The Internet is full with amazing posts with super practical ideas to learn Spanish (or any other language) the right way. But focusing so much on the good may make us make mistakes without even noticing them. This article is different: here you will find what you should avoid if you want to be fluent.
Being unmotivated is the lousier way to target any goal you can think of. If you want to succeed in failing, don’t be curious about the fascinating culture of the society that speaks the language you want to voice. “Spanish culture is super boring, and it lacks history, art, passion, fun and delicious food. Not even worth a shot!“, said no one ever.
TRANSLATE WORD BY WORD
Unfortunately, it is a common misconception to believe that just by translating words in isolation we would ever be able to understand a language. A language is a whole system of communication, with independent grammatical constructions, phrases and lexemes (or units of meaning); it is not just a mere equivalent of exact translation of words.
REPLACE A PROFESSIONAL TEACHER WITH AN ON-DEMAND ONLINE COURSE
The offer of on-demand online courses to gain different skills are on the rise. They are convenient, relatively cheap, and promising. Most of them are also a valuable tool, but they just can’t replace a professional teacher who will be able to motivate you, give you personalized feedback to grow your confidence, and tackle down any possible flaw.
REPLACE A PROFESSIONAL TEACHER WITH A NATIVE FRIEND
It is easy to wrongly believe that any native could replace a professional teacher. Though some people do have a special talent for teaching their own language, imparting knowledge requires more than just being able to speak it. In fact, some researches had found out that a native teacher is not the best option for a beginner student, even though it is at later stages of learning. Most native speakers will be able to spot your mistakes, but only very few of them will be able to find the roots of the problem, and only a professional teacher will be able to give you tips and tricks to avoid them in the future.
DISREGARD ANY OF THE FOUR ELEMENTAL ASPECTS
Those aspects are: listening comprehension, spoken expression, reading comprehension, and written expression. Not learning a language in all its expressions is simply not learning it good, unless you have no real interest in the subject matter, and you only need to learn certain skills in order to perform certain tasks (for example, reading and answering simple blue-printed emails at work). If you want to speak it, you also probably want to write it, and understand it both in writing and in conversation.
BE IN A CONSTANT HURRY
If you never stop counting the supposed days until you (magically) reach your B2 level instead of studying, you will for sure become frustrated before becoming fluent. Learning is a process, and there is no shortcut— you need to walk all the way up without tricks. Embrace each small step you make up to the target, and enjoy the journey.
COMPARE YOURSELF WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS DIFFERENT RESOURCES
“It took me over a year to pass my A1 test, while John Doe became absolutely fluent after his semester in Málaga. Therefore, Spanish is not for me”.
It is no use to try to compare yourself with someone else. But is it particularly unfair if you compare yourself with someone who has different resources than you do. It is not the same to learn Spanish after work, in a town where you have little or no possibility to practice other than your weekly high-cost lesson in a twenty-people group, than having the chance to live and study in a Spanish-speaking country for a period of time.
Skipping all the studying and trying to learn it just by listening will not work if you’re an adult. You didn’t become good at your mother tongue just by exposition—don’t forget all the language study you did back at primary school. The other way round also applies: relying solely on boring exercises from black and white books, or replacing real human interaction with apps such as Duolingo will catapult you to disappointment. Of course those exercises are necessary, and those apps are helpful, but relying solely in just one source is not the best idea— don’t forget languages are comprehensive channels of communication.
Good luck to everyone in their learning journeys!