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You may have several reasons for wanting to learn Spanish. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the United States, and there are 20 countries in the world where Spanish is spoken.
Apart from those two reasons, you may have an interest in learning Spanish for business purposes or in order to achieve a personal goal. Whatever the case may be, Spanish is a wonderful language to learn.
You may be deterred by the amount of time that you will need to actually learn the language, but it is good to know that there are several ways that you can learn Spanish in your free time.
Let’s take a look.
- Who am I?
- Is Spanish Hard To Learn?
- Challenges to Learning Spanish
- Basic Grammar Rules
- How You Can Learn?
- Free Resouces
- How To Start as a Beginner
- The Fastest Way to Learn Spanish
- Now on To You
Who am I?
I have been speaking Spanish for the last 20 years of my life. It is a language that intrigued me from a young age. I had friends whose parents spoke Spanish, and I loved how they seamlessly changed languages when they were speaking to their parents. I made it my goal when I was young to learn Spanish.
I started taking Spanish courses in school, and I went on to take high school and college courses in Spanish. Later, I started teaching Spanish to children and adults. Finally, I studied to be a Spanish interpreter, and I have been a Spanish court and medical interpreter for the last 14 years.
I loved studying Spanish, and that is why I get so excited when I am asked to teach others Spanish. I am living proof that anyone can learn the language.
Is Spanish Hard To Learn?
This is a question that is often posed when a person is thinking about learning Spanish. The truth is that Spanish is one of the easier languages to learn for English speakers because there are quite a few similarities between English and Spanish.
First, there is no need to learn a new alphabet. Unlike languages like Arabic and Chinese, Spanish is a language that uses the Roman alphabet. This means that you are already familiar with the phonetics of the language. Since Spanish is a phonetic language, you can begin to read it right away. A large amount of the sounds in Spanish will be familiar to your ear with a few exceptions.
Second, almost half of the words in Spanish have related words in English. These are words that have a similar look, sound and meaning in both languages.
For example, if you were to see the word “garaje” in Spanish, you could probably guess that the world means “garage” in English. These similar words are called cognates. These make it easier for you to make the connection between Spanish and English words.
However, pronunciation can be a challenge as well. You are used to hearing letters pronounced in English, so it may be challenging for you to adjust your pronunciation of certain letters right away.
The following is a list of some of the more challenging letters for English speakers:
RR: The double “r” is pronounced by rolling the end of your tongue close to the top of your mouth. You are not used to your tongue moving in this fashion, so it will take practice.
- J: In Spanish, the letter “j” is pronounced like a guttural “h” such as in “hot.”
- B/V: In Spanish, these letters are almost always both pronounced like a “b.” There are very few exceptions to this rule
- H: In Spanish, the “h” is always silent unless it is paired with a “c” such as in “ch.”
- LL: In Spanish, the double “ll” is pronounced like a “y.”
English-speaking Spanish learners grow to greatly appreciate true cognates. A word of caution: there are some false cognates in Spanish as well, so you want to make sure that you know a word before you begin to use it frequently.
Third, the process used to learn English is similar to the one that is used when learning Spanish. There are some differences when it comes to word order, but generally, both languages use the same sentence structure.
Fourth, when it comes to the reading and writing process, both languages use the same process. This process is the following: recognition of phonetics, decoding, fluency, understanding, and writing structure. Several non-Latin languages have completely different reading and writing processes, so this similarity is a huge plus.
You will do well to capitalize on the basic similarities between these two languages because they will save you much time and headache. There are still plenty of differences between the two languages, but these differences are not insurmountable.
Keep in mind that you are several miles ahead of language learners from other countries, so you are farther along than you think when it comes to your language destination.
Challenges to Learning Spanish
Much like any other goal in life, there are challenges when it comes to learning Spanish.
First, as mentioned above, there are several false cognates or “false friends” in Spanish. These are words that look like English, but they have different meanings.
One such word is, “embarassada.” This word means “pregnant,” but it looks like “embarrassed.” Many language learners have suffered from real embarrassment by misusing this false cognate.
A second challenge is the difference in verb conjugation. In English, you generally talk without realizing that you are conjugating verbs. Apart from that, with a large number of verbs, you do not change the verb form, rather you change the pronoun that goes before the verb.
In Spanish grammar, the pronoun and verb endings change. Spanish has three different endings for verbs. These endings are ir, er, and ar.
Each time a verb is conjugated, the ending changes. This can be challenging because English speakers are not used to changing both things.
Here is a little example. In Spanish, the verb for “to dance” is “bailar.” The conjugation in English looks like this: I dance, you dance, we dance, he/she dances, they dance. Only with the conjugation of “he dances” do both the pronoun and the verb change.
In Spanish, it looks like this: yo bailo, tú bailas, nosotros bailamos, él/ella baila, ellos/ellas bailan.
With the Spanish verb conjugation, you can see that both the pronoun and the verb change with each conjugation.
This change is true with all of the 14 different verb conjugations. Spanish verb conjugations do have to be memorized, but there is no reason to be overwhelmed. Just like you learned how to say things correctly in English, you can do the same in Spanish.
Verb To Be
A third challenge can be an understanding of the verb “to be.” In Spanish there are two versions of this verb. These versions are “ser” and “estar.” “Estar” is used for occurrences that come and go, occurrences that happen in the moment.
“Ser” is used more for concepts that are more permanent. Something like being thirsty would be “estar,” but being short would be “ser.” It can be a challenge to know when to use which verb, but with time, their usage becomes more natural.
A fourth challenge can be the grammatical gender of nouns. In English, there is no gender assigned to nouns, but in Spanish each noun has a gender. Apart from that, each adjective has to be modified in order to correlate with the gender of the noun that it modifies.
A simple example of this could be the translation of “the beautiful woman” and “the handsome man.” For the woman in Spanish it is “la(the) mujer(woman) bonita(beautiful).”
Since the noun is feminine, so is the article and the adjective. For a man it would be el(the) hombre(man) hermoso(handsome). In order to avoid confusing the gender of nouns, you will do well to memorize your nouns with a coordinating adjective and the article.
A fifth challenge can be your own negative opinion of your ability to learn Spanish. Your own mindset can be your most difficult obstacle in language learning.
Learning a language is a process, and just like it took you time to learn to ride a bike, learning Spanish will not come without a few falls, but it is all a part of the achievement. If you keep a positive mindset about learning Spanish in spite of the challenges, you will learn well.
Overall, learning Spanish does come with its challenges, but it is not as difficult as many other languages, so don’t let these little challenges make you lose sight of your goal to learn this beautiful language.
Basic Grammar Rules
Above, we discussed some of the challenges to learning Spanish. There are some accompanying grammar rules that you will need to know when you are learning. You will be happy to know that in some cases, Spanish grammar is easier than English.
First, there is a difference in Spanish and English word order. In English, you have very little freedom when it comes to sentence structure. The General sentence structure in English is the following: subject+verb+the rest of the sentence.
For example, “Pedro works in the library.” In Spanish, you can arrange the word order in an array of ways. All that you need in Spanish is a subject and a verb. That means that in Spanish, it is perfectly fine to say, “works Pedro in the library,” or “in the library works Pedro.”
This versatility allows you to be more creative with your sentence structure. Apart from that, you can change things around based off of the subject and verb, and you will still be perfectly understandable.
Second, knowing how to place adjectives in Spanish is important. Spanish is a language that is highly descriptive, so when you are modifying a noun, you want to be sure to place the adjective in its proper place.
When using adjectives in spanish, remember the following: adjectives come after the noun that they modify, and adjectives must agree with the gender and the quantity of the noun. For example, “the tall girl” in Spanish would be “L(a) niñ(a) alt(a).” The adjective and article agree in gender with the noun. If you were to say, “the tall girls,” in Spanish, it would be “L(as) niñ(as) alt(as). The article, the noun, and the adjective are now all feminine and plural.
This agreement is important, so heed the advice given above, and learn all of your nouns with a corresponding article and adjective in order to solidify this rule in your mind.
Third, know how to form a question in Spanish. The great thing is that the sentence structure is also much more flexible in Spanish. In English, a sentence like “Is Juan a doctor?” only has one structure, but in Spanish, you can say the following: “Juan is a doctor?,” “Is Juan a doctor?” and “Is a doctor Juan?”
All of these sentences make perfect sense in Spanish. Whenever a sentence has question words like, “where,” “what,” “when,” and “why,” you must start the question with an inverted question mark.
How You Can Learn?
Now that you have decided that you want to learn Spanish, you have to find the best course for yourself. You are fortunate because there are hundreds of thousands of people who want to learn Spanish in the world. Since that is the case, there are a plethora of resources out there for you.
Spanishpod101.com is a Spanish learning program that is easy to digest and use. It is affordably priced at $8 to $47 a month, and there are also lessons that are offered for free.
This program is offered in the podcast format, and it has a variety of lessons for beginners and for advanced learners. There are hundreds of podcast lessons on this platform, and it even offers you options when it comes to the accent that you want to listen to.
Each lesson includes the following: a review track, a dialogue only track, the full lesson audio, repetition of the dialogue with a translation, new grammar with explanation, new vocabulary, and cultural insights.
Apart from that, Spanishpod101.com offers the following:
- A Spanish pronunciation guide
- Overviews of the Language
- Introduction to Spanish grammar
- Key Spanish Phrases
- Printable worksheets
Spanishpod101.com has tons of lessons for all levels, has a user-friendly website and app, and offers well-designed courses consisting of short and fun lessons.
Pimsleur is a program that promises you that you will be able to speak Spanish within 30 days of using the program. Pimsleur offers a method that was developed over 50 years ago by Dr. Paul Pimsleur.
At $14.95 a month, this program offers you a well-developed method that will help you to acquire new language skills by hearing the language and interacting with the program.
The Pimsleur method is one that has been scientifically proven to be effective. It is used by the FBI, the Navy, the Department of Homeland security, and business executives all around the world.
It parlays your natural capacity to learn through hearing and speaking. The Pimsleur method has proven to be successful for many people.
It will help you to do the following:
- Understand the Spanish that you hear
- Respond in a conversation
- Pronounce words with the correct accent
Rosetta Stone encourages strong immersion into Spanish. With Rosetta Stone, new words and concepts are carefully introduced to you in a way that is designed to accelerate your understanding and learning of the language.
Rosetta Stone offers two ways to pay and learn. You can download the program, or you can pay a monthly subscription.
- $124-$250 single fee for downloads or CDs
- $79 for a three month subscription
- $119 for a six month subscription
- $179 for a 12-month subscription
- $250 for a 24-month subscription
With this immersion learning method, you are able to effectively learn Spanish at your own pace. Rosetta stone is used by thousands of corporations, educational institutions, and agencies.
Rosetta Stone offers you the following:
- An active learning platform
- Instant feedback
- Guided lessons
- Speech recognition technology
Millions of language learners around the world swear by the success of Rosetta Stone.
Rocket Spanish offers online courses that are flexible at $99.00-$449.00 lifetime access. This is a study method that is in-depth and engaging. Rocket Spanish has several different learning packages for different levels, and the course has a great mix of grammar, review, listening, and speaking.
The lessons are well-structured and the amount of Spanish used increases as you learn more. With the Rocket Spanish online course, you will receive the following:
- Hundreds of hours of lesson time
- Thousands of phrases with voice recognition
- Interactive audio lessons
- Language and cultural lessons
- Beneficial survival kits
The price of a one-on-one tutor can vary depending on the type of tutor that you are looking for, and where your tutor is from. It can be from $3 to over $50 per hour.
The great thing about the world wide web is that you can connect with Spanish speakers from anywhere. If you are looking for a tutor who lives in Spain or the US, you are going to pay a higher price, but if you look for tutors in Central or South America, you can find a good tutor at a fraction of the cost.
The benefit of a Spanish tutor is that you are actually talking and conversing with a person. This person will help you to feel more comfortable talking, and they will correct you when you make grammar mistakes.
Since your goal is to be conversational, it stands to reason that conversing with a Spanish speaker will get you to where you want to be much faster than just learning on your own. A tutor is also good because you can hear how they sound when they are comfortable talking.
You are able to ask them to repeat themselves, and they can explain words or concepts to you. Even if you choose to study Spanish on your own, at some point it is beneficial to have regular conversations with Spanish speakers.
Italki.com is a good website to find online Spanish tutors.
In addition, take a look at the list below for the websites that help connect you to Spanish tutors:
Another great option when it comes to learning is a language school. If you are a person who does well in the classroom setting, then this will be a nice option for you. There are serious benefits to learning with peers. When you learn with peers, you are able to learn from their questions, mistakes, and achievements.
Apart from that, when you are learning in a classroom setting, you are able to play games and create a semi-competitive environment. This environment can serve to help push you to improve. A classroom can also get you up, and it can give you structure. If you are not able to leave your home, or if you do not want to, you can still have the classroom experience with an online class.
Takelessons.com offers you an interactive classroom where you can go to connect with a teacher and peers.
If you want to learn Spanish but you are not ready to invest, there are plenty of free options that are available to you.
First, the library can be your best friend when it comes to learning Spanish. The library has an amazing amount of resources for you. By using your library card and logging on to your library’s website, you can get access to a plethora of free online learning platforms.
I was able to use Rosetta Stone for free for six months with my library card. It was amazing! Apart from the outstanding free online help, there are also tons of programs that you can rent from the library.
Courses such as Pimsleur, Master Spanish, and Learn Spanish might be available at the library for free. These are great courses, and you can keep renewing your checkouts.
I personally think that the library is the best resource when learning a language. I also do believe in investing in your language learning. By checking out programs and books from the library, you are able to see what type of program you like.
Next, you can purchase a language learning program based on what you liked.
Second, you can easily get free Spanish learning tools off of the internet. All that you have to do is type the following: Learn Spanish PDF. This may seem way too simple, but it really is a great way to find grammar examples, worksheets, and reading for free.
You can just save the PDFs to your device, or you can print them off, and you can look at them and practice when you have free time.
Third, there are some awesome podcasts that can help you listen to Spanish on a daily basis. Podcasts are great because you can listen to them in your car or while you are walking, and you don’t have to worry about lugging around a CD.
As long as you have your phone, you can listen. The following is a list of some great podcasts that you should subscribe to if you want to learn Spanish on the go:
Fourth, YouTube is the best place for you to watch, listen, and learn Spanish. YouTube is, in one word, FABULOUS. If you want to learn Spanish at home for free, you can find some innovative, passionate, and fun teachers on YouTube.
YouTube works because you are able to listen to a wide range of Spanish accents and dialects. Also, since there is a visual component to YouTube, you will remember the Spanish better.
The following is a list of some of my favorite Spanish teaching YouTubers.
Fifth, Facebook is a great place to connect with people who are just like you. You can join a group of Spanish language learners, and you can meet peers who can learn with you.
On Facebook, you can also find people who are willing to speak Spanish with you if you speak English with them. The following is a list of some great groups that you should join if you want to connect with Spanish speakers and Spanish learners:
- Spanish Language Learners
- Learn Spanish
- Learn Practice and Speak Spanish and English with Native Language Speakers
Flashcards are ridiculously effective when it comes to language learning. I have been speaking Spanish forever, and when I have to learn new words, I always go back to using flashcards. Flashcards are effective because they use active recall.
Science has proven that active recall creates stronger neuron connections for memory. Since you can use your flashcards to aid in repetition, they are one of the most effective ways to stimulate your memory. The only problem with physical flashcards is that they can get bulky.
At one time, I had over 2000 flashcards, and I would practise 20 a day. Then, I found some great apps that allowed me to create my own flashcards. Some of these apps even have sets of words for you. Flashcard apps are great because you don’t have to carry anything with you.
All you need is your phone, and you can practice a few cards in your free time.
To this day, I practise my flashcards weekly. The following is a list of some of my favorite flashcard apps:
How To Start as a Beginner
Now that you have decided that you want to learn Spanish, you have to figure out how aggressively you want to learn. It all depends on how soon you want to be conversational and how serious you want to be about learning the language.
If you want to learn Spanish as a hobby, then subscribe to a Spanish podcast, and read a few children’s books in Spanish once a month. Instead of just going through the podcasts and rushing through the books, work on reading one book a month, and read it several times.
The same with your podcast; listen to the same podcast more than once. You will get used to the sound, and you will memorize the words. Apart from that, you can download a PDF on grammar, and learn about 1 verb a month and start memorizing numbers, common vocabulary, and the alphabet.
If you want to invest, get a program that is highly affordable and that allows you to use it whenever you want.
You can get both podcast and PDF from SpanishPod101.
If you are a learner who is serious about learning, but not completely willing to commit to too much time, try to create a schedule that allows you to do two hours of Spanish a week.
During those two hours, you can practise the following on your own: five verbs and their conjugations, 25 new vocabulary words, the alphabet, numbers, and listening to conversation.
You could rent a program from the library, and you should also listen to the program’s CDs or a podcast in your car. If you can manage four hours a week for Spanish, then you can double the amount of vocab and verbs that you will learn.
Apart from that, if you decide to purchase a program, make sure you dedicate your four hours to following the program and doing the work that the program provides. Apart from that, try to listen to Spanish music from time to time, and also try to watch a few Spanish kids’ movies on YouTube.
If you are Serious about learning Spanish, then you have to be dedicated and organized. You are going to have to purchase one of the programs mentioned above.
You might need to go to the library, find a program that you like, and purchase a program that is similar to the one that you like the most from the library.
If you are serious, the investment will pay dividends. Apart from the program, listen to Spanish everyday, use flashcards for the new words that you learn, and try to watch a few Spanish shows a week.
You are going to have to dedicate about six hours a week to learning Spanish. There may be days when you don’t feel like learning, but just pop in a Spanish podcast and listen to it for an hour.
Listen to a Podcast or CD that you have heard before; review is just as important as new learning. You may also want to get a tutor who you can talk to a few times a month.
Serious Beginner with a Time Limit
I taught Spanish to a group that was going to be moving to Puerto Rico, and the class was intense, but they were up for it. If you have to learn conversational Spanish within less than a year, you have to dedicate yourself to learning. Your life will be in Spanish.
First, you are going to have to purchase a program and follow the program for one to two hours a day. Make flashcards for your new words, and practise 50 new words a week; practise them each morning and each night.
Apart from that, you are going to have to listen to only Spanish. That means that when you are driving, you listen to Spanish music or podcasts. You are going to also have to get a tutor who can work with you several times a week.
Try to join some groups of learners on Facebook as well. Members of the group may have similar struggles to you, and they can help you get through your rigorous learning regimen.
If you have a short period of time to learn Spanish, the work may seem intense, but it will be so rewarding when you can communicate in the country where you will be traveling.
The Fastest Way to Learn Spanish
When it comes to learning Spanish, you may be quite different from me, but there is one piece of advice that I give to every Spanish learner, and that advice is: learn like a child. Children are humble, they are curious, and they are not easily embarrassed.
They have very little else on their mind, and they just want to communicate. I have seen that my students get stuck in their heads. They want to speak perfectly, and they want to commit no errors. There is no way that you are going to be able to speak perfect Spanish after just a few months.
Think of the way that a child pronounces things when he is learning. With time, as he hears people saying a word, he begins to autocorrect himself. In order to learn the fastest, you must start talking. That means that you have to start to use the new words and vocabulary that you learn. Even if you do not know if you are pronouncing the word correctly, just say it.
If you are saying the word wrong, you will be corrected. Even though it may be humbling to be corrected, you will never forget the word that you pronounced or said erroneously.
Children also immerse themselves in the language that they are learning; they really have no other choice. They hear the language all around them, they start to make connections, and they begin to speak. You have to find a way to do the same. If you are learning Spanish, go to stores, parties, clubs, and countries where Spanish is spoken.
Make friends with Spanish speakers, and make conversation with Spanish speakers who you meet in passing. In general, people are flattered when you are trying to learn their language, and they will be happy to say a few words to you in Spanish. Watch movies in Spanish, read books in Spanish, and listen to music in Spanish.
At first, you may feel like you are listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher, but when you just keep listening to Spanish, you will feel the satisfaction that comes when you begin to understand words and sentences that were not understandable to you before.
Children also learn at their level. You will not see a kindergartner reading a college level novel, nor will you find a first grader who is trying to write a high school paper. Children are young, and they need to start out simple and work their way up.
What does this mean for you? It means that you need to start out reading books written for children and watching movies and programs that are made for a young audience. Generally, music, books and programs for children are slow, easy, and simple. You need to read at your level in Spanish. If you are just learning Spanish, consider yourself to be a first-grader, and read books at the first grade level.
As you see yourself progressing, you can advance. The following is a list of some children’s books and YouTube channels that can help you get started:
- T-Series Kids Hut (Children’s movies in Spanish)
- Cuentos en Español (Children’s cartoons in Spanish)
- Toycantando (Children’s songs)
- Libros Infantiles En Español (Children’s books in Spanish)
Apart from learning Spanish like a child, you can find a good program that you can listen to every day if you want to learn Spanish fast. This is a program that is actually teaching you the language.
The perfect combo in order to learn quickly is to immerse yourself in Spanish, learn with a program each day, and supplement that with extras such as music or books each week. If you have a regular learning program that you can implement each day, you will learn Spanish fast.
Now on To You
Learning Spanish has honestly been one of the most rewarding achievements of my life. Not only has it been my source of income for the last 14 years, but it has also allowed me to travel all around the world and make amazing friends.
Communication is the only way that you can make true connections. I have had the privilege and honor of making Spanish-speaking friends who have become my family. If I did not speak Spanish, that would have never happened.
When you learn Spanish, you will find that an entirely new world opens up to you. The people, the food, the sights, the music, and the love are unbelievable.
My desire is that you will find value in the information found in this article, and I also hope that you put time and effort into learning this beautiful language. The Spanish speaking world awaits you.