Here are some tips that have helped people like you speed up their learning curve:
- Enjoy it: associate positive emotions with the learning process. Learning doesn’t have to be boring or stressful. You always remember what you experience, what you feel, and what you do when there is a strong emotion associated with it. And for effective learning, that strong emotion needs to be positive in order to stay in your long-term memory. If you are interested, read more about the importance of emotions for effective learning.
- Be consistent: schedule a few days in your calendar where you will practice your target language, better if with a native speaker. Consistency is key to improving any skill.
- Surround yourself: immerse yourself in books, music, movies, and activities in your target language. Disclaimer: my husband learned Spanish while salsa dancing and listening to Spanish songs. Don’t feel bad about using subtitles in a movie or in YouTube videos: they will help you follow the movie and understand the context better. I still do this with some English movies when the actors speak too fast or have a difficult accent.
- Travel: plan trips to Spain and countries in South America or participate in volunteer/exchange programs to those countries. There are also people who choose to have a non-permanent job in one of these countries.
- Strive for progress, not perfection: adults in particular tend to over-analyze or stress over their mistakes, thinking that their accent is not perfect or that there is no understanding. On the contrary, it is this stress that might slow down your progress. In the long run, none of this matters: commitment is more important than perfectionism!
“Perfection is the enemy of progress.”Winston Churchill
- Talk to real people: language apps are great for learning new vocabulary, but they will never replace the emotion and care that a real person can give you. The tip here is to combine language apps with learning from a native speaker who can guide you through the process. You can have language exchanges or take lessons online. If you have friends who speak Spanish, try to spend more time with them and ask them to speak with you in their language.
- Ask questions: never be afraid to ask a question about something you don’t know or understand in Spanish. There are many resources online that will give you an answer or you can simply send us a message with your doubts. Also, if you are practising with a native speaker, you can always ask that person to resolve your doubts.
- Adapt your learning to your needs: most of the time, people learn a language because they want to travel, work in a foreign country, or just as a hobby. Whatever your motivation, getting guidance on the things that really matter to you will speed up your learning. Let’s say you’re learning Spanish because you want to be more comfortable when you go to South America. You probably need to know how to ask for a good restaurant or how to ask for directions to the place you are staying. Learning all animals or all irregular verbs in the past tense probably won’t help you in the first place. While it’s important to learn them, it’s also important to know when it is the right moment to learn it, so you don’t waste time. This is something that a personal teacher can probably do better than a learning app.
- Don’t get too attached to grammar: most people approach a “language as an object”. They can explain the rules, grammar, and syntax of the language, but they can’t use it. A language is like a living plant that needs consistency and nurturing to grow. Use the language without fear of making mistakes (even native speakers make lots of mistakes). Then you will refine the grammar and get better with time.
- Record your progress: this is something new I tried with my students, and they felt very motivated after seeing their improvements. Often we only look at what there is still to learn instead of appreciating what we have already accomplished. Looking back at your progress can motivate you to keep going more than looking at all the things that still need to be learned. A simple and easy suggestion is to record yourself telling a story or presenting yourself in Spanish. Do this once a month and then look at your progress again. I promise you will have a lot of fun doing this as well.
A language is not an object that you know, but something that you use.
⭐ Extra tip: if you speak a Latin language, then learning Spanish might result easier for you. Don’t lose that opportunity to learn one of the most spoken languages in the world.