When learning a new language, it’s common for both new and experienced language learners to feel frustrated or stuck and to lose motivation.
Learning Spanish doesn’t happen overnight. Afterall, it’s a bit of a long journey.
These 5 invaluable tips to stay motivated in your Spanish journey are derived from hundreds of successful students that I’ve had the chance to meet in my journey as the co-founder of Spanish55.
1) Embrace your accent
Don't let your Spanish accent stop you. Your accent makes you unique!
All language learners have some sort of undertone accent in their second or third language.
Language learning exposes you to the challenge and dedication it takes to perfect sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. Trying to perfect your pronunciation to obtain a native sounding accent is no simple task.
Getting rid of your unique accent, albeit useful at times, can lead you down a path of diminishing returns. No matter how many hours of practice you put in it will likely be difficult to fully lose every little hitch in your non-native accent.
That said, what’s more important is stringing together the right words in a grammatically correct sentence and, most importantly, speaking with confidence (while embracing your mistakes).
If your first language is English and you are learning Spanish, embrace the accent -- what truly matters is that you are putting in the effort to learn and to practice speaking. No Spanish speaker is going to be offended by your accent. They will just be happy you are doing your best to communicate with them in their native tongue.
The more confidence you have in yourself to practice speaking, and the less you worry about being 100% correct, the more your language skills will start to improve.
Confidence is key in language learning and simply putting yourself out there and embracing your accent will push you further than standing on the sidelines waiting to reach perfection.
Sure, improve your accent and pronunciation, but by all means don’t let your unique intonation stop you from moving forward!
2) SMART Goal Setting in Your Spanish Studies
One way to stay motivated when learning Spanish is to create goals for you to work towards accomplishing something.
Write down clear milestones and actionable goals you wish to pursue by using SMART goals.
Your goals should be SMART, or in other words, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound.
For example, don’t just write on paper that you want to become fluent in Spanish, set the goal to be able to talk to someone on a specific subject for 5 minutes or to pass a certain test by a set date.
Your goals should be measurable and attainable. You can go futher by using a simple goal such as learning 5 new words a day instead of an impossible one like learning 100 new words a day.
Your goals should also be relevant.
What do you want to be able to get out of your Spanish study?
Let this shape your learning and what you focus on.
If your goal is to order food in Spanish before your fall trip to Mexico, then set a SMART goal to do just that before your fall trip.
Lastly, your goals should be time bound.
Again, saying you want to be fluent in Spanish is far too broad. Instead, commit to getting to a B1 language level in 6 months time or to learning 100 new words by the end of this month.
If you don’t have a clear SMART goal to achieve it’s hard to know and see your true progress in the Spanish language.
3) Embrace the Intricacies of the Spanish Language
All languages are beautiful, and different, in their own way.
Focus on embracing, adopting, and enjoying the differences between Spanish and English.
Many students associate a different personality (often times more fun and exciting) while speaking and interacting in Spanish. Embrace the language's unique differences.
When learning Spanish, it can be helpful to find the similarities to your native language (like the fact that most words that end in -tion in English end in -cion in Spanish).
It’s often more helpful in the long term and in those moments where you're struggling to get out of the intermediate plateau to embrace and to enjoy the strange differences in Spanish.
Too many learners get stuck “trying to make sense” of these differences. Adult learners tend to get stuck saying “but this doesn’t make sense… In English we…”
The two languages do not have the same grammatical structures. It’s difficult to wrap your head around the differences instead of embracing the fact that this is something totally new.
You’re entering uncharted territory!
As you uncover new intricacies of the Spanish language, be excited to learn new things and to push past old boundaries.
Every little detail is moving you one step closer to your desired Spanish fluency.
4) Get Organized and Create Your Spanish Learning Environment and Routine
It’s easy to get stuck in a Spanish rut when you don’t have a routine setup or your own organized study space.
Like with any new endeveour, routine is the key to success. Self-motivation and self-discipline is essential to your growth.
Many of our students at Spanish55 can attest that getting yourself organized to create a Spanish study space and creating an easy to follow routine is crucial to consistent progress.
Start by having a designated study space and set time or day of study.
Maybe you try to study at the same time everyday for a set amount of time (something attainable to go along with your SMART goal).
Start with 15 or 30 minutes a day.
Turn off your smartphone notifications and remove social media to avoid distractions.
Perhaps it’s time to replace the Twitter or Instagram app with a Spanish flashcards app to use while bored and on your phone.
One quick hack that you can do is put that Spanish flashcard app front and center on your phone, staring you down everytime you pick up your phone to see what’s going on. Start saying yes to that flashcard app and I promise you won’t regret it!
People underestimate the value of their own environment and the power that those around them possess in their own lives.
Create a fun, positive space that inspires you to learn! Get to know other Spanish students and native Spanish speakers that inspire you to push past your current Spanish struggles.
Hang up photos of a Latin country you would like to visit.
Once you harness the power of the people around you, the photos and memories that motivate you, and your future aspirations, you’ll start to see progress in areas you have never since reached.
Your environment matters. Now use it to your Spanish advantage.
5) Get Creative with Your Spanish Speaking
In my experience, staying motivated to keep consistently speaking in Spanish is one of the most difficult steps for many Spanish students.
As mentioned earlier, do not be embarrassed or shy to put yourself out there. One of the best qualities you can have as a student is to laugh at your mistakes and enjoy the process.
Some ways to practice your speaking before traveling to a Spanish country is to call some of the places you want to visit on the phone either prior to your trip or while in the planning process for your dream vacation.
It is a great way to practice and it is completely free!
For example, you can call up the hotel you'll be staying at and ask about some of their accommodations. Call local attractions you will be visiting and ask about their hours.
Forget email and web forms and pick up the phone and keep practicing!
The fact that you can practice by phone might also help in boosting your confidence to speak when in person. Each moment in the uncomfort zone is a step forward towards your Spanish confidence.
Perhaps it’s time to find a Spanish language exchange partner living in the city that you are visiting.
Language sites like Conversation Exchange make it easy to meet virtually and in-person language exchange partners in whatever city you specify.
How great would it be to build up a nice friendship with someone from the town you will be visiting a month or two ahead of time?
Take the pressure off and meet friends in your future destination before you travel.
Final Thoughts To Staying Motivated
Remember, when learning a new language like Spanish, it’s okay to feel frustrated or a bit stuck at times.
The key to learning Spanish is to not to lose motivation and to remember that fluency (like anything) doesn’t happen overnight.
Embrace the journey, set up your study habits, and push past the intermediate plateau with consistent effort, renewed study habits, and SMART goals that make your progress measurable and fun.
I hope these 5 invaluable tips to staying motivated are helpful to keep you marching forward to become the all-star Spanish student that I know that you are and are becoming.
The journey is the reward.