Want to speak Spanish fluently?
I stop off at The Royal Spanish Academy or Real Academia Española, in the centre of Madrid, ground zero for the Spanish language and home of the Diccionario de la lengua española, the official dictionary of the Spanish language. The Academy’s mission is to ensure the stability of the Spanish language and promote linguistic unity under the motto “Limpia, fija y da esplendor” “Cleans, fixes, and gives splendor”.
Overcome with the splendor of the Spanish language I felt inspired to share how I managed to become fluent in Spanish. Mastering Spanish can be tricky, so in this episode I share eight personal top tips for learning Spanish successfully, whether you’re a beginner, improver or mastering fluency.
I talk about motivation, learning routines, speaking habits, how to stay focused and positive and enjoy the Spanish language learning journey. I also recommend a selection of books for intermediate and advanced learners of Spanish.
1. Find your motivation At the beginning of our language learning journey we all ask, ‘How can I learn Spanish?’. How can I learn Spanish quickly and enjoyably as possible? You’re asking yourself the wrong question. The question should be ‘Why do I want to learn Spanish?’ Finding your motivation to learn Spanish is so important.
2. Resist instant gratification Learning a language as an adult is a life-long process. We live in a fast-paced world with more and more emphasis on instant gratification. ‘I want to be able to speak Spanish fluently now and I’m not prepared to invest hours, months, years in the process.’ This is a fallacy. You feel like things are going slowly. That’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up about it!
3. Make Spanish bite-size Don’t pose yourself ‘huge’ questions like, ‘how can I perfect my Spanish?’. Don’t make the mistake of setting yourself gigantic goals which become insurmountable. Instead make yourself a list of small achievable goals. Yes, be ambitious but be selective in your language learning.
4. Mimic the accent and be confident! What’s the point in perfecting Spanish grammar and having a really rich vocabulary if when you speak Spaniards struggle to understand you or flinch at your ‘accentazo’? If you’re not saying things that are easily understandable, then it doesn’t really matter how well you know the imperfect subjunctive.
5. Immerse yourself Go to Spain and actually speak to native Spanish speakers. Watch Spanish TV, listen to Spanish radio and music and read in Spanish. Resist the temptation to fall back on your favourite TV shows from back home.
6. Get into a routine Normally we moan about routines, but to learn Spanish successfully you’ll need to make it a habit. Don’t do what I did when I first started learning Spanish. Epic weekend-long learning sessions followed by nothing for weeks, sometimes months. Little and often is the key to success.
7. Don’t become a fossil! Don’t fall into the ‘I can just get by with what I already know’ trap. It’s easy to get comfortable with the level you have, maybe it’s good enough to survive so why bother learning any more? What you’re really saying is, I’m happy to just keep making the same mistakes. Find new ways to stay motivated and keep moving forward with your Spanish. What’s the point in doing something in a half-hearted way?
8. Learn the grammar Yep, there’s no way to avoid it i’m afraid. You can’t learn Spanish successfully without learning the grammar. It’s really a case of just hitting the books and studying. It’s quite a mechanical process. If that sounds like language learning hell then luckily there are lots of resources available online.
Here’s a list of books I used to help me get to a fluent level of Spanish:
Spanish Grammar in Context – Angela Howkins and J. Kattan-Ibarra
Speed Up Your Spanish: Strategies to Avoid Common Errors – Javier Muñoz-Basols and Olga Núñez Piñeiro
A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish – John Butt and Carmen Benjamin
Spanish among amigos – Nuria Agulló
If you’d like to see as well as hear the sights in this episode, check out this episode as a video on the new When in Spain YouTube channel.
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WHAT IS WHEN IN SPAIN?
The When in Spain show is a weekly podcast show, recorded in Madrid (and other parts of Spain) where l talk about my ‘warts and all’ observations and insights on life and culture on the Iberian peninsular.
I cast an eye on everyday life, people, places, politics, culture and history and attempt to give an honest opinion from a Brit who has a love-frustration relationship with Spain. I shall attempt to dispel or indeed confirm Spanish stereotypes through my ramblings and see if I can delve into the Spanish psyche.
WHO THE HELL IS WHEN IN SPAIN?
I’m Paul Burge, former BBC journalist, Hispanophile and Manchego lover. A Brit, born in Oxford and living in Spain for almost 5 years. I currently live in the centre of Madrid.