SS #83: 17 years of Spanish learning advice in 5 minutes (2024)

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SS #83: 17 years of Spanish learning advice in 5 minutes (1)

Ever wish you could go back and give your Old You some pointers?

Help them avoid your mistakes, skip the trial and error and get straight to the good stuff?

For today’s Saturday Spanish, I thought I’d do just that.

So I sat down and thought: what would I tell teenaged Connor, who loved Spanish but had no clue how to learn it outside the classroom?

And then I wrote a big list.

If I’d had this list back then, I think I’d have made progress faster, set better expectations, and had more fun along the way.

Let me know if it helps!

  1. Your efforts will pay off —you just need consistency, and probably more patience than you expected when you started
  2. Some things will be harder for you and easier for others, and vice versa. Give yourself time and it will click.
  3. Spend more time listening than studying grammar and memorizing words
  4. Spend more time listening than speaking
  5. Listenactively, not just passively.
  6. Build Spanish into your life outside of your official study sessions
  7. When you’re demotivated, do something that reminds you of why you wanted to learn in the first place
  8. Moving abroad isnot a guaranteeyou’ll become fluent
  9. You can build excellent speaking skills from anywhere (with enough dedication)
  10. Don’t try to do too much at once. Focus your attention on narrow areas of skills and topics, make a bit of progress, then move on.
  11. Don’t underestimate how long it can take for things to sink in. When something won’t click, leave it and come back to it later.
  12. Listen while reading
  13. Listen to a variety of accents
  14. When listening to native-speaker content, focus on overall meaning — not every individual word.
  15. There’s not always a clear answer. Sometimes, a grammar “rule” depends on the situation or the feeling.
  16. Spanish is a lot more like learning to play an instrument than learning math. Instead of “getting it right”, it’s about developing a feeling.
  17. Leave breadcrumbs of your progress with regular video or audio recordings
  18. Talk to yourself daily
  19. Write. It’s easier to uncover new words and spot mistakes
  20. With conversation partners and tutors, choose conversation topics in advance so you can prepare
  21. Communication is more important than correctness.
  22. Meet and connect with other Spanish learners
  23. If you’re struggling to express yourself verbally, write about it first.
  24. Pronunciation matters as much as vocabulary and grammar; don’t ignore it.
  25. If youcan’t understand an accent, spend a week listening to only that accent.
  26. If you understand every word, it’s not challenging enough.
  27. A daily journal is a powerful, fun, meaningful way to make your Spanishyours.
  28. Don’t act on learning advice without considering if it’s right for you (including mine).
  29. There is conflicting advice about how to learn Spanish because there is no “One Right Way” to learn.
  30. A language is not set in stone. What’s considered “non-standard” or “incorrect” today may well be standard in the future.
  31. No accent is better or worse,more or less “correct” than any other.
  32. Grammar rules aredescriptive,notprescriptive. Human beings use the language, and grammar aims to describe how they use it.
  33. Avoid most slang until you’re familiar with the context.
  34. Use conjugation tables as a reference — not a starting point.
  35. When you don’t understand a concept, you need (a) more context and (b) more time.
  36. Singing along helps youabsorb good pronunciation.
  37. Have more fun.
  38. It’s okay to take a break.
  39. Vocab apps have their place, but they shouldn’t be the main focus.
  40. If you hate a certain activity, don’t do it. Find a different way to learn the same thing.
  41. When you don’t know a word, try to talk your way around it.
  42. But don’t gettoogood at talking your way around unknown words; otherwise, it’s easy to stop learning.
  43. Service workers and anyone in the tourism industry will oftenreply to you in English. Don’t take it personally. Just get your practice elsewhere.
  44. Learn standard Latin American or Peninsular pronunciation. From there, it’ll be easier to naturally adopt more a regional accent through exposure
  45. Vocabulary can change a lot from place to place. There are probablya dozen words forbus. Don’t worry about this. You will pick them up as you need them.
  46. Think in years, not months. You can make fast progress at times, but learning a new language to a good, lasting level takes time.
  47. As soon as you can, start using material not slowed down for learners so you expose yourself to how people really speak.
  48. Listen to things more than once.
  49. Keep your learning routine as simple as possible.
  50. Make it aseasy as possibleto get started each day.
  51. If you’re struggling to form a habit, make your daily goal so easy you can’tnotdo it.
  52. Getting good at Spanish is as much a mental battle as it is “learning stuff”.
  53. Get feedback on your pronunciation and writing.
  54. AI tools give pretty good grammar feedback.
  55. Language schools can be good, but make sure they’re flexible to your needs and provide you with lots of speaking practice. You don’t need to go to Oaxaca just to memorize a bunch of conjugations.
  56. The effort you put in outside the classroom matters most.
  57. Treat your learning like an important work meeting: schedule it, then work your life around it.
  58. Find the time of day when you learn best and stick to it.
  59. Don’t try to learn too many new words per day.
  60. When you have a few minutes, do something with Spanish. You’d be surprised how quickly5 minutes at a time adds up.
  61. Thinking in Spanish is about communicating meaning, not a specific set of words.
  62. Avoid looking for reassurance by translating into English. Ambiguity is part of it.
  63. Spanish syllables are more consistent in length than English syllables.
  64. If you’re an English speaker, getting used to grammatical gender takes time. Don’t be surprised if you hear yourself sayla ventana está cerrado, even when you know that’s wrong.
  65. Limit your learning each day so you are eager to get back to it the next.
  66. Your Spanish probably isn’t stuck; you’re just too close to be able to notice the changes.
  67. Pause every so often and be proud of the work your past self put in. Listen to a language you’ve never studied to remind yourself what it was like when you started learning Spanish, and how far you’ve come.

Enjoy the ride

I hate to tell you that it’s about the journey and not the destination… but that’s the way it is. Focus on the right things and know that you’ll get where you’re going.


Looking for something more?The Confident Spanish Pronunciation Coursewill help you tune your ear to the many sounds of Spanish so you can speak –and understand — with more confidence and ease.

Click hereto read what current students are saying.

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SS #83: 17 years of Spanish learning advice in 5 minutes (2)

Hey there, I'm Connor. I help motivated learners speak Spanish without slogging through grammar books or tapping through every new app. I started Breakthrough Spanish to give more people the confidence and focus to learn effectively Spanish from home. Learn more about me here.

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SS #83: 17 years of Spanish learning advice in 5 minutes (2024)


Is there a trick to learning Spanish? ›

Practice with Native Speakers

Regular practice with native Spanish speakers is invaluable for improving your conversational skills. Engaging in real-life conversations helps in understanding the practical use of words and phrases, making your learning process more dynamic.

How to learn Spanish really fast? ›

Spanish, like any other language you want to learn, isn't easy, but here are ten sure-fire ways to learn it faster:
  1. Sing along to the music. ...
  2. Watch Telenovelas. ...
  3. Read everything. ...
  4. Enhance your commute. ...
  5. Translate. ...
  6. Find a Spanish-speaking lover. ...
  7. Move to Spain! ...
  8. Or at least travel to a Spanish-speaking spot (and then practice!)

How hard is Spanish to learn? ›

Is Spanish easy to learn? Yes! Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. While any language requires hard work to master, our language experts sat down and looked at spelling, pronunciation, and grammar and found Spanish to be the easiest option for beginners.

How can I learn Spanish by myself? ›

How to learn Spanish on your own: The best tips and techniques
  1. Read in Spanish (even as a beginner)
  2. Spend time on grammar.
  3. Listen to Spanish podcasts and music.
  4. Focus on pronunciation.
  5. Watch Spanish TV and Movies.
  6. Have conversations: Go beyond “¿como estas?”
  7. Use apps and social media.
  8. Immerse yourself.
Feb 1, 2024

Which Spanish is hardest to learn? ›

Which Spanish is hardest to understand? Chile, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Andalusia (Spain) are a few of the places considered to speak more difficult Spanish. If you end up learning in those places, fear not! It will make understanding Spanish from elsewhere easier.

What is the fastest and most effective way to learn Spanish? ›

Find a language partner or tutor

Speaking regularly is one of the fastest ways to learn Spanish without putting in too much effort. If you're not in Spain or Latin America, it can be difficult to find someone to practice speaking and comprehension with, but it's possible.

How many minutes a day to learn Spanish? ›

It takes 8-12 months if you practice 1 hour per day to complete the Spanish Language. Firstly, if you practice 3 times a week, it takes approximately 1 year to reach C1 level of Spanish language. Secondly, spending 3 hours a day can help you learn in 6 months.

How fast can you realistically learn Spanish fluently? ›

How Many Hours Does it Take to Be Fluent in Spanish? If you start out as a beginner and manage to spend an average of 1 hour per day working on your Spanish, you should be able to reach conversational fluency within 8 – 12 months. That translates to about 250 – 350 hours spent.

What Spanish words should I learn first? ›

These basic words will also aid you in connecting sentences and ideas as you begin to learn more Spanish words.
  • Hola (Hello)
  • Adios (Goodbye)
  • Gracias (Thank you)
  • Por favor (Please)
  • Si (Yes)
  • Claro (Of course)
  • No (No)
  • Amor (Love)
Aug 25, 2021

How to learn Spanish for free? ›

Spanish podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to practice Spanish for free passively while you trudge through your daily commute, cook dinner, or take a walk in your neighborhood. It's easy to fit learning into your busy schedule when you're doing it in the background of another activity.

Can you learn Spanish just by listening to it? ›

Generally, you do have the ability to learn a language just by listening. You can see evidence for this in children: kids start comprehending language even before they speak it. The good news is that you can apply a similar strategy in your own studies.

Will I learn Spanish just by listening? ›

The truth is, humans acquire languages in one way and one way only, and that's by understanding the input, not by hearing the language. If you just expose yourself to auditory content that you do not understand, you might absorb it, but you will not progress to independent fluency.

How long does it take to learn Spanish perfectly? ›

To get a more detailed explanation, if you spend at least 3 hours a day learning Spanish, you can achieve proficiency in 6 months. On the other hand, if you spend one hour per day, it would take around 1.5 years to become a fluent Spanish speaker.

Why is it so hard to learn Spanish? ›

Spanish has hundreds of difficult words to pronounce. Nailing the Spanish accent can be difficult for native English speakers, especially since many phonemes don't exist in English, like Ñ/ñ and the rolled R. This can make it notably difficult for English speakers to achieve native-like pronunciation.

Why do I find it hard to learn Spanish? ›

As you may have seen, Spanish has many more grammatical difficulties than most other languages. While other languages lack gender in nouns or their irregular verbs have similarities with the infinitive, Spanish has different laws that make it difficult to learn even for native speakers.

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