In this article, I’ll show you how to learn Spanish fast!
You’ll discover the 7 key areas I’d focus on if I had to learn how to speak Spanish confidently in only a few months.
- Without moving abroad
- Without quitting your job to study full-time
- And without marrying a Spanish speaker … at least, not yet!
Be aware, this is intensive!
You’ll need to work damn hard, and it might not be for you.
If you’re not in any particular rush, you should read this article, where I discuss how to learn Spanish in 12 months. (Far more enjoyable!)
The Big Picture
Before we dive into the tips, let’s take a step back and consider what you will have to achieve in order be successful.
Firstly, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t learn Spanish fast!
It is entirely possible, and you’ll find plenty of experienced language learners who will testify to this.
But you will need guidance (that’s what I’m here for!).
In order to learn Spanish fast, in only a few months, you’ll need to…
- Build a sizeable vocabulary
- Master elementary Spanish grammar
- Understand spoken Spanish
- Practise speaking a lot
- Have decent Spanish pronunciation
- Get used to the language
- Stick to the study process for long enough for it to work
So, let’s see how to do it…
1. Build A Sizeable Vocabulary In Spanish
Words are the building blocks of a language.
As you set out to learn Spanish, not much matters if you don’t know enough words.
Now, the ideal way to grow a sizeable vocabulary in Spanish over time is by learning as you go – use Spanish in your daily life and learn the words and phrases that you find most useful.
However, because we’re under some time pressure here, you need to take a more direct route.
Here’s the key fact…
Studies of Spanish word frequency tell us that the 1,000 most frequent words in Spanish account for 87.8% of all spoken Spanish.
This means you’ve only got to learn around 1,000 words to understand the vast majority of everything you will hear in Spanish.
By doing everything else I recommend in this article, you’ll naturally learn a lot of useful vocabulary, but to speed things up, I would sign up to Memrise.com (free) and begin the course of “First 5000 words in Spanish.”
Work your way through it diligently – you won’t regret it.
2. Take A Self-Study Spanish Course
The most efficient way to learn the basics of Spanish is usually with a good textbook.
Choose one of the following books I recommend:
Have a look at all three and pick the one you like most – and make sure it comes with audio!
People are often surprised when I recommend working through a textbook, but the reality is that they contain everything you need to learn Spanish as a beginner, so why not use them?
Study the textbook every day, and aim to complete it over the space of 4-6 weeks.
I recommend not spending too much time with the exercises provided in the book.
Focus instead on reading the dialogues, learning the vocabulary, and understanding the grammar.
3. Find A Spanish Tutor Online
If you’re going to be able to speak Spanish fast, you can’t afford to wait before starting to speak.
iTalki.com is the best place to find affordable online tutors, so head over there and find a Spanish tutor.
(There’s a walkthrough here.)
You have plenty of options and can choose a teacher who speaks the variety of Spanish you’re learning.
Take 30-minute lessons 4-5 times a week. (Little and often is most effective.)
Now, the next bit is important.
Rather than asking your new tutor to “teach you Spanish,” I want you to request something very specific from them:
- In each session, focus on speaking (conversation) rather than study
- Base your conversations on the topics from your textbook (see part 2 above)
In other words, there’s an important process here:
- Study new topics, grammar and vocabulary from your textbook
- Use your lesson time to practise talking about those things
By doing it this way, you’ll quickly master the things you’re learning every day, and be able to use it in speaking – remember that’s the aim!
4. Don’t Obsess Over Grammar
One of the biggest traps beginner Spanish learners fall into is the desire to learn Spanish grammar perfectly.
Now, while it is important to learn the basics, you can actually get quite far with an elementary knowledge of grammar, because Spanish sentence construction is often similar to English.
And you certainly don’t need to know all the ins and outs of Spanish grammar in order to communicate well.
(I still make mistakes with the subjunctive, for example, and the verbs ser/estar… and people still understand me fine!)
I don’t wish to undermine the importance of grammar in Spanish, but the point is that there’s always a big risk, namely that you’ll end up worrying too much about perfect grammar, which will slow you down.
So, learn the grammar taught in the first few chapters of your textbook, but then place your focus squarely back on the core tasks of learning vocabulary and speaking.
5. Read Spanish As Much As Possible
As a complete beginner, you’ll struggle to read much, because you don’t have enough vocabulary.
However, as soon as you’re ready, you should make reading Spanish something you do daily.
You’ll grow your vocabulary quickly and learn grammar in a natural way, as you see it being used in context.
If you can also find the audio version of the text, then you can listen along at the same time.
This helps you form connections between the written and spoken word, and will help you understand native speakers.
When you’re in the early stages of learning Spanish it can be hard to find reading material that’s not too hard and overwhelming.
For that, I recommend you pick up a copy of my short story books, which are written especially for beginners:
(Both the books above are available in audiobook format.)
If you struggle to fit everything into one day, and you don’t want the reading to distract from your study, try reading a chapter every evening before bed.
Focus on enjoying your reading above all, and don’t try to “study” the book.
6. Make Spanish Part Of Your Lifestyle
This piece of advice is often at risk of seeming a bit empty…
But, in fact, it’s far more important than you might think.
Here’s the thing…
If you’re doing this Spanish thing fairly intensively for 3 months, at times it’s going to seem like a chore.
At times you’re just going to want to kick back in front of the TV.
So, the more you can stop thinking of studying Spanish as something you have to find the time for, and instead make it something you just do as part of your daily life, the less stress you’ll feel and the more progress you’ll make.
How do you make Spanish part of your lifestyle?
- Get your daily doses of TV, YouTube, news etc. in Spanish rather than English
- Join local Spanish societies and attend events
- Attend classes (yoga, salsa, drawing) delivered in Spanish
- Go to local language exchange events and practise with people
What we’re talking about here really is changing out activities you might otherwise do in English with equivalents in Spanish.
All the extra exposure you get over 3 months of this will soon add up, really help you get used to the language in use, and ultimately learn Spanish fast.
7. Don’t Travel Abroad To Learn Spanish!
Have you ever thought: “If only I could live in Spain or South America, I’d be fluent in no time!”
I’ve lived in seven countries and I can tell you, learning a new language is far easier when you’re at home.
For a start, there’s the myth that you’ll be able to practise Spanish all day long if you travel abroad.
Well, in most places, people don’t take the time to stop and assist you to practise your rudimentary Spanish skills.
You’re more likely to be perceived as a tourist and even spoken to in English much of the time.
When you stay at home, you’re in control of your own schedule, which is vital in order to fit in all the study you have to do.
Although packing up and moving to Andalusia or Buenos Aires can seem like a romantic adventure, you won’t feel much like sitting down with a textbook once you’re there!
Now, once you’re more advanced, spending time abroad is an essential step in improving your fluency, as you can already hold a decent conversation.
But not yet.
Stay home, and you’ll get further.
OK, now you know how to learn Spanish fast – in theory – what would it look like in practice, alongside a busy work schedule?
- 07:00 – Spend a solid hour studying a chapter from your textbook. This is your core study time. (60 mins)
- 08:00 – Listen to your audiobook on the way to work. (30 mins)
- 11:00 – Quick session on the Memrise App during your morning break, learning new vocabulary. (15 mins)
- 13:00 – Read a chapter of your Spanish short story book at lunch, or review the chapter from your textbook this morning. (15-30 mins)
- 17:00 – Listen to your audiobook on the way home. (30 mins)
- 18:00 – Watch cartoons in Spanish with the kids, or review your vocabulary on Memrise.
- 20:00 – Class with your Spanish tutor on iTalki. Spend the time practising what you covered in your textbook this morning. (30 mins)
- Alternatively, go out and attend a Spanish event near you! (2 hours)
- 22:00 – Read a chapter of your short story book in bed.
Learn Spanish Fast – Conclusion
As you can see, to learn Spanish fast requires some dedication, but it is possible!
The secret is to stay focused on the big-picture techniques that will actually help you learn the language… and speak it!
With these 7 tips, you’ve got a condensed version of everything I’ve learned about language learning from the 10 languages I’ve studied.
If you’d like to learn about my techniques in more depth, you might like my course: Language Learning Foundations.
If you can already speak Spanish, the Fluent Spanish Academy might be a good fit.
Otherwise, ¡buena suerte con tu español!
Do you think my 7 tips would work for you? Is there anything you think I’ve missed? Let me know in a comment below!
This article was written by Olly Richards.
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