of years ago, before GPS? Unless properly trained, most of us would aimlessly wander around the Atlantic ocean, likely to end up shipwrecked on an island.
This is what it learning Spanish usually feels like, unless you have a detailed plan to minimize your journey across the Seven Seas. If this sounds like you, you’re probably wondering what it takes to learn Spanish, fast.
- Have a detailed plan that suits your needs.
- Find study strategies that work for you.
- See progress fast enough to keep you hooked.
This last point is very important, as feeling stuck or like you’re not making progress quickly enough is one of the most common reasons why people quit learning a language. So, how do you learn Spanish quickly enough to avoid quitting mid-way?
We’ve compiled 12 of the best study strategies to help you learn Spanish as soon as possible. If you follow our tips, you’ll be able to make your voyage to your destination in the quickest way possible. ¡Vámonos!
1. Focus on proficiency, not mastery
Voltaire once said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” And boy, do we ever focus on perfection more than when learning a new language. In fact, an obsession with perfection could be what led us to believe that children are naturally better at learning languages in the first place.
Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to change its physical structure by creating new neural connections. This is what allows us to think differently, process new information, and learn new languages. Until recently, it was thought that neuroplasticity stopped at age 25, which is why we thought of foreign-language acquisition as something you do in your childhood and early 20s.
However, new research has found that neuroplasticity is still present through adulthood. Though our brain’s ability to change and create new pathways does decrease as we grow older, we still retain much of our ability to modify our brain structure.
So, what does change as we grow older? If neurological changes aren’t to blame for a declined perception of language-learning abilities, then behavioral changes must have something to do with it.
One thing that increases as we grow older is our fear of making mistakes. Not only that, but adults are less likely to recognize that they’ve made a mistake than children are. And you know what one of the best ways to learn a language is? Making mistakes.
So, don’t let your fear of making mistakes stop you from pushing yourself when learning Spanish. Whether you’re taking Spanish classes online or are learning with a group of people, don’t let your fear of imperfection stop you from doing your best. Getting comfortable with making mistakes will help you improve your Spanish faster than probably any other tip on this list.
Spend some time mastering pronunciation
Your pronunciation is one area where you should strive for perfection from the start. As opposed to babies and young children, your brain has already created the neurological pathways required to identify sounds in your native language. Studies show that, as you learn a new language, your brain will try to fit the new foreign sounds into the pronunciation patterns it’s already learned.
This is why many people will learn a language to a pretty high level without sounding anything like a native speaker. One of the best things you can do to prevent this is focus on hammering down your pronunciation as you start learning Spanish.
2. Increase your comprehensible input
One of the best ways to learn how to speak and write is–ironically–to listen and read. A lot. While repeating phrases out loud and mimicking their sounds can be helpful for pronunciation purposes, it doesn’t require much genuine understanding of the language.
Even birds can easily repeat phrases–as you can see in our blog on birds in Spanish–but few would consider birds to be proficient in Spanish just because they sound like it.
Instead, you should focus on consuming information that you can understand. No matter what your native language is, your teachers probably went to extraordinary lengths to get you and your classmates to read more. That’s because reading is the best way to acquire vocabulary, whether in your native language or a foreign one.
The tricky part is finding content that is just right for your level. You can’t read complex literature if you’re still an intermediate Spanish speaker, just as you can’t watch a telenovela as a beginner at Spanish.
Here are some of our favorite ways to find comprehensible input, no matter your level.
Read graded readers
Graded readers are fiction books explicitly developed for foreign language learners. If you’re learning Spanish, you can find books that use as few as 150 unique words, making them extremely easy to read.
Remember that reading for pleasure should be your goal, so try finding stories that interest you.
Watch children’s TV shows
If you enjoy watching TV, then you’ll love to hear that you can actually study Spanish while watching TV. The problem is finding something easy enough to understand and interesting enough to get you hooked.
Believe it or not, a great tip loved by millions of language learners worldwide is to watch Peppa Pig in your target language. It is an excellent match between interesting storylines and easy-to-follow Spanish.
Listen to podcasts geared toward Spanish learners
This can be a great option, particularly if you have a long commute. Instead of sitting in traffic or a crowded subway, you could use that time to study Spanish! You can find podcasts for learners in all kinds of genres, including:
- Pop culture
No matter your interests, you’re sure to find a podcast that’s both comprehensible and interesting to you!
3. Try an immersive Spanish experience
If you want to learn Spanish fast, there’s no better way than to go all in. Finding an immersive language experience can be daunting, as you will struggle, you will make mistakes, and you will get homesick. However, you will also learn more than you would with any other strategy. You’ll acquire so much more than you ever could in a regular Spanish practice.
Even if you can’t make your way to a Spanish-speaking country, you can still find ways to fully immerse yourself in your target language at home. With so many resources available online, it’s not difficult to find learning materials, online courses, graded readers, movies and TV shows, music, and even games that will help you immerse yourself in the language.
But, if you want to take things one step further, you can check out the Berlitz Method.
The Berlitz Method
Since our inception, we have been strong believers in language immersion as the best possible language-learning strategy. Our founder Maximilian Berlitz was a strong proponent of fully-immersive language strategies since he founded Berlitz in 1878.
The Berlitz Method involves:
- Full immersion. Your teachers will speak to you in your target language only. Non-verbal instructional aids will be used to help you understand your teacher, even while they’re speaking Spanish.
- Plenty of output. You will be required to actively engage with the language through conversations and presentations, allowing you to produce your own sentences.
Ultimately, the Berlitz Method is the best way to gain Spanish fluency fast.
4. Set clear goals
Let’s be clear: no matter how hard you study, you won’t be able to learn a language to perfection. But you shouldn’t let that discourage you! Even native speakers don’t learn their native languages to perfection. In fact, the English language has over 170,000 words, while most adult native English speakers only know around 20,000 to 35,000.
So, what should you take away from this? Do not set out to learn an entire language. That will only hold you back from mastering the words and contexts that you really need.
Think about it. How much would you be able to understand in your native language if you were having a conversation with a bunch of doctors? Or a bunch of economists? Or a bunch of botanists?
Instead of aimlessly working your way through countless Spanish textbooks, make a very clear and detailed learning plan depending on your interests. If you want to learn Spanish for business, focus on learning business terminology. If you want to learn Spanish for healthcare, focus on learning medical terminology.
5. Use spaced repetition software (SRS)
Spaced repetition software is the newer, more tech-friendly way of studying with flashcards. Instead of spending time writing out physical flashcards, keeping track of them, reminding yourself to study, and sorting through which ones you know and which ones you don’t, an SRS program can help you automate and optimize all of these steps.
Not only will an SRS program automate most of these tasks, but it will also make your learning more efficient. Several studies have found that SRS programs can help speed up vocabulary acquisition and retention among language learners.
Using an SRS to study has some of the best yields among all study strategies. Even reviewing your flashcard deck for just five minutes a day can help you stay on top of all the new vocab you’ve learned in your Spanish classes.
6. Test yourself
Testing yourself is a great way to measure just how much you’ve learned. This will show you just how effectively you’re learning, where your areas of opportunity are, and if you are struggling with specific words or grammar patterns.
Additionally, self-pacing your study has been shown to be more effective than non-self-paced study. In other words, studying Spanish on your own and testing yourself is more effective than following a fixed course with pre-set exams, even if you spend the same amount of time studying.
So, even if you’re already taking a Spanish group class, making time to study at your own pace and testing yourself will help you learn much faster than your peers.
7. Make Spanish-speaking friends
Learning Spanish is so much more fun when you have friends who can speak it. With 21 Spanish-speaking countries and over 490 million speakers, there’s no question about whether you can make some Spanish-speaking friends.
Making friends will allow you to both increase your Spanish output and also receiving immediate feedback. This second part is extremely important as it will allow you to find out right away when you misuse a word or form an improper grammar pattern.
Plus, you’ll also have people to go to when you have questions about learning Spanish, particularly on the cultural side. For example, textbook Spanish is rarely used in everyday conversation, as more casual words and structures are favored. You’ll be able to pick up on these more naturally if you frequently engage in Spanish conversation with your friends.
Also, you probably wouldn’t go to your Spanish teacher to ask for slang vocabulary, right? This is an area where your Spanish-speaking friends will be able to help tremendously. If you’re eager to learn some slang, check out our ultimate guide to Spanish slang.
8. Find leisure activities in Spanish
Besides studying smarter, you should also be looking to study more if you’re trying to learn Spanish as soon as possible. While actively studying for extremely long periods isn’t sustainable, a good hack to increase your time spent studying is to find leisure activities that you love in Spanish. That way, you’ll be able to get some rest while also working on your Spanish!
Here are some of our favorite ways to find leisure activities in Spanish.
Social media apps in Spanish
If you’re an avid social media user, one way to drastically increase your engagement with Spanish is to follow more Spanish speakers on your social media. Whether you enjoy YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, you are guaranteed to find awesome content creators who speak Spanish.
Listen to music in Spanish
Listening to music in your target language is an excellent way to improve your listening comprehension and pronunciation. So, instead of listening to your favorite album for the millionth time, why not spend some time exploring the Spanish music section of Spotify?
Watch Spanish movies and TV shows
As we mentioned earlier, comprehensible input is what you should be going after. That is, consuming media at a level that you can actually understand. However, there’s only so much Peppa Pig that we can stomach.
If you’re bored and need something more binge-worthy, it’s still worth your while to find Spanish-language movies and TV shows that you can enjoy–even if you need to use English subtitles.
9. Use Spanish in different contexts
If you use Spanish exclusively in a classroom setting, you will have a hard time getting used to speaking Spanish outside the classroom. An SSLT study from 2021 compared the out-of-school exposure of two groups of English as a foreign language students: one from Denmark and one from Spain.
The Danish group had fewer hours of Spanish class going into the study, but had higher levels of out-of-class exposure to English during the duration of the study. For example, Danish students regularly watched movies and TV shows in English (with Danish subtitles), played videogames in English, and listened to music in English.
The Spanish group had more hours of Spanish class going into the study, but lower levels of out-of-class exposure throughout the study. The study found that the Danish students outperformed the Spanish students in two out of the three testing assessments, including listening comprehension and grammaticality judgement.
So, while spending time in class and studying from textbooks is certainly helpful, it shouldn’t be your only study strategy. Make sure to increase your exposure to the language outside of class so that you develop your ability to understand how Spanish is used in the real world.
10. Try active learning
There are many different types of learners. Some of us learn through reading, while others learn through watching videos. However, science makes one thing clear: active learning is an effective way to study a foreign language.
Pairing class or textbook study with interactive study techniques can help you improve your Spanish level beyond traditional instruction. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our top suggestions.
Cook Spanish or Latin American food
Spanish and Latin American food is among some of the best in the world. In fact, traditional Mexican cuisine was the first in the world to be inscribed into UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Whether you enjoy tacos, paella, arepas or tostones, there’s something for you. Finding recipe videos on YouTube or buying a Spanish cookbook is a great way to work on your Spanish as you figure out your weekly meals. Plus, learning from native speakers will ensure that you get the most authentic recipes possible!
Play Spanish-learning games
Even if you’re no longer a child, you can easily find plenty of fun games to play that will help you master your Spanish vocab. Studies show that playing games can be an effective way to improve vocabulary recall and gain exposure to words and phrases in different contexts.
Fun class games like jeopardy, bingo, and Simon says can be easily modified to help students better-retain information. They can even be tailored to suit the vocabulary or grammar points of the week, making them an excellent study strategy for every Spanish classroom.
And even if you don’t go to Spanish class, you can find plenty of videogames you can play by yourself online, such as Scrabble and Influent. Or, if you enjoy playing video games to relax, you could also just change the language of your favorite video game to Spanish.
Take workout classes in Spanish
Working out will do wonders not only for your health but also for your learning! Ineed, studies have found that working out regularly can help boost memory and improve thinking skills. So, spending a few minutes doing a workout in Spanish will keep you looking young, feeling your best, and on track to meet your language goals.
11. Teach Spanish to peers
I know what you’re thinking. You came here to find ways to learn Spanish, not teach it! Well, hear me out. For starters, you know what Einstein said, “If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.” And who’s going to argue with Einstein? You don’t truly understand something – until you can explain it simply.
Then, research supports peer-instruction as an effective learning strategy. Even if you’re not quite credentialed to be a teacher, engaging with the material from a different perspective will allow you to gain more insight on complex topics. Additionally, discussing the materials with your peers will expose you to different points of view, which may allow you to get a more holistic view of the topics you’re explaining (and trying to learn yourself!).
12. Be consistent above all else
Humans are creatures of habit, and nothing will shake you out of your comfort zone like learning a foreign language can. The best way to power through is to create small habits that will help you stay consistent.
Studies show that simpler tasks can become habits more easily. That’s because we often have the motivation to do a strenuous task once or twice, but doing it repeatedly over a longer period of time will wear us out. Thus, focus on creating small habits that you will do consistently and build upon them.
Navigate your way to Spanish fluency, fast!
Learning an entire new language can feel like a daunting task–unless you have the right tools. Following a full immersion program like the Berlitz Method is the best way to ensure that you can hit your language goals in the shortest amount of time.
Whether you’re looking to learn Spanish to do international business or as a hobby, you’ll want to learn it as soon as possible to prevent quitting from lack of progress. No matter your ultimate goals, following out 12 tips above will help you become fluent in Spanish, fast!