My first attempt at learning Spanish was an audio course. It simply showed some pictures, played audio to the pictures, and then had a written portion. It was boring and I hated it. Not only was it painfully slow but I also wasn't learning anything relevant to real life. I was learning phrases like "The doctor is eating the apple". After a couple weeks of working through the lessons I couldn't even ask someone what their name was.
The whole time I worked through the course, I though to myself, "There has to be a faster way.."
Can you actually learn Spanish faster?
Can you actually learn Spanish faster? There's a ton of people who say you can, but they usually have something to sell you. I've found that learning Spanish, or any foreign language for that matter, does take work and there's no way around it.
While there aren't necessarily faster ways to learn Spanish, there are definitely more efficient ways to learn. They aren't shortcuts per se, but they will help you learn more effectively so that you get the most out of the time and energy you put in. So while you can't cut out the work...
you actually can learn Spanish faster!
...But don't except a magic pill that will make you fluent instantly. If they come up with one I'll be the first to let you know 😉
The good news is that there are some easy things you can do that will save you hours of pain and frustration.
It really comes down to working smarter not harder.
Here are 3 simple and effective ways to learn Spanish as fast as possible.
1) Define your goals
Use SMART goals to help you define what you want to learn. SMART is an acronym that stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Specific.
This is isn't exactly a groundbreaking Spanish learning hack, but it is extremely important and it can help save you a lot of trouble.
Seriously, setting the right goals can mean the difference between learning Spanish at a steady pace or burning yourself out and giving up. Don't skip this step!
Setting SMART Goals
"I want to have a basic conversation in Spanish"
"I want to learn 100 new Spanish words"
"By Summer I want to know enough Spanish to travel and make friends"
"I want to order tacos in Spanish at 10 different taquerias"
"I want to learn 10 new Spanish words in 1 week"
You want to set goals that are specific and precise. For instance lets take the goal "I want to speak Spanish". That goal is not specific. It's very vague.
How much do you want to be able to say? Who are you going to speak to? Are you fine with speaking like a 5 year old or do you want reach an adult level of fluency? To make this otherwise fuzzy goal a little more clear we'll need to answer question like these...
Instead of saying "I want to Speak Spanish" we could say "I want to be able to comfortably engage in casual everyday conversations in Spanish" or maybe "I want to know enough Spanish to get around during my trip to Mexico".
Your goals should also be measurable. If we are continuing from the last step a measurable version of the goal would be: I want to be able to comfortably hold a casual conversation for 10 minutes in Spanish, or I want to learn 100 common travel phrases.
The 10 minutes and the number of travel phrases are easily measurable and we can track our progress as we go along.
Your goal should be something you can realistically achieve. Goals like "I want to be fluent in Spanish in one week" or "I want to know every single word in the Spanish Language" are not realistic. Don't be afraid to have a goal that takes you out of your comfort zone but at the same time be honest with yourself and avoid extremes.
Make sure the goals are relevant and actually pertain to you learning the Spanish language. "I want to eat at 10 different taquerias this month" is an admirable goal, but it won't necessarily help you learn Spanish. "I want to order tacos 10 different times in Spanish" might be a safer bet.
Give your goal a reasonable but challenging time frame. Otherwise you could be less motivated to pursue it. "I want to learn 10 new Spanish words in 1 week" is far better than "I want to learn 10 new Spanish words".
2) Focus only on what you need
Now that you know where you'd like to be in your Spanish learning, spend your energy learning only what you need to get there. If you're traveling to Mexico in a few months and just want to know enough to get around then focus on travel phrases and don't worry too much about grammar or stuff.
If you want to learn Spanish for work because you work with a lot of Spanish speakers then focus on the words and phrases that most apply to you.
Don't waste your precious time and energy learning something you need.
There is where most courses and classes fail, because they teach you a lot of generic vocabulary and grammar that you don't necessarily need to use, Like "The doctor is eating the apple", or "The cat drinks milk".
You can always come back to the things you skip later, but when you're just starting out be practical. It will make the learning process easier and way more enjoyable.
3) Immerse yourself
Anytime you are in a situation where you must use the Spanish language to interact with your environment you are immersing yourself in the language. It is absolutely essential to immerse yourself as much as possible if you want to learn fast.
Immersion is where the rubber meets the road. Imagine trying to learn the guitar by reading a book about guitar but never playing a real instrument. No matter how much you read or study you wouldn't get far would you? It's the same with language learning.
You have to put yourself in a place where you have to use Spanish. You can't just read about it and memorize vocabulary and verb charts all day! (Who wants to do that anyway?)
There was a time when the only way to immerse yourself in the Spanish language was to travel and live abroad in a Spanish speaking country. But with the advent of the internet that's simply not the case anymore. It's easier than ever to give yourself the full Spanish experience!
Here are some practical ways to immerse yourself without having to travel.
Use what your passionate about
Use the things you enjoy to help you practice Spanish. What kind of music do you like? They probably have it in Spanish. What about movies? Romantic comedies? Action? Drama? Horror?...They have them in Spanish. I wrote a whole post on learning Spanish with Netflix.
Engaging Language Learning Resources (Free to Try!)
Fluentu provides native Spanish videos with a built in subtitle and vocabulary system. You can watch real Spanish videos (commercials, tv clips, music, etc) and learn words in a real life context. It also has its own flashcard system and other learning resources. Check out our in-depth review!
SpanishPod101 teaches Spanish primarily through audio based lessons. Their site also has a lot of extra features like in-site flashcards and vocabulary quizzes. Their lessons are especially good at helping you developing your listening skills and are great you have to learn on the go. Check out our in-depth review!
Comic books, literature, dance, sports, history, science, art, what ever your interests are there is almost certainly a way to incorporate the Spanish language into it. There's probably a Spanish book, movie, podcast, or show about something that strikes your fancy. Go to google and see what you can find.
Use Spanish in your daily routines
Think of things you do everyday in English that you can do in Spanish. Maybe you can switch the language of your laptop or smart phone, listen to the news or talk radio, or use wikipedia and Google in Spanish.
It doesn't sound like much, but adding Spanish to your daily routines and activities can really add a boost to your learning. It's very practical as well.
Practice with real people
This is especially important if you want to speak Spanish. There is no substitute for having a real life conversation! 15 minutes of speaking with a native speaker is worth 1 hour of studying from a book. Okay so I made that up, but the principle remains. Studying on your own will not get you where you want to go as fast as using the language with a real person will.
If you don't have any friends or family members who speak the language you can either connect with native speakers in your local community (If you're in the USA and live reasonably close to a city this is very doable). Or you can connect online via language exchanges.
There is also the option of paid one on one lessons or tutoring sessions, which can cost upwards of $30+ an hour in person, but thanks to the internet you can now learn and practice with native speakers from around the world and receive the same quality practice at a fraction of the cost. Check out Verbling or Italki.
Resources for learning Spanish Fast
Free to use. Create a profile and practice with native Spanish speakers from around the world instantly via text, audio, or video chat.
The best free Spanish to English dictionary I've come across online. It also offers conjugation charts , lessons, and practice quizzes on Spanish grammar.
Largest and most popular site for online language lessons. They have hundreds of Spanish teachers and tutors from around the world.
So learning Spanish faster is possible. You can never cut out the work. It will always take a measure of effort and consistent practice to learn a new language. But you can work smarter, and learning more efficiently will not only help you make progress quicker and seem easier, it will also help you enjoy it along the way!