We asked 11 of the top Spanish language teachers (experts) to answer the following question, "What's the Best Way to Learn Spanish on Your Own?"
What follows is a list of their responses in a few short paragraphs. Many have a common theme and I am sure you will notice it right away.
Almost all of our experts recommend having the right motivation and making daily progress each day.
Many mentioned motivation and desire as more important than the actual method being used.
Alright, let's dive in and take a look at the Spanish experts responses to the question, "What's the best way to learn Spanish on your own?"
Make sure you know what your motivations are, if you aren't motivated it's much harder, so write down what you want from Spanish, where you want to be, then find ways to learn that really interest you - if the material is boring, you won't learn fast either.
Find interesting material - books, films, podcasts, blogs, Skype or real intercambios - and immerse yourself in Spanish completely!
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There are two parts to learning Spanish:
1. Learning the stuff of Spanish (grammar, vocab, etc)
2. Actually becoming confident using it, by having a lot of one-on-one conversations.
There are plenty of ways to handle #1 (I prefer a teacher, which is the fastest, but there are other ways). For #2, which is what everyone skips (and why most people speak so poorly even if they “know” a lot of Spanish), you have to actually speak to real people. That part cannot be done alone, and it’s the most important part.
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The very first thing we would like to say is that thanks to modern technology and the Internet, there is really no need to be alone in your Spanish studies.
The Internet is now veritably bristling with other folks ready to share their native Spanish skills with someone who can help them with their English. You can be that person!
Of course, just speaking to natives won't get your Spanish where you want it. To do that you to be building your language through as many means as you can.
Youtube is filled with thousands of hours of free teaching. Phone apps want to help you Speak Spanish using cutting edge methods of learning never before seen.
The plain fact is that the Spanish speaking world is so easily accessed now that you could have a native speaker talking to you through your computer screen this very day!
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Do something every day. Before you start, set up a plan to learn Spanish, and then follow it every day.
If you can do 10 hours a day, 2 hours a day, 30 minutes a day, or even only 5 minutes a day, be sure to make time daily to take one step forward to your Spanish fluency.
Doing this guarantees you will reach your Spanish goals at some point.
One of the best ways to learn Spanish on your own is with audio learning courses like Pimsleur and Learning Spanish Like Crazy along with some good podcasts. Online Skype tutors are also great. Use resources that focus on conversational Spanish over grammar.
You'll also need someone to talk to. You can find conversational groups or partners via sites like Meetup.com or with an app like HelloTalk. Also be sure to talk to your Spanish speaking friends, neighbors or co-workers.
And remember to give your Spanish a purpose by finding ways to use it in your everyday life. After all, speaking the language on a regular or daily basis is how you become fluent.
Just do massive listening, from the beginning: massive listening input. Spanish language can be very complex.
There are a million grammar rules and another million exceptions, you just can’t learn Spanish that way. Instead: listen, listen, listen and listen to native speakers. Simplify, don’t "overlearn," just do what native speakers did to learn Spanish.
Stop being a passive learner, waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Get active! Listen, talk, read, write… Use topics that are interesting for you and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
The important thing in language learning is communication, not every microscopic detail.
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In my opinion, the best way to learn Spanish by yourself is music, music, music! Actively discovering songs in Spanish that you like while reading and learning the lyrics, which is also the way I started learning English on my own.
This will increase your confidence speaking Spanish in public. It isn’t that much different from kids who learn their first language by repeating what other people say and it can give you an immediate sense of accomplishment that you can reach on your own.
And if you are thinking that “Latin music” or “Spanish music” isn’t for you, well… that would be like saying that you don’t like “English music.”
With over 20 Spanish-speaking countries, in each country, you can find that they create their own type of music.
So whether you like rock, reggaeton, salsa, merengue… eventually, you are bound to find songs to your liking in Spanish that you can use to turn the task of learning Spanish into an (even more) fun part of your life.
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I am a believer that the best way to learn Spanish on your own is with a natural method: listening, listening, listening. I think listening is fundamental if you want to speak Spanish like a native.
Although there is one condition: the materials should be authentic and natural, not adapted for foreigners. The second essential ingredient is that audios should be comprehensible, which means that the learner should understand 70%-80% of the audio.
This guarantees that the subconscious will understand the rest 20% from the context. I have learned 3 languages with natural method (as an adult!), and this is how I teach Spanish to my podcast listeners.
The best way to learn Spanish on your own is to familiarize yourself with the proficiency guidelines of ACTFL or the Common European Framework.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses, set goals to improve, and identify the resources that will help you make progress.
Within this general purpose-oriented approach what works best will be what you enjoy and can sustain doing-- kind of like exercise!
We often say that children can "absorb" any language. But adults need a method to learn.
That is because, as adults, we have fully developed personalities and what in Spanish we call "espíritu crítico." Adults need to understand the WHY's of each new concept, lest they get frustrated and quit.
Therefore the Spanish alphabet, together with the basic phonetic rules, are a good start. Then grammar together with simple and useful sentences as examples.
Our brain works by associating ideas. So the best way to learn new vocabulary is within a helpful context. Useful sentences instead of lists of words.
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The best way to learn Spanish on your own is to surround yourself with that second language as much as possible.
That doesn’t mean going to a Spanish-speaking country. What that means is committing to doing just one thing every day and also switching your daily routine to include Spanish.
I am sure that every day you either listen to podcasts, the radio, or music while you drive, cook, walk, etc. Well, continue to do all of those things but this time do them in Spanish.
Once you do that you are ready to look for a well-structured online course or tutor/coach that can help you with the grammar and other aspects of the language as well as the opportunity to talk to a native speaker (in Spanish).
Becoming fluent can be done with repetitive behaviors built up over time. At the end of the day, it depends on your daily habits and how committed you are to accomplishing your goal of learning Spanish.
Were you surprised by their responses?
Nothing came as too much of a surprise to me except for the tendency towards learning through listening. Many experts mentioned listening as the #1 component to Spanish fluency.
Indeed, listening and speaking each got mentioned over half of the time (60%).
Another thing to note is that language learning phone apps were only mentioned once which shows that new technology isn't always the answer.
The simple aspect of listening and speaking with native trumps any hot new language app.
Personally, I think that when you get to an intermediate level it would probably be a good idea to take a guided course or get a tutor to help clean up your grammar and pronunciation mistakes that you have made along the way.
Now it's your turn!
What way have you found to be most effective to learning Spanish on your own? What has helped you most to get to your level of Spanish?
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