If you want to learn Spanish fast, then there are some important points of emphasis that you should place in your studies.
We should first go over what it means to learn Spanish fast. Learning any language is more of a marathon than a sprint. To learn Spanish fast will imply different things depending on what foreign languages you already speak.
For those that already speak a romance language, to learn Spanish fast is going to mean something different than for someone that doesn’t.
I’m going to use myself as an example to explain this for context. Currently, I’m studying Spanish and am about to hit the 3-month mark of my studies. Although I can’t discuss every topic in detail, I can comfortably have a conversation. As a comparison, I began studying Portuguese nearly 3 years ago and it took me roughly a year to reach the same point in Portuguese as it will for me to reach conversational fluency in Spanish.
The difference in the amount of time it took me to learn these two languages primarily comes from the fact that I could speak a romance language before I began learning Spanish. There is a huge overlap in Spanish and Portuguese vocabulary, some 89% of the words in the two languages are cognate, and it’s significantly reduced the amount of time necessary to learn Spanish.
The amount of time that I’ve spent learning Spanish has been idealistic, which makes it a great example to pivot around.
If you want to learn Spanish fast, you will have to spend a lot of hours studying the language in a short amount of time. I would estimate that I’ve spent 200 hours or more speaking Spanish in these first 3 months that I’ve studied it.
It’s tough to nail down with a lot of accuracy how many hours I’ve spent speaking the language because I spent 2 weeks in Ecuador surrounded only by native Spanish speakers. I came up with 200 hours by considering that in the roughly 80 days that I’ve spent speaking Spanish, I spoke on average at least 2 hours a day but I also know that I’ve spent significantly more than 160 hours speaking the language.
How many hours I spent speaking Portuguese in the first year is almost impossible to say with a lot of accuracy at this point, however, considering the number of italki classes I took and the opportunities I had to speak informally, I would guess it was somewhere close to 150 hours. Yes, I spoke a lot less but I believe there’s a caveat to this.
When you’re speaking at an early stage of learning a language, I believe there are diminishing marginal returns. The more you speak the less you’re getting out of it, mostly because it’s more difficult to learn through context at an early stage.
The number of hours I spent speaking also doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the size of my vocabulary or the fluency of my speech.
Spanish is one of the most studied foreign languages in the world. The estimates for the number of people learning Spanish varies but the most recent estimates have it being around 100 million.
Whether you’re learning from scratch and you want to learn Spanish fast for a trip abroad or your progress has slowed and you want to learn Spanish faster, I’ve come up with 5 tips to help you learn Spanish fast.
1. Understand Your Motivation for Learning Spanish Fast
It’s important to know why you want to learn Spanish fast. Having a good reason to learn is what’s going to drive you to study every day. This is especially important when you want to learn Spanish fast because it will be very easy to suffer from burnout.
Are you studying Spanish to prepare yourself for a summer trip to Spain? In this case consider how satisfying it will be to interact with the locals in their native language.
Do you want to learn Spanish fast in order to get more opportunities to travel for work? Someone who knows a foreign language whether working as an engineer or in a corporate role will have more opportunities to travel because that skill is valuable for the company.
I once spoke with a finance manager at a global American foods company that told me, despite the fact that the corporate staff in Mexico spoke English, he would still prefer to send an employee there on a project that spoke Spanish. The reason being is that this employee better understands the culture and in general is also prepared to speak with employees in other areas of the company in Mexico.
Whatever your motive for learning Spanish quickly, understand why you want to learn Spanish fast so that you can visualize the result of your hard work in your head.
2. Develop Good Habits
When you begin studying a new foreign language for the first time it can be a heavy workout on your brain.
Say that you want to learn Spanish fast over your university holiday as a personal challenge. If you jump right into the language studying, say 8 hours a day, you’re almost surely going to burn yourself out.
Even if you’re on university holiday and you have all the time in the world to study, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Even if you manage to study 8 hours a day for an entire week, by the end of that week you’ll be tired simply by the sight of Spanish vocabulary. This will be the case not only because your brain is working too hard but also because you’ll lose enjoyment from it with time, it will be less exciting.
My advice when trying to learn Spanish fast is to create habits that allow you to spend some time away from the language, this is especially important when you first begin studying the language. If time is of the essence in your situation and you’re in the idealistic scenario of being on university holiday or say that you’re in between jobs, then start with 4 hours of study time a day.
Spread out these 4 hours throughout the day; an hour when you wake up in the morning, an hour before lunch, before dinner and then an hour before bed, for example. After a month you could ramp it up to 6 hours a day and then 8 hours a day after another month.
The most important thing to understand in this tip is that you’re going to get tired, in more than one sense, very quickly when you first start studying Spanish and it’s important to respect that.
3. Vocabulary Growth
Learning new words is the most time-consuming part of learning a new language. It’s also the most important part of learning a new language. You need to grow your vocabulary in order to grow all four-language learning skills; listening, reading, writing and speaking.
To some extent your vocabulary will grow naturally as you study different skill sets, but it might not happen as naturally as you expect. It’s necessary to put some direct emphasis on learning new words. There are several ways of doing this. You could study flashcards or ask a teacher to go over new vocabulary with you.
Get my take on using flashcards: Are Flashcards a Good Way to Learn Vocabulary?
The most organic way to learn new words is to read, ideally with a tool or platform that has an integrated foreign language dictionary. My first recommendation would be to use LingQ to grow your passive vocabulary in Spanish.
Read my review of LingQ: LingQ – The Best Language Learning App?
My second recommendation would be to read on an eReader like a Kindle.
Learn more about the book I wrote to help English learners available on Amazon Kindle: Learn English with Travel Dialogue
Whichever method you choose make sure that you’re learning directly through translation.
Other methods may not yield satisfactory results if you want to learn Spanish fast. For instance, listening to a podcast may generally improve your listening skills but how many words are you going to hear that go over your head if you’re listening passively? This is of course fine if you’re trying to take advantage of your time exercising or doing the dishes but make sure that you’re using your time efficiently if you want to get the best results.
4. Incorporate Spanish into Your Daily Life
This ties into developing good habits but is its own tip because it more so emphasizes how important it is to make a study routine and keep it interesting.
First and foremost, you should set aside some time to do some diligent studying.
The majority of your studying should be diligent if you want to learn Spanish fast. Even if you decide to watch Netflix in your target language you should ideally be watching it in an objective manner.
You can see what I mean by this in my article: A Guide on Language Learning with Netflix
There may, however, be some instances where indirect study is appropriate. As I’ve already mentioned to some extent, podcasts can be a great way to gain input while you’re doing mindless tasks like washing the dishes. Take advantage of this time. This may not be the ideal way to study a language, especially when you first start it, but it will surely make a difference in your listening comprehension in the long run.
You can read my article on learning through podcasts: Podcasts as a Tool for Passive Language Learning
This tip also relates to the activities you do specifically. Rarely do you spend a Saturday only reading a book or only watching Netflix, that would be boring. Mix up your language learning activities if you want to learn Spanish fast, enthusiasm can go a long way.
My best piece of advice when it comes to this tip is to spend your time like you normally would each day, with the exception of a couple hours of direct study time, integrating language learning into your daily activities. This may be difficult at first.
Even if you intensively study Spanish for a month, it may be a while before you can get genuine enjoyment out of watching Spanish content on Netflix in the language.
From my experience you need to at least reach a lower intermediate level in a language to enjoy Netflix and even then, it would be ideal to use the Language Learning with Netflix extension to study as you watch. A lower intermediate level should be obtainable after a month of intensive studying.
Diligent study hours will be more necessary at first but with time you can build your language learning habits inside of your favorite activities more and more.
5. Lots of Speaking Practice
It’s essential to remember that speaking in and of itself is a skill. If you study Spanish for 8 hours a day for 3 months, which sounds monotonous without speaking practice, and don’t speak a word of the language you won’t be able to speak the language, you’ll have to grow the skill with time.
My hunch is that if you want to learn Spanish fast you want to learn how to speak the language fast as well. Maybe it’s best to focus the first week or two of intensive studying on input but after two weeks you should start speaking the language.
Building on your other skills in the language and vocabulary in general will feed into your speaking abilities in Spanish but in order to turn passive vocabulary into active vocabulary, it’s necessary to speak.
You could, of course, write to increase your active vocabulary but it’s not necessarily going to contribute to a lot of growth in your speaking.
Once you begin speaking you should at a bare minimum be doing an hour of speaking practice per week with a native speaker. Ideally, you want to take 6 hours of conversation classes per week. I say 6 and not 7 because it’s a healthy exercise to take a day off from speaking.
I’ve found that after taking a day off it’s easy to digest the progress that I’ve made in my speaking and it generally makes speaking more enjoyable when you can take a break.
Between 1 and 6 hours of speaking is a wide range to recommend but it accounts for almost all individual circumstances. College students, for instance, may not be willing to pay for 6 hours of conversation classes every week, which brings me to my final point for this tip.
To learn Spanish fast, you will need reliable people with whom to practice conversation. The best way to find this is to book a conversation lesson with a tutor. You can find solid Spanish tutors from Latin America for less than $10 an hour on italki.
Maybe you will get lucky and find a great language exchange partner, but even if that’s the case you will likely need to trade your time helping that person practice English or another language that you speak. This won’t be the most efficient way to learn a language, but it will be free from a currency standpoint if you can make it work.
Those are my five tips. The biggest take away from this article should be that you need to set realistic expectations if you want to learn Spanish fast. It will require a lot of study hours to learn the language quickly. Build language learning habits into your life that incorporate these five tips and be patient, you will start to see results little by little and your progress will push you further.