How to learn Spanish fast might be tricky if you don’t have the proper tools or some sort of guidance. There are many ways to learn a language fast and many more to improve it. Many researchers point out the importance of being immersed in the foreign language and in the culture of the place.
If you are coming to Spain as a teaching assistant next school year, you’ll be in a Spanish speaking country for at least 9 months, so you might want to make the most out of your time living in Spain, not only traveling around Europe, but also learning or improving your Spanish.
I have decided to prepare three different “take action guides” about how to learn Spanish fast, depending on what level of Spanish you have:
Beginners (I don’t even know a word besides Sangría)
Duolingo: is one of the best ways to learn Spanish fast. It’s as easy as creating an account with your email and choosing the language you want to start learning.
One of my favorite things about Duoling is that it runs on different devices (computer, phone and tablet). I personally use it on my phone. It’s very easy to access and it’s always in my pocket. You can get your daily practice in about 5 min.
Duolingo benefits from habit repetition and gratification. Each consecutive day you practice, it adds up to your streak. It also sends you reminders in case you forgot to practice for a day.
It’s a very cool app to get the basics of Spanish and practicing every day will help you to learn Spanish fast.
Memrise: you can use this app to learn new Spanish words fast. There are several lessons and each lesson consists of words and sentences with the audio recording. Memrise uses interval spaced retrieval. In other words, you’ll review what you learned according to how well you remember the words. You’ll see the words you find difficult more often so they are always fresh.
Some lessons provide a video to learn some expressions and sentences in context. Memrise is a good option to learn Spanish in a fun way. You can either join other people’s courses or create your own course. It’s never been easier to learn Spanish online.
Like Duolingo, Memrise has an app which is great to practice anywhere. There are no excuses to keep improving your Spanish.
Anki: you can access from your computer (free) or through the phone app (only paid version). It’s a game to exercise your memory and learn the words through practice repetition.
It’s simple, create the flashcards with the vocabulary you want to practice, add pictures, videos or audio and the answer. Start playing and grade the difficulty of the word depending on how easy you came up with the answer. The ones that you tend to forget and grade as difficult will come up more often.
You can start to learn Spanish faster with the courses created by other users. Later on, if you need something more specific, you can create your own ones.
Another thing I would recommend for beginners is to start watching shows on youtube or other platforms like Netflix.
I’ll always advocate for tv shows over movies or documentaries for a simple reason: the length. The more time you are exposed to how somebody speaks the easier it gets for your brain to process and understand what it’s going on. On top of that, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t understand something. The key is to understand the main idea and one step at a time you’ll see how you’ll learn Spanish faster than you expected.
In addition, I personally don’t like movies because the whole story is summarized in over 1hour and a half and missing 5 minutes might impact more the overall comprehension. However, if you feel confident with your Spanish here is my list of Spanish movies on Netflix.
Intermediate (I know some words and I can get by)
You might be at this level because you took Spanish classes in high school or college or you already had some interest in Spanish. However, you don’t feel that you are fluent yet and you are lacking confidence when it comes to speaking Spanish.
Firstly, speaking a foreign language takes a lot of confidence. I had studied English for more than 10 years and yet I couldn’t communicate with people in a foreign language because I was too afraid of making mistakes. Little did I know back then, we learn a second language through making mistakes.
Maybe you know the basic grammar. Filling in the blanks and reading are things you master but it all changes when you have to speak.
Getting better at speaking may be tricky at times, the more you find yourself in situations where you have to get a message through, the more you’ll improve your speaking abilities. That’s the reason why I think it’s interesting to go out of your comfort zone and do one of these activities:
In every big city there are bars where once a week they host these events. People go to the bar to meet new people and speak English and Spanish for an hour or so. This is an incredible way to make new friends and learn Spanish fast. By doing this, you’ll improve your fluency in speaking Spanish quickly.
If you don’t feel like going to a bar or you would like to start practicing your Spanish before you get to Spain, a great way to do so it’s to find a skype partner. There are many webpages where you can sign in and find somebody who’s interested in learning English or any other language. After all, Spanish is spoken by more than 450 million native speakers.
Some online sites for language exchange in no particular order are:
Think in Spanish
Sometimes, when I wasn’t brave enough to carry on any of the previously mentioned strategies, I would try to think in the language I was learning.
Every day I would carry on with my daily routine while I was thinking in English. For example: “I am going to have a shower, then I’ll have breakfast. Maybe I need to do the laundry”. The good thing about this is that you practice your structures and vocabulary the same way you’ll talk to a friend.
Doing this, I improved my fluency quite a bit for one simple reason: you are practicing all the time and making the effort to think in the second language.
Another technique you can use to learn Spanish fast is Shadowing. Shadowing is a technique that consists of watching a movie or a tv show with Spanish subtitles and repeat what you hear. It’s a great way to improve your intonation, pronunciation, fluency and even vocabulary. Well, it may be a little bit repetitive and boring, but who said learning a language would be fun all the time?
Advanced (improving?? Me…? B%*&#, please)
If you are at this level, congratulations! You made it! An advanced level is probably enough to get by in almost any situation. I am at this point in English and I keep struggling to improve, so I’ll tell you what I do:
I try to read and write as much as I can. In fact, that’s the reason why I started this blog.
Reading in Spanish is a great way to improve your vocabulary and get better at grammar. Personally, I prefer to read on my kindle. It’s super easy to look up any word you don’t know, it literally takes 3 seconds.
“All this sounds good, but I am not really into reading in English… So why would I even try in Spanish…?”
I get it. Sometimes your days are busy with many things to do and at the end of the day, you don’t feel like reading. Well, the only piece of advice I can offer is: find a topic or a genre you are interested in and give it a try.
In the beginning, I enjoyed reading comics because it was mainly pictures. In addition, you can see the action taking place in context. That makes reading comic books an easier activity and more enjoyable when you start to read in a second language.
When I was little I loved reading comic books in the dentist’s office. Here is a list of some Spanish comics that you might find interesting.
- Mortadelo y Filemón.
- Zipi y Zape.
- Anacleto Agente Secreto.
- 13, Rue del Percebe.
The ones mentioned above are by Spanish authors.
There are many others that even though they weren’t written by Spanish authors, they have been translated. So if there’s a certain one you like, go for it. It’ll probably be on amazon.
I would recommend reading something that you are already familiar with, so if you get lost at some point it’ll be easier for you to follow the story.
So now all you need to start improving your Spanish is to dedicate some time, so good luck!
Tip: When I started reading in English, I made a big mistake. I was very motivated because I wanted to learn English fast and improve quickly. I went into a bookstore and picked a book I thought would be interesting. The book was ‘The Fall of Giants’. When I got home and I started reading it, I realized it was too far out of my comprehension level. I could barely understand a few sentences per page, so I dropped the book and never tried again. Why did that happen? Here’s a picture to explain it.
I hope some of these ideas can help you learn Spanish fast. Feel free to leave a comment below and share what worked for you.