Most people believe that the best way to learn Spanish, or any new language, is to travel abroad.
It's easy to see why that is such a popular idea. If you visit or move abroad and you're immersed in authentic language everywhere you turn, it's much easier to learn new words, phrases, and pronunciation in context.
But what if you can't or don't want to travel to a Spanish-speaking country to learn Spanish?
I can tell you from my own personal experience that you can learn a language just as well from home as you can abroad. In fact, learning Spanish from home might even better be better than learning abroad!.
How do I know?
I spent a lot of time traveling the world when I started learning new languages, and those experiences were fantastic. But I've since learned a number of languages at home while living in London and I realised that travelling abroad to master a new language maybe isn't all it's cracked up to be.
If you interested in hearing more of my thoughts on learning through immersion (and how to do immersion right from your home!), check out this video I made for my Fluent Spanish Academy YouTube channel.
Before You Start, Find Your Motivation
The very first—and most important—thing you need to do to learn Spanish at home is to figure out how badly you actually want to learn Spanish (and why).
When learning a new language, especially independently, your passion will drive your success. All of your motivation to do the hard work of learning Spanish will come from that passion.
So before you even start the language learning process, identify why you want to learn Spanish.
- Will you be using Spanish at work?
- Are you planning a future trip to a Spanish-speaking country and want to learn the language before you go?
- Do you want to speak with loved ones in their native language?
- Are you preparing now to retire abroad?
- Have you always wanted to learn Spanish and now have the time and energy to pursue that dream?
Once you have identified your primary reason for learning Spanish, write it down so you can refer back to it anytime you need a jolt of inspiration.
Motivation is always important in language learning, but it will be even more important than ever if you plan to study Spanish independently without traveling abroad.
You can learn Spanish as well at home as in a Spanish-speaking country as long as you have the right process and take the necessary steps to surround yourself with the language.
Most of the challenges are the same and whether you're at home or on the road, you'll still have to put in some hard work!
Learn Spanish From Home In 1 Year: My 4-Part Process
As for the actual learning process, I suggest breaking it down into a four-part process over the course of a year. I have personally learned eight languages (and counting) with variations on this same method.
Your experience can be faster or slower than this “1-year plan” depending on your focus and previous experience with Spanish or other languages.
Whether you need more (or less) than a year, the process is basically the same. Ultimately, it will be your motivation and your ability to surround yourself in Spanish that make the difference, which is why I encourage you to identify your motivation and write it down at the very beginning.
The First Few Weeks
Decide how much time you can dedicate each day to work on Spanish learning. This time that you set aside for learning Spanish will be your minimum commitment each day throughout the entire year.
When learning Spanish abroad you may get extra “bonus” time to practice your Spanish in shops, on the street or with local friends. Not so if you're learning from home! That's why deciding when you'll study and protecting your learning time is even more important.
If you aren't sure how much time you can commit, answer this question:
- How quickly do you want to learn Spanish? What are you willing to give up or temporarily put on hold for that goal?
I'd suggest 90 minutes each day if possible, although some of that learning can take place in your “dead time” while you are doing something else.
Spend 30-60 minutes each day working through a beginner course with lots of audio, maybe during your daily commute or exercise routine.
This will help you get used to the sounds of the language and gain some basic familiarity with it.
Building Your Spanish Foundations (Months 1-3)
Choose The Right Beginner Spanish Course
Spend time each day working through a high-quality beginner-level Spanish course, such as my story-based course, Spanish Uncovered. It's important you work with something that gives you lots of exposure to real Spanish in both audio and text form.
Start Speaking Spanish
You will also want to start practice speaking Spanish as soon as possible. Don't let fear of mistakes hold you back!
Since you're learning from home, you won't be surrounded by native speakers to practice with. This means you'll have to actively seek out people to practice with. This may push you out of your comfort zone initially, but the sooner you start speaking Spanish, the more natural it will feel. Here are some ways to do that:
- Locate a language tutor or speaking partner online on italki or in your local community.
- If you have a friend or family member that already speaks Spanish, enlist their help.
- Join a Spanish club, such as your local Instituto Cervantes.
- Find a native Spanish speaker willing help you gain experience speaking in Spanish.
Keep building your confidence. If you get discouraged, remind yourself why you're learning Spanish in the first place.
Get Lots Of Spanish Input (Months 4-6)
In order to improve your Spanish quickly, you need tead, watch, and listen to interesting material in Spanish as often as possible:
- Listen to podcasts
- Read or listen to the news
- Watch television shows and movies all in Spanish if you can
- Listen to Spanish Conversations
- Listen to everyday Spanish dialogues like the ones in 101 Conversations in Simple Spanish
If it's hard for you to follow everything that is being said, that's very normal!
Most instructional audio is spoken slowly, clearly, and with minimal slang or accent. But real, authentic language is fast, accented, and uses a larger variety of words and phrases.
Although it's tempting, I strongly suggest you avoid audio that is artificially slow, even if you still don't understand everything you hear. With enough practice, you will be able to understand even very fast and accented speech.
Not only will you learn more listening to Spanish at the same speed its spoken, but you will also learn faster if you enjoy the process.
Build Your Vocabulary
Learn the words and phrases you regularly use in your life (at work, playing sports, etc.).
- Do you love sports?
- Rock climbing?
Learn the niche words used in your favourite activities. These are the words that are going to be most useful to your in conversations because they cover topics you'll want to talk about again and again!
Study Spanish In Greater Depth (Months 7-12)
By the seventh month, your goal should be to create an immersion environment in your own home by doing as many of your daily activities in Spanish as you can.
At this point you're trying to simulate what it would be like to live in a foreign country, surrounded by Spanish. The good news is that with the help of the internet, it's now just as easy to do this at home as it is in a Spanish-speaking country!
Here are some strategies that have worked for me:
- Set your phone, TV, and computer language to Spanish.
- Continue reading and listening to “real” Spanish—find books, podcasts, articles, and magazines in Spanish that match your hobbies and interests. Reading about cooking, car repair, or sports will teach you a day-to-day fluency you might not get in your Spanish course.
- Find a good Spanish radio station that you enjoy and listen to it as often as you can.
Do you remember when I said that learning Spanish at home can be even better than traveling or moving abroad?
That's because at home, you're in total control of your environment.
Even people living abroad have to really work hard to learn a new language. Many expats live and work in English-speaking bubbles and rarely learn the new language at all.
Whether you are living at home or abroad, it's up to you to make Spanish a part of your everyday life.
Get Into The Grammar
In addition to immersing yourself in authentic Spanish as often as possible, study grammar in detail with an intermediate or advanced textbook or course.
You'll notice I put more emphasis on reading and speaking Spanish early on than learning grammar. That's because I believe it is much more effective to learn a language this way.
It actually takes less time to learn grammar in the long run if you're comfortable reading and speaking the language first.
No matter how much you study grammar, true understanding of it can only come over time through lots and lots of exposure to the language.
Studying grammar along the way is still important and helpful, but it should be a subsidiary part of your learning rather than your primary focus.
Your Plan To Learn Spanish From Home
Depending on how often you study and how much time you can invest, you could be conversationally fluent in Spanish within a year by following this pattern… all without ever having to travel abroad!
As I mentioned at the beginning, your timeline might be faster or slower than one year depending on:
- Where you are in the process already
- How much time you have to practice
- How focused you are on learning the language
But if you remember the following five tips, you can learn Spanish quickly and effectively from home even if you don't have the opportunity to travel abroad:
- Have fun! You will learn more if you enjoy the process! Figure out what it is you love about Spanish and start there.
- Seek out the right conditions for you. I do most of my language learning early in the morning before work because that's what works for me. Finding a time and a routine that fits your life will make it easier for you to stick with it.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes. It is uncomfortable to speak in a new language in part because you don't have the same authority and skill as you are used to in English. Be patient with yourself and realize that mistakes are part of the process.
- Take the time to find the right language tutor or speaking partner. Having simple conversations is the number one thing that has helped me learn so many languages. Finding someone you feel comfortable learning from and speaking to (even when you make mistakes) is a huge part of that process.
- Put yourself in control of your study time. Your time is too valuable to waste. If you've given yourself two hours a day to study Spanish, make sure you are using it well. Remember that independent language learning means you are the only one responsible for your leanring (and success)!
Learning a new language independently, especially without traveling abroad, is a lot of work. But it's also incredibly rewarding! If you follow the advice in this post, before long, you'll have reached that goal from the comfort of your own home.
So, what do you think? Are you still convinced that you need to move to a Spanish-speaking country to learn Spanish? Or can you use the tips in this post to start learning from home? Let me know in the comments.