You’re here because you want to learn Spanish fast.
In this article, I am going to describe the method I used to learn Spanish quickly.
With this method I was able to take my Spanish speaking abilities from absolute beginner to lower intermediate levels in the space of about 3 months.
I believe that when most people say they want to learn Spanish, they want to be able to have a conversation with a native speaker about everyday topics.
To do this, you must break the language down into its component parts so that you get the most out of every minute of practice.
What is a language, really? In its most basic form, it’s a group of sounds that form units with a universally understood meaning. We call those units words.
When you hear sounds, you associate images, feelings, concepts and ideas with them. This is what it means to listen and understand.
To be understood, you need to take your own ideas, concepts, and feelings and encode them into words, then produce the sounds that represent those words in a way that another person can understand.
What Does This Mean to Learn Spanish Quickly?
I was recently watching the Toddlers episode from the series Babies on Netflix, and they talk quite a lot about the stages of language acquisition. In the beginning, babies start to grasp the flow of the language: the tone, the sound patterns, the rhythm and intonation.
I’m a huge fan of the polyglot Idahosa Ness, whose methods follow these insights. use them when beginning to study any new language I approach.
Idahosa’s “mimic method” trains you on the distinct sounds of Spanish by listening to matched pairs and other sample audio from native speakers. First you need to be able to hear each sound unit individually at native speed.
Next, you need to physically train your mouth and “speech organs” to move the proper way to produce the same sounds that a native speaker would.
Luca Lampariello uses some of these techniques as well in his bi-directional translation method for listening and pronunciation practice.
Bottom line: if you want to learn Spanish quickly, you need to do this style of training first because it’s a massive force multiplier.
It’s also insurance against the dreaded problem of being unable to understand native speakers even if you know hundreds or thousands of words, which is an extremely common complaint among language learning students.
If you can hear everything more clearly, and you can increase your pronunciation skills so you’re better understood by native speakers, it will make communication so much easier!
Want to Learn Spanish Fast? Focus on Words You Need & Use Often
In another article I covered how to learn languages through conversations, and I still stand by those recommendations. Focus on words that you actually need and want to use, and prepare scripts for your conversational lessons based on them.
If you want to get better at speaking Spanish, speak more Spanish. No matter how many vocabulary words or grammar rules you know, you need you speak to improve your skill level.
It’s tempting to put it off and rationalize it with excuses about how you’re not ready, but making mistakes and encountering what you don’t know is some of the most powerful feedback you can get. It guides you toward what you should learn next and helps you to fill in knowledge gaps.
If you are having trouble self-motivating and find that you’ve continually put off signing up with a language tutor, perhaps some social pressure and additional structure would give you the push you need.
One great example that I’ve participated in myself is the Fluent in 3 Months challenge, which forced me out of my comfort zone and got me speaking Spanish in a hurry!
I participated in the challenge and the added missions and accountability were incredibly helpful.
Learn Spanish Frequency Words
If you’re having regular conversations with native speakers already, I think the next most valuable thing you can study is the top few hundred frequency words under your belt.
Spanish frequency words are determined as the result of looking for patterns across an entire body of written Spanish works, and then extracting the ones that appear most often.
This is one of the only things I recommend attempting to cram in by rote memorization because they will give you substantial value with a relatively low investment of time and effort.
If you pick out the top few hundred Spanish words and learn them, you will then be able to access the majority of texts like newspapers with a stunning rate of comprehension – something like 60% to 80% of the texts might be understandable.
The best way to work on Spanish frequency words is by using a Spaced Repetition System which optimizes how often you repeat a word based on the forgetting curve and your personalized progress.
The best one I’m aware of presently is Anki which has web and app versions, allows you to import your own lists, and has a ton of positive reviews from other language learners.
Spanish Immersion in Audiovisual Resources
When choosing language learning resources for listening and reading, pick something that will keep you coming back time and again. This creates the focus that leads to insights and the desire to come back again and again.
I learned this advice from Steve Kaufmann, the polyglot founder of LingQ.
LingQ is a listening and reading tool that you can access on the web or on your smartphone through the app. Among other features, it has a rich content library in many languages as well as an active community of learners.
You can import content from other platforms such as: Netflix subtitles, Spotify lyrics, Podcasts, YouTube and Spanish newspapers.
During my Fluent in 3 Months Spanish mission, I watched many YouTube videos about healthy eating and listened to business news and podcasts, most of which I consumed in LingQ.
What interests can you explore and use to your advantage for language study time to make it even more effective?
While my belief is that languages are best viewed as a lifelong journey of discovery, growth, and connection, there are things you can do if you want to maximize your return on study and practice time.
- Start by learning the sounds and training yourself to produce them correctly
- Get uncomfortable and plan your first speaking lesson within weeks of beginning study
- 80/20 vocabulary by focusing on frequency words and using a SRS
- Immerse yourself in massive amounts of reading, watching, and listening material that you enjoy
Although this approach is very simple, it’s most challenging to stick with it and put in the time day after day for weeks, months, or even years. But if you do build the language learning habit, your skills will ascend to fluency!