You probably know the feeling. You’ve been learning Spanish a decent amount of time, and you’ve got the basics – no doubt about that. You’ve studied all the tenses, have a good stock of vocabulary and you’re probably quite pleased with how your Spanish accent’s been coming along too. Then you hang out one evening with a Spanish-speaking friend, and try speaking Spanish with them a bit. You can understand everything they say, but your responses feel laboured and you can hear the mistakes you make before you even speak!
It’s a frustrating feeling, and you get this when you’ve reached a plateau in your language learning. You’ve nailed the basics, but still haven’t quite made the jump into fluency yet. I’ve been there, and I know how annoying it can be, to feel like everyone’s driving around in a Lambourghini while you’re struggling along in your rusty Beetle. The good news is that it’s now time to change up how you’ve been learning Spanish, and take these steps to break into Spanish fluency.
What I mean by fluency
We could spend all day discussing different definitions of fluency, but for me (and the purposes of this article) fluency relates to an ease of use of the language. You’re comfortable expressing what you need to in any situation, and aren’t left with that feeling of being left behind in conversations. It’s a satisfying feeling when you can keep up with native speakers and communicate your real self. So how can we get into that state?
If you’ve been down obsessing with the nitty-gritty of the language, now’s the time to take a step back. You need to switch your mindset to an holistic overview, as you need to be able to get a good grasp of all of Spanish, rather than worrying excessively about the subjunctive, for example.
In order to really get to grips with Spanish you need to understand it as a system, and you can only really do this with a good birds-eye view of it. Imagine Spanish as a map, where we are zoomed in fully. As you zoom out, more comes in to view, and you get a better appreciation for how all the pieces fit together.
That’s the mindset we need to get fluent. Now we’ll look at how that actually manifests itself in different areas of the learning process.