How fast can I learn Spanish?

There is a constant question I’ve been asked a lot during my seven years of experience as a teacher. That question is “when will I be able to speak this language (good)?”. The goal seems to be more important than the journey. Learners need a more or less precise forecast of the ending of their process, and they need it now. Even though it is not really possible to provide a one-size-fits-all answer with a specific number, I will try to do so. At the end of this article you will find an estimate amount of hours to become an independent user of the Spanish language. But before knowing that number, ask yourself these questions.

  • What level will you consider good enough?

Will you use your Spanish to sing along reggaeton songs in the shower, or is your next job change dependent on your proficiency to communicate in the tongue of Cervantes?

Language skills are divided into six levels. The first one is equivalent to some basic knowledge, and the last one is similar to the understanding and expression of a native speaker. However, not every student aims to become an expert. In fact, most students are more than happy with only reaching the fourth level, also called B2. Therefore, to try to provide an answer with an amount of time, it is necessary to ask the students what level will be sufficient for them, depending on what they plan to use their skills for.

  • What other language(s) do you know?

Is your mother tongue not an indo-european one? Will Spanish be your first foreign language or are you already bilingual?

Needless to say that if your first language is Chinese, but you’re already fluent in English, your process will be completely different than if your native and only language is Italian. Each tongue has its own mechanisms and organization. While some are similar to each other -or even intelligible-, others have very little in common. A Chinese student, who also speaks English, will be faced with completely new grammar structures and challenging pronunciation problems. On the other hand, the monolingual Italian one will have to make a greater effort to avoid contaminating Spanish with words and structures from their own language, even when “they sound natural”. Each process of learning is unique, and not all of them require the same amount of time and effort.

  • How used are you to absorbing knowledge?

Are you still a young student? Or is learning Spanish a retirement hobby?

When it comes to remembering vocabulary, your level of memory fitness may affect your performance. A retired student, who has lost the practice of assimilating new concepts will have a slightly harder time than a younger student, who is still at school. Of course both students will be successful at the end, as long as they remain perseverant. However, the results may start to appear at a different pace.

  • Where are you now?

Are you already living in a Spanish speaking community, or are you somewhere with no or little access to your target language?

The amount of exposure will also play a role in the speed at which you will learn. It is not the same to be forced to speak as a survival tool, than remembering words and concepts in a more abstract way. However, today it is a lot easier to find resources in any language you can imagine, at any time, thanks to the internet. 

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After having considered all these variables and to conclude and answer the million-dollar question, according to the Common European Framework of Reference, a given student without prior knowledge needs around 500-600 hours of study to reach a B2 level of fluency in a given language. So, if you are a talented student, and you constantly study two hours per day, three times a week, for around 22 months, it will take you almost two years to become an independent user of Spanish.

To start now, please send me a message to book a free level interview and test.

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The benefits of learning a language as an adult

It is well known how important it is for a child to learn a foreign language. It is easy to see that kids learn faster and easier. Plus, the learning improves their problem solving, connects them with their creativity, enhances their career prospects, and helps them build tolerance. But you are not in school anymore and you ask yourself whether it is still possible for you to do so. Stop wondering, because the answer is a clear and definite yes. Every age is the right one to start something new or learn a new skill. It may not be as easy as it is for a younger one, for whom it all comes naturally, but it may be more rewarding, more interesting, and equally beneficial.

Below you will find some benefits of learning a language as an adult.

Improving mental function.
Even though there are a lot of questions that neuroscience cannot answer yet, it is certain that being able to formulate and express an idea in more than one tongue is beneficial for brain health. Apparently, making the switch from one language to another activates different areas of the brain in an activity that is for the brain as physical exercise is for the muscles. The more languages you speak, the more beneficial and greater those switches will be. In addition, studying a new code of communication slows brain ageing.

Motivation will be boosted.
You will be more motivated after being able to put your new skills into practice. After learning a new set of words, you can always go to the internet to find an article about that topic and refreshing and confirming what you’ve learnt. You will be 100% content and confident after noticing that the waiter in your holiday destination actually understood you. The reward of being able to stop reading the subtitles of that show will be gigantic. As an adult, you are aware of the reasons for you doing what you do, and you will feel more fulfilled after achieving your targets.

Greater vocabulary and ability to make abstractions.
Every now and then everyone learns and incorporates new words. A person’s range of vocabulary in their own tongue becomes bigger as the years go by. Therefore, as a grown-up you will understand more easily the synonyms and other subtle shades of speech, as you have experienced more life situations in the language(s) you already speak. It will also be less complicated to understand abstract concepts, such as time and tenses.

Interesting way to spend the time.
As an adult, you make your own choices. You can choose how you spend your free time: alone in your living room, sitting in front of the TV or scrolling some social media, or getting more active and going and studying Spanish, or other new language. If you go for the latter, you will likely meet new and stimulating people, you will force yourself to put your brain back in practice and, at the end of the day, you will probably feel better about yourself and your life.

You will challenge yourself.
Making the decision of starting something new is, by itself, the first victory. Getting any skill is a route full of challenges, and passing them is such a rewarding experience. It is definitely worth trying.

Those are only some of the benefits of learning a new code of communication. This list is not exhaustive. No matter how old or unfit you think you are, studying a new language will be great for you. After giving it a try, you will see the fruits of the harvest sooner than later. Today is the perfect day to start.

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Can I learn Spanish by myself? 3 aspects to consider

We are living in an age of information. It only takes a few seconds of typing to come across a never-ending number of resources claiming they will help you reach your goal: learn Spanish by yourself, in the comfort of your sofa, in a quick and easy way. But is it really possible?

The shortest answer is: yes, but it won’t be that easy, and you will eventually need some help, if you want to do it right. In this article you will find three considerations to bear in mind during your journey.

According to the Common European Framework of Reference, you need around 500 hours of study to be able to understand other people and express yourself in a fair number of situations. To reach that certain amount of fluency, you will need to master your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. You will need to devote a lot of time to it. The results will be amazing, but won’t be necessarily fun every day: being absolutely on your own can take its toll when your motivation falls down. You will also need to categorize new thinking structures and immerse yourself in new cultural universes. It is a very long way to go. It is certainly not easy, and requires a huge amount of effort… but don’t panic! And remember in what year we are living, and how accessible an infinite number of resources are today.

Below you will find three considerations that will be helpful in your solitary journey of acquiring a new tongue.

  1. You are like a raw diamond— you need to be polished to shine your best

Today it is absolutely possible to learn Spanish, or any other language or skill, by yourself. Nevertheless, it is highly important that you book a lesson with a professional teacher from time to time. Reach out for someone who knows how to spot mistakes, giving you fundaments and rules to avoid them in the future; it will definitely make a difference. Your goal is to be fluent and correct, you don’t want to be the person that is not aware of their mistakes, and you definitely do not want to be on the spot for saying some awkward or unnatural phrase. A professional teacher, either in person or through videocall, can work wonders in your final result.

2. Being responsible is easier than being disciplined

You should also pay attention to your motivation level. Depending on how disciplined you are, you will be more or less successful in actually devoting the time you initially said you would. Mastering a language takes months, or even years. It doesn’t really matter how perseverant you are, your motivation will fluctuate, and that is normal. When you feel like giving up, it will come in handy having a teacher or some fellow students reminding you how much you have achieved so far. It is easier to go back in track if someone else is depending on you to reach a new record. At the end of the day, it is motivation the engine inside of you that makes you start each day, again and again. 

3. You are a human, don’t lose your social nature

You should remember that the process of learning is per sé a deeply solitary one. You will need receptivity to absorb new ways of expression. You will need silence to listen to your own thoughts and reflect back on the new information you have just been in touch with. However, you should not forget that a language is a method of communication, and you want to communicate with other human beings. Putting your Spanish skills in use straight away and perfecting them on the way is better than waiting and waiting until you think you are ready… You may never feel ready if you don’t start. Who are the perfect people to put your new knowledge into practice? A teacher who is used to listening to other foreign speakers, or fellow students who are going through the same difficulties as you.

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In short, even though it is possible to learn Spanish on your own, that is not the best way to go all along if you want to do it right. If you learn it by yourself, or through technology, the process will be quite different from the one through which you have acquired your mother tongue: emotions will be out of the map. Use your motivation to start today, with the help of a few reliable resources that you probably already have in your devices, and then perfect yourself with a teacher, fellow students and/or native speakers when needed and possible. Good luck and don’t forget to enjoy each step of your journey!

And remember you can start right now watching these videos.

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Why does Spanish go so fast? Three key factors + a solution to sharp your ear

Spanish students always have the same complaint: Spanish goes way too fast! This is especially true for speakers of Germanic languages, such as English, Dutch or German. In this article you will find all you need to tackle down this problem: a precise, science-based answer to that question (split in three different key factors) and also a doable solution to sharp your ear and overcome this listening issue.

It is not an illusion; Spanish goes indeed faster than other languages. In fact, its word count will be higher if we take any piece of text and we translate it into both English and Spanish. Even though it may take around the same time to express that idea out loud in both languages. Shocking, huh? Below you will find three key factors to consider, in order to understand why your Hispanic friends always seem to be in such a constant state of rush when using their mouths for communication. Hopefully, this article will also make it easier for you to follow better that speed of speech in the future.

DENSITY AND VELOCITY

The velocity means the speed at which words are uttered. It can be counted by the number of syllables or words per minute, among other ways of measuring.
On the other side, the density of a language is the amount of information in each unit of meaning (like syllables, words, or sentences).
A study made by Peregrino, Coupé and Marsico for the University of Lyon (2011) showed that, out of the seven languages taken into account, Spanish is the second fastest, but it also has the second lowest informational density. That is to say, Spanish requires a larger amount of words to express an idea, if compared to English, German or even Italian. Thus, its users need to employ more syllables to convey a certain meaning. But in Spanish not all words are of supreme importance, so some of them are simply pronounced quickly, to get to the point as soon as possible.

Table taken from the study carried out by Peregrino, Coupé and Marsico for the University of Lyon in 2011.

HIGH REGISTER

In addition to needing more words to express the same meaning, it is possible to add that, in general, Spanish has a very high register.
Register is understood as the set of variables that modify the form of the speech. Different words are constructions are used when talking with friends and when lecturing a History class, and those are two different registers.
But even in its most informal context, Spanish tends to have a higher register than other languages. Its users are usually trying to employ high-register manners almost all the time. Besides, Spanish generally tends to be very friendly. In that attempt, it ends up plagued with empty words which only function is to create empathy. It also over uses periphrases to generate kindness. That high register also makes up a high word count, but the density of its meaning is frequently quite light. So a lot of words need to be said before the idea is fully presented.

LOW NUMBER OF SOUNDS

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language. A phoneme is, for example, the sound of the letter “a”, which can in turn be pronounced front, central or back. Spanish has only 24 phonemes, whereas Dutch has 39, English 45, and Lithuanian 59. The short amount of sounds makes it easier, and even necessary, to speak faster.

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So far we have the root of the problem. But if you keep on reading, you will find a great idea to try to solve this issue and improve yourself over time, with practice and a good deal of dedication.

SOLUTION: MAKE IT SLOWER!

I know this doesn’t seem to make any sense if you aim to speak as closely to a native at some point, but it actually does. Just because you don’t understand everything now doesn’t mean you will never understand anything: the more you listen, the more you get used to it. It is better trying to understand at a slower pace first, and keep on speeding up to a normal speech over time.

-If you are talking to a person, simply speak slower yourself, and mention: “más lento, por favor” from time to time. The most likely thing to happen is that your counterpart also begins to speak slower, or to a more-easily-to-understand tempo. Conversations tend to be an exchange. If your receiver is also a good sender, he or she will understand and adapt.

-If you are listening to a video or a podcast, there are actual ways to control the speed. For example, in YouTube you can go to Settings > Playback Speed and select anything below normal. The same with Spotify Podcast: you go to Change podcast speed, and select anything below normal. It is a great practice to listen this first slowly, and then at the normal pace. That way, your brain will start making associations and getting more and more used to it.

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Good luck understanding Spanish and its F1 speed. Don’t forget to bear in mind these explanations and possible solutions next time you face a speedy-language situation.

Worst ideas to learn Spanish (or any other language)

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.

BE UNMOTIVATED


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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SKIP PRACTICING


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.

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Good luck to everyone in their learning journeys!

6 Binge-Worthy Netflix Shows to Learn Spanish

Learning a new language is unlocking a whole new world of possibilities: job opportunities, funnier holiday destinations, new groups of friends and, of course, deeper enjoyment of international audiovisual content. The good news is that watching these series in your target language while paying attention can work wonders in speeding up your learning process and improving your skills. In this article you will find the six binge-worthy Netflix shows to take your Spanish to the next level.

  • La casa de papel

La casa de papel, also known as Money Heist, tells the story of a mysterious man that calls himself “The Professor”. He recruits a group of eight people to carry out the biggest robbery ever made.

—“Soy la puta ama”, which translates as I’m the fucking best, in its female way.

—“Todos vamos a morir. Por eso brindo: porque estamos vivos”, we are all gonna die. That’s why this toast is for: because we are alive.

—“Empieza el matriarcado”, the matriarchy begins.

—“¿Hasta cuándo nos vamos a seguir llamando de usted?”, when will we stop with the formal treatment?

—“Arturito, no es el momento de hacer el Gandhi, porque te comes puños de primero, de segundo y de postre”, Arturito, this is not a good time to play Gandhi, unless you want to have your ass kicked as starter, main course and dessert.

—”¿Qué cojones está pasando ahí?”, what the fuck is going on in there?

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  • Elite

Elite starts off as the typical high-school rom-com, but it suddenly has a twist when a murder takes place.

—“Nosotros siempre nos hemos apoyado: en las buenas y en las malas”, we have always supported each other: in the good and bad times.

—“A lo mejor no he cambiado. A lo mejor la de antes no era yo”, maybe I haven’t changed. Maybe it wasn’t me before.

—“Vamos a por ellos”, let’s go get them.

—“¿Tú sabes por qué soy la mejor? Porque nunca me conformo.” Do you know why I’m the best? Because I never settle down for less.

—“Venga”, come on.

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  • Luis Miguel, la serie

This series is an authorized biographical TV series of the Mexican singer Luis Miguel. On top of a super interesting plot, it also displays a high-quality cover version of Luis Miguel greatest hits.

—“Coño, Micky”, fuck, Micky.

—“Señoras y señores, con ustedes Luis Miguel”, Ladies and gentlemen, here is Luis Miguel.

—“Salte de mi vida”, get out of my life.

—“Vamos a tomarnos unas chelas”, let’s go out for a beer.

—“Si no supiste amar, ahora te puedes marchar”, if you didn’t know how to love, now you can leave

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  • Apache: la vida de Carlos Tevez

This is another authorized biographical TV series. It shows the rise of the Argentinian football player Carlos Tevez in the extremely poor and harsh conditions he used to live in.

—“Vos sos bueno. Te tienen fichado”, you’re good. They have set their eyes on you.

—“Me gusta el pibe. Juega lindo”, I like that kid. He plays great.

—“No quiero perder esta oportunidad”, I don’t want to miss this chance.

—“El dolor nunca se va a ir. Es parte tuya, sos vos”, the pain will always be there. It’s part of you, it’s you.

—“Más vale que sí”, of course.

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  • Las chicas del cable

Also known as Cable Girls. It tells the story of four young women in 1920s Madrid. They work in the National Telephone Company as the revolution begins, and also deal with romance, friendship and the modern workplace.

—“La vida no era fácil para nadie, pero mucho menos si eras mujer. No éramos libres”. Life wasn’t easy for anyone, but it was worse if you were a woman. We weren’t free.

—“Salud” or “chin chin”, cheers.

—“Cuando sientas que el tiempo se agota, una nueva vida comienza”, When you feel time is running out, a new life begins.

—“Entre un sí y un no hay una vida de felicidad o de desgracia”, between a yes and a no, there a life of happiness or misfortune.

—“Ya no soy la chica que conociste”, I’m no longer the girl you used to know.

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  • Vis a vis

Also knows as Locked Up. It initially depicts the story of a young woman who, after falling in love with her boss, commits accounting manipulation and misappropriation crimes. She is sent to a high-security prison, and the show is about life in those cells.

—“Estoy en la cárcel”, I’m in prison.

—”¿Hay alguien allí?”, is there anybody out there?

—“Primera regla de la cárcel: no se piden favores”, first rule of the prison: you don’t ask favours.

—“Soy inocente”, I’m innocent.

—“Tú eres igual que yo. Igual que yo antes de nacer”, you’re just like me. Just like me before I was born.

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Good luck watching these shows, and don’t forget to try to remember any other phrases or words that catch your attention.

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5 Tips to Speed up Your Language Learning Process

SPOILER ALERT: it’s not possible to skip steps in your learning process. However, here you will find some tips that will help you keep the speed of your process at its highest rate.

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1) Make it meaningful. Find a reason to sit down every day to make an effort to improve: visiting fantastic destinations, moving abroad, enjoying art on a deeper level, getting a job promotion, expanding your social circle. The list of possible goals is infinite.

2) Immerse yourself. If you can, don’t hesitate in travelling abroad. Being surrounded by the language you’re learning will make a huge difference. It will also make it more meaningful, as you will be able to put all your knowledge into practice. If you can’t go abroad, meeting up with people who speak the language (be it online or in the real world) can also work wonders, even if they aren’t native.

3) Semi-immerse yourself. If you can’t travel right now, or practicing with other people is not a possibility, you can still semi-immerse yourself. That is: changing the language of all your devices into Spanish, listening to international music and watching as many films, series or TV shows as you can. Also, it is a good idea to watch the audio-visual content you already watch, but with subtitles in your target language. That way, without even realizing it, your brain will start making associations.

4) Study grammar and vocabulary, but don’t limit to that. Remember to pay attention to all the areas: listening, speaking, writing, culture and history. A language is a comprehensive channel of communication. Although it can’t be articulated without words and grammar structures, it is much more than just that.

5) Don’t skip your classes. Each class has a topic, and you won’t be able to communicate good if you have holes in your concepts. If for some reason you had to skip a class, don’t let that piece of information unconquered: ask your teachers or fellow students, go online and find tutorials, or read the books.

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To sum up: find a reason and work hard for it, covering all the flanks. Learning a language should be a positive thing to do, so don’t forget to have fun on the way.

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