10 Things You Can Do to Dramatically Speed Up Your Spanish Language Learning Process
1. Spend more time studying the grammar
Really, grammar is super important, and it’s fun; think of it as the logic behind the language. You probably enjoy watching videos and reading articles about how things work; studying grammar is kind of the same, it’s learning how a language, an incredibly complex system of human communication, works.
2. Watch A LOT of TV
If you study the grammar in depth and you watch a lot of TV, and you do those two things for 2-3 years, your Spanish language skills will be pretty much amazing. Watching TV is a great way to learn vocabulary, connect grammar to syntax and phonetics, and improve your listening skills, all of that while lying on your couch!
3. Don’t get frustrated
If it’s not your first language, there’s no reason why you should know how to phrase things properly without learning previously well, how to phrase things. There are thousands of languages in the world, and they all have their own weird constructions, idioms, cultural components, etc. Most of us can only communicate properly using one. Being able to communicate in a second language in spite of the limitations you may have is already a great thing, don’t get frustrated if you can’t do it as easily as you do it in your first language, it’s just normal!
4. Try to imitate the accent
Find a mirror and try to talk to the person on the other side of it like you are from Medellín. Exaggerating the accent (as if you were acting) is a great way to actually get the accent right. For most people, this feels a little awkward, but, really, if you can overcome your fears of sounding silly, and you try to imitate the way people speak (even if you can’t get it 100% right) your Spanish will sound way better. (You don't really need to do it in front of the mirror, though!)
5. Don’t be too worried about making mistakes
Making mistakes when you’re speaking a second language is perfectly normal. There’s no way for you to know how to say or phrase a lot of things if you haven't spoken the language intensively for several years, and you should take a curiosity-driven approach to your learning process (as in “it’s so cool that I learn new terms and expressions every day”) instead of a self-flagellating approach (as in “oh no, I make so many mistakes all the time”).
6. Give verb conjugations the importance they deserve
Most mistakes happen in verb conjugations. If you constantly drill them in your head, all the time, for all major tenses, and you know how to use those tenses properly, you will dramatically reduce the amount of mistakes you make.
7. Think “about” Spanish often
That’s right, not only “in Spanish” but “about Spanish”: think about the way people talk, think about all those interesting expressions that are so different from English, think about the subjunctive, the pronouns, ser and estar… Thinking about those things a lot will help you master those things, and they will eventually come out naturally when you have to use them in a conversation or an essay.
8. Read A LOT
People who read a lot in their native language have a wider span of vocabulary. Obviously, the same thing happens with a second language: people who read a lot in their second language have a notably wider vocabulary than people who don’t. You can read anything: magazines, newspapers, forums about a topic you like, books, blogs… You’ll learn a lot, especially if you find material that’s interesting or important to you.
9. Set your computer, phone, tablet, Facebook account and email server’s language to Spanish
This is something very easy to do. After you’ve done it, you’ll learn a lot of terms by literally doing nothing you don’t already do. You'll learn many new verbs and nouns while you check your phone, send text messages, open, read and answer your email, etc.
10. Talk to people
Last but not least: by talking to people in Spanish, you’ll undoubtedly become better at talking to people in Spanish. And how can you find people you can talk to in Spanish? Here are some ideas: you can go to online-organized meet-ups, you can meet with your classmates, you can take conversation classes at Berges, you can hang out at places where a lot of Spanish is spoken and make new friends, you can travel to Spanish-speaking countries, or you can find someone who speaks Spanish and wants to improve their English and set up language exchange sessions (there are a lot of places on the internet for doing this, you can just google “language exchange”).
To sum it up
If you start doing all these things, your Spanish language skills will dramatically improve in just a few months. If you keep doing them for a few years, your Spanish will end up being amazing. There’s really no secret: to speak at an advanced level, you need to have a lot of vocabulary, you need to know how to build sentences, you need to know how to use verbs properly in all major tenses, you need to have a decent accent, and you need to have a strong cultural knowledge to back everything up.
What do you think?
Are you already doing some of these things? If not, which one are you going to do first?