How many times have you set out to start learning Spanish and haven’t succeeded? You look for courses or programs that don’t fit your schedule or end up seem too expensive. You might even muster the courage to pay for courses, but eventually, you realize you’re not learning Spanish as much as you’d like.
Dear friend, I’ve heard thousands of students, friends, and family members face this same issue, and for years, I didn’t know what advice to give them. I even advised more than a few to take personalized classes and simply dare to speak. Today, I’m going to share with you why I was wrong with this advice.
I’ll share with you the technique that has led me and my students to learn Spanish. But before that, I want to let you know there’s no magic method or special formula. I’ll simply share with you something super basic that I’ve seen yield results in both children and adults.
The first word we’re going to explore is immersion.
Let’s understand immersion as “immersing” yourself in something completely new, like when you enter the sea for the first time and have to learn to swim and adjust your breathing rhythm to avoid drowning. The whole environment is different, and you have to adapt. In the case of languages, it’s very similar. You have to “immerse” yourself in the language to survive.
But how do you do this without leaving your country?
Here comes the first key I’ll share with you: “Let your imagination be INFINITE.” Don’t set limits; everything you do will be a learning moment, as long as, and here comes the second key, you do it “EVERY day.”
When you travel to a country to study a new language, you expose yourself to the new language every day, from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep. You hear people talking on the street, read signs as you walk, and even if you’re the shyest person in the world, you have to talk to someone.
To replicate this in your country, you have to be creative and persistent
How do you do this?
Well, I’ll tell you more about the skills we develop when learning Spanish. There are four skills prioritized in language teaching: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Listening and speaking are passive skills because as a learner, you only receive information. In contrast, speaking and writing require you to deliver information and put into action everything you’ve heard or read.
To consolidate learning, these skills have to be mixed. You have to listen and then speak, read and then write, or even mix everything: listen, speak, write what you heard, and then read it. (Again, your imagination has to be infinite).
How can you incorporate learning Spanish into your routine?
How can you incorporate learning Spanish into your listening routine? You can listen to Spanish music, podcasts, radio programs, TV shows, follow social media related to your interests—anything you can listen to attentively or not, in Spanish.
How can you incorporate learning Spanish into your reading routine? Read short stories, magazine articles, Instagram captions, signs, change the language on your phone and computer—small changes that allow you to continue with your life. Here, I DO NOT recommend reading a book; reading a book in another language, no matter how motivating it may be, if you’re not at an intermediate level, will likely lead to frustration, and that’s the last thing we want. We want you to do something every day, immerse yourself in the language, and enjoy this activity—make it natural so that you don’t even realize that your phone is in Spanish, causing no conflict.
How can you incorporate learning Spanish into your speaking and writing routine? Probably, active skills are a bit more challenging to put into action when you’re in another country, but nothing is impossible. Record audio on WhatsApp and then listen to yourself. Think about how you pronounce words, understand the message you want to convey. Start writing short notes in Spanish to remember things. Make your grocery list in Spanish, message a friend, find people with similar interests so you can talk about common topics. With these small changes, you’ll notice the difference little by little.
Don’t despair if you don’t see immediate changes; we don’t all have the same rhythms. Some students learn very quickly; it’s as if they’ve practiced a thousand times before speaking (I’m not in that group). It took me time and dedication to learn languages, and I’m always learning. I continue with routines to immerse myself in the language. I also get disorganized, and there are days when I don’t want to do anything, but then I go back to studying and resume my routine.
Set challenges, goals. It’s important when we set deadlines to achieve things.
If you want to learn a total of X words in X days, then set it as a challenge. Try learning words and then activate them by making sentences. Everything is possible, and as I mentioned earlier, let your imagination be infinite. Invent activities to practice the language.
And what do I do with the Spanish course now?
Don’t pay for Spanish courses until you’ve accustomed yourself to your learning routine; otherwise, you’ll be throwing money away, and nobody wants that. Remember, we don’t want to get frustrated; we want to enjoy.
How do we turn this into a habit?
You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit, or in other words, 3 weeks. This statement, besides being very risky, has been proven false for more complex habits.
Research says that some habits can take very little time to be acquired, simply 18 days, while others, on the other hand, can take almost a year to become a daily routine. It has also been seen that failing one or two days does not negatively impact habit acquisition, but failing more than two does.
Based on my experience with language learning, it takes 3 to 6 months to create a study habit depending on how persistent you are. After that, dare to take Spanish classes; you’ll surely enjoy them much more than if you go in knowing nothing.
So, if this year you’ve set out to learn Spanish, leave aside the excuses and start today to create your plan to expose yourself to the language every day.
I’ll leave you with some resources that you can find on my website that I think will help you create your new habit.
In conclusion, my journey of guiding language learners has been marked by the recognition of the limitations in my initial advice. The recommendation of personalized classes and encouraging fearless speaking, while well-intentioned, has proven to be insufficient for many.
Today, I’ve come to appreciate the necessity of a more holistic approach—one centered around immersion and consistent daily practice. It’s not just about the classroom; it’s about integrating the language into every aspect of one’s daily life. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of this approach, not only for myself but for countless students.
So, if you’ve set out to learn Spanish this year, I urge you to embrace a routine of daily immersion, be patient with the process, and revel in the gradual but significant progress you’ll undoubtedly make. Learning a language is not a sprint; it’s a journey, and the destination is proficiency and cultural connection.
If you have doubts, questions, suggestions, or just want to say HOLA, write to me in the comments, and I’ll be delighted to help you more.