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  • Writer's pictureDustin Nelson

The Complete Guide to Learn Spanish

Updated: May 7, 2023

What’s the best way to learn Spanish and how can you get started?

There are a lot of great reasons to learn a new language, Spanish in particular. Whether you want to find new opportunities, make friends, or open a window into a world of culture, you’ve come to the right place.

Diving into Spanish can be difficult for an English speaker, especially if you don’t know what to expect. In this guide, we’ll show you the best platforms to use, the basics of the language, a few helpful drills to get started, and a few tips and tricks to use along the way.

People learning spanish.

The 3 Best Reasons To Learn Spanish

First, it’s important to understand why you should want to learn a new language. This will give you the motivation to continue learning when life gets busy and the going gets tough.

1) Lots of People Speak Spanish

Over 500 million people speak Spanish as a native language, making it one of the most popular languages worldwide. Additionally, over 50 million Spanish speakers live in the United States. That means there are plenty of opportunities to use your newfound skills.

2) Learning Spanish Leads to Opportunities for Growth

There are two kinds of growth that you can achieve:

Professional Growth

A new language presents the opportunity for professional and personal growth. As the fourth most spoken language in the world, you’re sure to find bilingual job opportunities popping up left and right.

Look for jobs like

  • Translator Positions

  • International Business Opportunities

  • Bilingual Technical Writer

  • Tour Guide

Of course, these are the obvious career paths. But in reality, businesses that serve a multilingual area or sell products internationally will have a need for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking employees. So, there’s really no limit to what you can do with listing Spanish on your resume.

Additionally, don’t discount the soft skills that Spanish brings to the table. Your networking opportunities will have grown exponentially, so get out there and start talking! Plus, bilingual people always seem smarter.

Personal Growth

Many people enjoy the challenge of learning a new language. Choosing a difficult subject and then mastering it can be extremely rewarding. This isn’t to mention the friends you make along the way.

3) Learning a Language Lead to Cognitive Benefits

Numerous studies have shown that learning a new language has a positive effect on the brain. Researchers have linked increased gray matter, greater plasticity, and a higher resilience against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to learning at least a second language.

While these effects are most prevalent in individuals who learn a language early, it has also been shown to affect adults who take the plunge later in life as well. In other words, start learning right away. The sooner the better!

Where to Learn Spanish

At ReDefiners World Languages! We offer lessons in traditional classroom settings and online. By taking our Spanish classes, you’ll get

  1. Personal Interaction: You have the opportunity to interact with a native/native-like teacher and classmates in person, which can help you develop your conversational skills and get real-time feedback on your pronunciation and grammar. The online and in-person classes are very small.

  2. Structured Learning: we offer a structured curriculum, which can help you stay on track and ensure that you cover all the necessary topics and skills.

  3. Increased Socio-Cultural Awareness: Recognition of diverse perspectives, focus on collaborative learning, integration of cultural diversity.

  4. Holistic Approach: We consider the learner's social, emotional, and cognitive development. This can help create a more supportive and inclusive learning environment that takes into account learners' individual needs and experiences.

The Top 5 Ways to Learn Spanish

There are a lot of different ways to learn Spanish. You’ll need to choose one that fits your goals, time constraints, and study style the best.

With each of these methods, there will be pros and cons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other. In all likelihood, you’ll need a combination of each method to master the language.

With that said, let’s jump in!

1) Traditional Classroom

At ReDefiners, this is one of our favorites. Plus, it's a service we offer!

A traditional classroom has all the elements of what you experienced in school:

  • A set weekly schedule (For example, meeting every Tuesday & Thursday)

  • Regular meeting times (For example, 5pm)

  • A teacher

  • A classroom full of students

This is a great option for people with ample time, and who want to learn a language fast. A good class will hit on all 4 core components: Grammar & Syntax, Vocabulary, Conversationally Skills, and Reading & Listening Comprehension.

Additionally, a teacher will provide a lesson plan, drills, and milestones to keep you motivated. For example, having other students in the class not only makes learning fun but also allows you to practice your conversational skills.

Unfortunately, for children and adults with busy schedules, it might be hard to find the time for a class. On top of that, you’ll need to live relatively close to the learning center and be willing to pay more for this method than some of the others on this list.

2) Online Classes With a Teacher (Synchronous Learning)

If you want a classroom experience but don’t live near a learning center, then this is your best option.

Online classes usually have the same elements as a traditional classroom:

  • A set schedule

  • Regular meeting times

  • A teacher

  • A digital classroom with other students

The only difference between traditional and online classes is that these classes take place in the comfort of your home.

The downside of online learning is that life sometimes gets in the way.

Say you really want to join a class today, but you just noticed that there are a ton of dirty dishes in the sink. Or maybe it’s too loud in your house to join the online classroom And like a traditional classroom, these tend to be on the pricier side.

But also like a traditional classroom, a good online teacher will touch on all 3 of the core components and provide you with practice.

3) Language Learning Software

Back in the day, these courses came on CDs that were shipped to your house. Nowadays, you usually buy a subscription for access to a course.

This method is much less time-demanding than online and traditional classes, and it allows the learner to go at their own pace.

A good learning software will probably focus on vocabulary and listening comprehension skills the heaviest. Oftentimes, you’ll practice by listening to a question in Spanish and then selecting the corresponding word or picture. Flashcards are also very popular in this method.

Some of the higher-tier language software programs will have sections where you “converse” into the microphone, but it will not be as sophisticated as speaking to a teacher or classmate. Expect to be well-versed in vocabulary, moderately proficient in grammar, and slightly lacking in conversational skills.

4) Apps

Apps are a fantastic way to learn a language, and they’re fun too. The most popular language learning apps turn studying into a game that offers digital rewards and prizes for completing challenges.

They usually follow the basic approach of reading a word and then asking the user to select the corresponding word or image. Many programs will have plenty of other fun features that focus on listening and reading comprehension.

Additionally, most language learning apps have a free and premium versions. For financially conscious students, this is a great option. However, be prepared to watch advertisements if you opt for the free version.

The downside of apps are similar to language learning software: They are heavy on vocabulary but light on conversing and grammar. For reading and writing comprehension, apps are fine, but there are probably better options.

Overall, we still love them for their practice and stay motivated.

5) Immersion

There are different levels to immersion learning. Let’s start with the most extreme and work our way backward from there.

Imagine being dropped into Madrid, Spain. The goal is to learn Spanish, so you’ll do your best not to use any other language while you’re there. To make your trip an enjoyable one, it’s in your best interest to learn Spanish as quickly as possible.

You’ll need to ask questions, read signs, watch telenovelas, and practice the language as much as possible. In other words, you need to become “immersed” in the Spanish language and culture.

This is by far the quickest and most effective way to learn a new language, but it’s not practical for most people. However, it is possible to incorporate elements into your daily life.

For example, try watching Spanish TV shows with subtitles or reading books in Spanish – Don Quixote is a Spanish classic that everyone should read at least once.

Bonus) Spanish Language Guide Books

Books that teach languages are great resources, and we recommend them as supplemental learning material, you’ll learn vocab, grammar, and reading comprehension. However, there won’t be any opportunity to practice conversing.

Regardless, these are low-cost alternatives to understanding some fundamental lessons of a language.

The 4 Components of Learning Spanish

There are 4 core parts of a language that you must master before becoming fluent:

  • Grammar & Syntax

  • Vocabulary

  • Reading & Listening Comprehension

  • Conversational Skills

1) Vocabulary

The first component – vocabulary – is the most straightforward. It is also the easiest to learn. This is why most Spanish learning material focuses on vocab.

Using flashcards and matching words to pictures is a great way to study Spanish vocabulary.

Spanish dictionaries average over 100,000 words per edition. That’s a lot of words to remember! But don’t worry, you only need to learn the most common words and phrases. If the average native English speaker uses 20,000 words, then a beginner Spanish speaker only needs to know a fraction of that.

2) Grammar

Grammar can best be described as the rules, structure, and syntax that govern a language.

If you don’t know any Spanish, then you might be surprised to learn that Spanish grammar rules differ from English quite a bit.

For starters, Spanish has masculine and feminine nouns. These are called gendered nouns. In Spanish, words that end in -o are masculine and words that end in -a are feminine.

  • Chico = boy

  • Chica = girl

You’ll also notice that the article “the” changes with the gender of the noun.

  • El perro = The male dog

  • El perra = The female dog

Another important difference that you’ll quickly spot are the different verb conjugations. The verb conjugate always reflects the subject of a sentence.

  • Yo trabejé hoy = I worked today

  • Ellas trabajaron hoy = They worked today

These are just a few differences between English and Spanish grammar. As you can tell, grammar rules can be pretty complicated. You won’t want to skip these lessons.

3) Reading & Listening Comprehension

Spanish reading & listening comprehension skills are pretty straightforward. Can you read a sentence in Spanish? Can you understand a lecture given by a professor at the Universitat de Barcelona?

Of course, the level of comprehension is what matters. If you only want to learn enough Spanish to get through daily life, then that’s great. If you want to learn the nuances of Spanish discuss fiction, then you have work to do.

4) Conversational Skills

As the name implies, conversational skills is your ability to speak the language. We separated this from reading & listening comprehension for good reason.

To be a conversationalist, you must be understood by your audience and vice-versa. This means practicing your pronunciation – learning to roll your “Rs” – and learning the common phrases and metaphors in Spanish.

If someone tells you, “Yo no tiene pelos en la lengua,” don’t ask about the hairs on their tongue.

We recommend speaking as much as possible for practice.

Quick Tips and Tricks for Learning Spanish

Try these tips to make quick progress!

  1. Learn the present simple verb tense first

  2. Learn the main verbs and their conjugations

    1. Ar

    2. Er

    3. Ir

  3. Use the language daily. Practice makes perfect!

  4. Learn the difference between the “to be” verbs

    1. Ser = Feelings/Identity

    2. Estar = Places/Locations

  5. Learn cognates

    1. Computer = Computadora

    2. Important = Importante

    3. Confirm = Confirmar

Learn More About ReDefiners!

ReDefiners is a pioneering non-profit organization with the goal of developing a compassionate community of global citizens, who are both economically and socially responsible, through world language and cultural enrichment. Education in global communication is paramount in developing cognitive skills, creating opportunities for upward mobility, and establishing a foundation to excel in an ever-increasing globalized society.

We strive to provide local language learning opportunities in Arabic, English, Spanish, and Mandarin through our enrichment programs to youth and adults, regardless of socioeconomic background.

Our programs target children in grades k-5, along with their caregivers, in the Tampa Bay area and through virtual learning with a mission of promoting social change, creating equity in educational opportunities, providing a competitive advantage to youths and adults, and developing multilingual global citizens with an understanding and respect for different cultures.

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