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Chunking: A Powerful Language Learning Hack

So I have a bit of a confession to make...

When I started learning Spanish I hated grammar. 

I slaved over conjugation charts and example sentences until the cows came home, but at the end of the day I was still at a loss of words when it was time to speak with real people. 

Every course or book I picked up taught grammar as if it was the key to unlocking the Spanish language, and when I realized it wasn’t I took it personal. All that work, all that time...wasted

All I wanted to do was speak Spanish, but instead of making the process easier it felt like grammar was making it harder. It was enough to make me want to throw a Spanish book across the room…(but luckily I was in a library so I didn’t do that!)

You see, for most of us grammar is the one aspect of language learning we dread. What few don’t know is that it’s also the one aspect that’s not needed to start speaking

In fact you can achieve a great degree of spoken proficiency without ever once opening a grammar book on the language that you’re learning. 

What to know how?...

Language chunking. 

Language chunking is the art of learning whole Spanish phrases without necessarily knowing the grammar behind them. It’s a powerful technique used by polyglots to learn languages fast. Even this course uses chucking.  

Grammar breaks each phrase down and gives you a list of rules and exceptions for how each word works in the sentence. The emphasis is always on the why. Why this verb is conjugated that way. Why this particular preposition is used. Why we are using one tense and not another…

Grammar adds the complexity we all dread. And it’s not particularly helpful in the moment of a real conversation.

Chucking condenses things down and focuses only on the what. 

What does this phrase mean?

...and that’s it. 

Chucking gives you the information you need so you can start speaking Spanish right away. 

But that’s not all.  It gets better…

Chucking actually helps you learn and remember Spanish intuitively. 

Imagine spoken Spanish as one overwhelmingly huge piece of information. 

You couldn’t memorize it all if you tried. 

But take spoken Spanish, and cut it up into small individual phrases you can learn and use everyday, and suddenly it becomes a lot simpler to learn. 

Once you learn individual phrases and start connecting them in speech, you start to get a natural feel for how correct Spanish sounds. You might not know the reason a phrase is said a certain way, you just know that it is. 

This is similar to how we learned English. Think about it. How much grammar did you know before highschool?  Not much. But you were still able to speak with a high degree of fluency in everyday life. 

So why do we expect that learning Spanish will be any different? 

How to start learning Spanish with the checking technique 

Here’s how you can start using language chucking today and increase your speaking abilities by leaps and bounds. 

1) Compile a list of Spanish phrases you want to learn with their approximate English translation. 

Focus on the ones you think you’ll need the most in your next Spanish conversation. You can start with as little or as many phrases as you want. 

Imagine what you'd want to say about yourself in the conversation and find phrases that will express that. 

You can start by using some of the conversational phrases in our free Spanish dialogues here

Pro tip

Find phrases with audio so you can hear how they are spoken by native speakers (this will help you imitate Spanish speakers, and will help your ear get used to spoken Spanish). Even better if you can learn phrases with audio in the context of larger conversations like in this lesson here.  

2) Once you have the phrases, start using them by practicing with a native speaker and or writing them down in pretend conversation.

If you don't know any native speakers yet try connecting with some through an online language exchange.

3) After you’re comfortable with your first selection phrases. Hunt down some more and repeat the process.

It will take some work to hunt down the phrases you want and building your practice lists, but it's worth it! I guarantee that if you do this consistently you will see big improvements in your speaking skills.

For an easier approach:

If you don’t want to go the DIY route for your Spanish learning, then check out Rocket Spanish. Rocket Spanish's method is literally built on language linking with phrases from Spanish conversations

The course features interactive lessons built around a real Spanish conversation.

Rocket Spanish's audio lessons are centered around conversations and realistic events.

Each audio lesson breaks the conversation down into pieces, so you have a ready made phrase list from each lesson!

A example of some phrases from a Rocket Spanish audio lesson

Rocket Spanish even lets you practice your pronunciation with voice regocnition software, and lets you role play with the audio as one of the Spanish speakers (this is a great way to practice your phrases).

Final thoughts

Language linking is a very powerful technique for rapidly increasing your Spanish speaking abilities. It's different than more common and traditional approaches, but that's a good thing! I highly recommend you start using language linking to learn Spanish. Whether you go the DIY route and use the process we outlined in this post, or if you use a course like Rocket Spanish. 

You won't be sorry 😉

Happy learning!

-Anthony