You have asked yourself “How can I learn Spanish?” You are not alone: Spanish is the most studied second language after English. Millions start learning it as adults every year, and while many succeed, a great many others crash and burn. But be encouraged: you already have a head start on many others. Why? Well, because you have actually asked yourself the “how can I learn” question. It’s really surprising how many launch into learning Spanish without ever developing a destination or a plan – and like anything else in life, if you have a decent road map, and an idea of your destination, you probably will never reach were you want to go, and if you do, you´ll have wasted an awful lot of time in the process. So, how can you learn Spanish? There are a ton of right answers, but for the sake of this article, let’s take a gander at the world of sports to find some tips.
Athletes prepare by drilling certain skills and practicing different scenarios. They mix up their routines, and understand what they need to do in order to succeed. They consciously try to develop a winning attitude. Of course, a positive attitude doesn’t mean that they win all of their games, but it helps them to do their very best. Being a successful Spanish student has the same strategy, and you don’t need to be an athlete to understand the analogy.
STRATEGY: Set a language competency goal, and go for it. By this I mean decide what skill level you want to achieve, and then construct a program for yourself. Just as an athlete mixes her training routine, you need to do so, too, and variety is key. Find a Spanish language course (we recommend our own online Spanish course) Of course you should take classes, but this is only half the job: you ought to combine this with audios lessons, Spanish songs, podcasts, and recordings of lists of vocab that you prepare yourself. Got a smartphone? Well, you have more technology in your pocket now than traditional language laboratories had at the end of the last century.
DRILLS: Let’s face it: repetition and memory exercises are not fun, but if you want to learn Spanish, or any other language for that matter, you need to spend time memorizing the building blocks of the language. Sure, you could just sit back and try to learn by absorbing what you hear, but if you are older than 10 years old, this just doesn’t work so well.
THE MENTAL GAME: You might think that you can’t learn Spanish, and that you are setting yourself up for failure. This is a common fear among people who have never studied a second language, but let me tell you that not only is it possible for you to learn, Spanish is a much easier language to learn than most. Why?
– Spanish shares many words with English. We call these “cognates” and they give Spanish learners a huge head start in learning vocabulary. What do I mean? Look at these words: animal; actor; area; alcohol. These words all have exactly the same meaning in English and Spanish. There are many others that, while not spelled exactly the same, are easily recognized, and easily learned. Take for example “telefono”, or “problema”.
– Spanish words are pronounced the way they are written. Have you ever considered how bizarre it must be for people learning English? The knight rode into the town at night. Not only are these words spelled differently – in spite of the fact they are pronounced the same- they both have silent letters that are not sounded at all! Not so in Spanish, were what you see if what you get. “El caballero cabalgó al pueblo en la noche”. You pronounce every single letter, and there is no ambiguity.
– Adverbs are easy: all you need to do is add –mente, and that’s all there is to it!
There are many other practical, mechanical reasons Spanish is easy to learn, but suffice to say you ought to be confident from the outset. It´s not a hard language, and even if you don’t feel naturally gifted when it comes to learning Spanish, you have more than enough skills to take it on.
PRACTICE: From working with sparring partners to engaging in fun, non-competitive pick-up games, practice is as important in sports as it is in foreign-language acquisition. Find a language partner (who doesn´t have to be any better than you at speaking Spanish) and start practicing building sentences and communicating your ideas. If you don’t have someone to practice with -just talk to yourself! Neuroscientists tell us that imagined practice is just about as good as the real thing.
And that’s how you learn Spanish. You develop strategy, work with drills, develop the right mindset- and you practice. It’s really as simple, and as hard, as all that. So get out there and start training! You really can do it… just put some thought into it first.