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3 Tips to Learn Spanish as Efficiently as Possible

When I decided to learn Spanish I had next to no experience in language learning outside of my native English. I did take one Spanish course in high school, but I failed it.

Needless to say I didn’t qualify as a language learning expert. I wasn’t a world traveler. I had a day job, sometimes two. I wanted to learn Spanish, but I simply didn’t have loads of time to dedicate to the endeavor.

How to Learn Spanish Efficiently

Through some trial and error I was able to find enough time to progress through the language. It wasn’t always easy, and I made some mistakes along the way. In this post I’ll share my experience and give you 3 ways to help you learn Spanish more efficiently so that you get the most out of your time and your effort.

1) Use your time when you have it

The most valuable resource you have as a language learner is time. While you may not have spend money to learn a language, you will have to spend time. For me, hours and minutes are a currency that you trade on a weekly basis to grow in your language learning.

I am assuming that language learning is a priority for you. It might not be the number one priority, like keeping your job, or taking care of your family. But it does have to be important enough to you to invest significant amounts of time into your learning. There’s just no way around that.

That being said use your time wisely!

Use time wisely!

When I first started learning Spanish I was working 45 or more hours per week and traveling during most weekends. I quickly fell into the trap of putting my Spanish learning off thinking, “Oh I’ll do it next week”, or “Saturday….I’ll do it Saturday”. Needless to say a few weeks went by and I hadn’t really learned or practiced anything.

That’s when I took some time and reevaluated my approach. I realized that yes it was probably a long shot for me to spend hours everyday learning my new foreign language, but I could use my time to spend an hour a day everyday studying or practicing. If you’re on a busy schedule an hour a day can sound like reaching for the stars, but it’s more possible than you think.

I started to make use of the little gaps of time I had in the day. I could listen to a Spanish podcast while driving to and from work. I could review new words while on lunch break and right before I went to bed. I could also review or listen to Spanish while I was in line at the store or waiting at the airport. Together these moments added up. I was able to more or less practice around 60 minutes everyday, and I saw significant improvement in my Spanish abilities.

2) Don’t method jump

When you’re new to language learning there’s a temptation to try out the newest course, app, or method. There are more language learning tools and courses than I can list. Some are free, some are cheap, some are expensive, and all of them promise to be the best or fastest way to learn a new language. Find a solid Spanish learning course or tool and stick with it (I definitely recommend SpanishPod101!). Consistent practice over a period of time is what is essential for language learning.

Consistent practice over a period of time is what is essential for language learning.

Everytime I hit a bump or plateau I’d be tempted to think maybe there’s a faster or better way to learn. I’d search around and buy the next best language learning tool only to use it for a couple weeks and realize it wasn’t really any better than the last course I tried, and the same difficulties I had with Spanish were still there.

If you’re learning your first language and you pick a specific method or course I’d suggest you to stick with it for at least 3 to 4 months. You actually hurt yourself in the long run if you constantly switch between resources because you never give yourself the opportunity to progress.

3) Focus on one thing at a time

When I decided to learn Spanish I was pumped. I had all my resources lined up, a plan in place, and I was ready to go. I thought I’d spend 3-4 hours a day practicing and that I’d be fluent in no time. I really believed that I would learn the whole language right away.

That lasted for about 3 days. Then I got discouraged and avoided Spanish for another 3 days. I repeated this process 3 or 4 times before I realized that maybe I was approaching things the wrong way.

I also tried to devour the entire Spanish language in a very short time. At the time it was my first foreign language, and given the fact that I probably don’t have anything outside of a normal aptitude for language learning, this was not the best approach. In my experience it’s better to focus on one small part of the language at a time. Either a specific grammar point or specific vocabulary.

In my experience it’s better to focus on one small part of the language at a time.

In the beginning these should be based on the parts of the language you’ll use right away. Even in the business world research shows that replacing less important tasks with ones that add value and help you reach your goals is the best way to get the most out of your time.

As you advance through the language and your level increases try to pinpoint the harder aspects of Spanish grammar and work on them one at a time. For me one of the hardest parts of Spanish grammar was knowing the difference between the preterite and imperfect tenses. The preterite by itself seemed simple enough, but the Spanish imperfect tense gave me a lot of trouble because it was used in ways I wasn’t familiar with. I took several weeks and learned and practiced all I could on these two tenses and before long they started to feel natural in Spanish conversations.

So I quickly learned that for me it was best to focus on a small part of Spanish, learn it, and then practice it as much as I could. At first this approach can seem slow, (I tend to be impatient), but you’ll be better for it.

Final thoughts

As I said before learning a foreign language isn’t easy. It takes time and work. However it is quite possible, and if you stick to your guns and stay focused you will see improvement in your skills and find satisfaction in using the language. Remember that learning Spanish is really more like a journey. It doesn’t have to feel like school work or your day job. Savor your experience in the language and enjoy every step along the way!

Author bio:
Jesse Reyes is the founder and editor of Livefluent.com, a language learning site for native English speakers learning foreign languages. He has a passion for learning and a penchant for travel.

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