Are you stuck in your Spanish? If you’ve been spinning your wheels at around intermediate level, try changing your approach. This article will show you how.
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In recent years, there have surfaced a number of “hyper-polyglots” – people who can speak a large number of languages – on YouTube and other social media. There are plenty of videos of these guys speaking 8 different languages in one conversation. Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree. Fortunately for us, they are also very forthcoming with their advice about how to learn languages.
From the folks at Memrise comes a new Spanish learning app, CatAcademy. With the tagline “Helping humans to be less dumb”, CatAcademy uses the ever-popular cute cat meme to illustrate a range of Spanish phrases, using visual mnemonics to aid memorisation of vocabulary. I know it’s a bit of fun, but to me it perfectly illustrates a depressing slide to the lowest common denominator.
Let’s face it, if you’re an adult with a job, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. You’ve got all sorts of projects and plans for things that you’d like to do “one day”, but just can’t really get around to it – learn the violin, take up painting, learn Spanish… All of these ideas you have live and die in our imaginations as we just can’t find the time to do them. However, learning Spanish when you have no time is still possible, and in this article we want to show you how.
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!
We’d like to be the first to congratulate you on deciding to learn Spanish. You’ve already taken the biggest step, and if you approach learning Spanish in the right way you’ll enjoy a fruitful journey to fluency. You’ll broaden your universe, be able to communicate with 406 million new people across the world, and connect with entirely new cultures. In this guide we give you a primer for everything you need to get started with this beautiful language. Ready?
How do you practise Spanish? Do you practise in a class, with a Spanish friend, when you go to Spain? Or, perhaps, you don’t actually practise at all… Getting Spanish practice (AKA talking!) is crucial – it’s the reason we learn Spanish, and it has no substitute. Yet many of us struggle to actually use the language we spend so long studying. One solution is the “intercambio”, where speakers of both languages come together to practise each other’s language.
Learning by yourself is the most effective way to learn Spanish, but can be difficult without guidance. If you learn by yourself, you’ll be familiar with the feeling that you’re not quite sure you’re on the right path. To learn autonomously you need both motivation and a good idea of what to actually do, and where to focus your efforts.
Aside from language, one of my (Rob) principal joys is of playing the piano. Having started at six years old, music has consistently been a part of my life since then. It wasn’t easy to learn, and I feel that I’m still learning and will do as long as I continue playing. I don’t believe there’s any point of perfection whereby you can learn no more, which is what makes the whole process so enjoyable. When I started learning Spanish, I saw various parallels between learning language and learning music, with a broad overlap in necessary skill-sets.
What does it take to get a perfect, native accent? Which of the myriad accents of Spanish would you choose, and why? Our accent when we talk any language makes a big difference in how we we are perceived by others, as well as how we perceive ourselves. Accents are tied in deeply with questions and assumptions of identity and background. Speaking Spanish with a perfect native accent is what many people aspire to, but why? And is it really necessary?
“Oh, you’re learning Spanish? Well, in that case, get a Spanish girlfriend! You’ll pick it up in a couple of months!” That was advice from my friend Maria, given to me soon after moving to Valencia. It took me over a year (sniff!) to manage to follow through on her advice, and I have to say that Maria wasn’t wrong. I was pretty competent in Spanish by that time, but hooking up with a Spanish girl definitely put me on turbo charge.
I’ve spent a good deal of my language learning life trying to learn vocabulary and phrases, and actually get them to stick in my long term memory. While there are so many ways to go about it, in this post I wanted to focus on “spaced repetition” systems, and how to get more out of them.
In our day to day conversations and interactions, we actually use a very limited set of words. An average person has a vocabulary of around 10,000 words, but in an average day, uses only 1,000 of them. We have a set of common words that we stick to, even when there are more interesting and expressive options available. Many courses sell themselves on the premise of a “minimum” vocabulary: Learn just 1,000 words, and master any conversation in Spanish/French/Chinese!
Lots of people would love to learn Spanish. It’s a beautiful language, spoken by millions of people around the world, and if you can speak it you’ve got access to a whole new world, culture, and way of thinking. I’ve got lots of friends who are planning on taking up Spanish, whether for a new year’s resolution or just to show off. Everyone’s talking about it, but not many people are actually doing it.
Learning a language properly is hard work, and requires time and effort. Like anything that’s hard, it becomes easy if you make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. If you can form the following language learning habits, you can easily double the effectiveness of your study. Hopefully, learning Spanish will become a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Your vocabulary is your storage of Spanish words and phrases. Some of this is active – available for instant recall, and that you can use in your own Spanish; and some of this is passive – words and phrases which you understand, which ring a bell, but which aren’t available for instant recall, and aren’t part of your conversation toolbox.
If you’ve ever spent any time trying to learn Spanish vocabulary, you’ll know what a frustrating process it can be. Words which you think you’ve memorised disappear, and some words don’t even stick in the first place! Here are a few tips to help you remember.
Learning grammar seems like the necessary evil to learning a language; we treat it as though it’s a time consuming process we just have to get through. It’s also seen as boring and difficult, and tends to be what people struggle with the most. However, this shouldn’t be the case! Try the tips below to see if you can look at Spanish grammar in a different light, and maybe even make it easier and more enjoyable.
The hardest thing about learning a language is starting it. The second hardest part is to continue it. Keeping our language learning going is a huge challenge, especially when we are so used to everything being such a quick fix in our modern age. The truth is that properly learning a language is an endless commitment, and there won’t ever come a time when you’ve finished learning it. If you feel your commitment and motivation waning, I’d like to share a few things which have helped me along my journey.