Learn Spanish Fast: A 4-step Game Plan to Fast-track Your Studies
Have you ever stopped to consider all the Spanish things that go fast?
No? Well then, take a minute. I’ll wait.
Go ahead, think of a few.
If you’re like me, your list includes fútbol, race car driver Fernando Alonso and flamenco dancers.
It doesn’t include language learning.
We both blew it on this one because make no mistake, it’s possible to learn Spanish quickly.
It’s probable, even.
As long as you remember that a little bit of something is better than nothing.
That concept definitely applies to language learning: It’s better to know some skills than to have no skills whatsoever.
Learning fast won’t get you fluent, but it’ll help you cover the important things and get you conversational. Once you reach this level, continuing to learn will be much easier!
All you need are a few tips to take Spanish language skills from zero to rápido (fast).
Let’s check out some excellent ways to encourage your Spanish to take off almost as quickly as Fernando Alonso’s race cars!
A Few Points to Remember About Learning Spanish Fast
It takes time
Speed learning is intensive. This kind of learning isn’t one of those two-days-per-week programs. It requires time—lots of it!—and commitment.
It won’t make you fluent
You’re also unlikely to gain fluency by going the fast-track method.
You’ll be able to converse and have basic skills but it’s tough to gain an in-depth understanding of the language by learning it fast.
You’ll need to focus on the big picture
If you choose this kind of program, don’t sweat the smaller issues.
Don’t obsess over grammar or expect to have a wealth of idioms at your disposal. You won’t. Just grasp as much as you can and don’t fixate on getting everything perfect. All of that’ll come in time, I promise!
In other words…
Can you fast-track your way to learning basic Spanish? Yes.
Can you make it to the conversational stage? Probably.
Will you have in-depth fluency? Nope! So put that out of your mind and concentrate on the first two goals.
Speaking of goals, let’s get you to your Spanish goals—quickly!
Learn Spanish Fast: A 4-step Game Plan to Fast-track Your Studies
To accomplish this speed-learning feat, you’ll have to formulate a plan. As luck would have it, we’ve already got one right here for you.
Every plan has steps to follow to get from points A to Z and this one is no exception.
Fortunately, this plan only has four steps. Let’s get right to them!
Step 1: Deadline, Schedule, Jump
Goals should have clearly defined deadlines, so your first task is to set a deadline. Determine when you want to know some Spanish by, and mark that date on your calendar.
Be realistic. Don’t make this goal unattainable by marking your calendar two weeks from your start date. That’s impossible.
Perfect Sunset School organizes immersive experiences for language learners in Costa Rica. Their estimate is that it takes anywhere from three months to three years to learn Spanish fluently. Remember, though, that we’re not going for fluency, so take that into consideration and choose a goal date that’s reasonable for your purposes.
To achieve that goal, you’re going to need to adjust your schedule. I hate to say it but you’re probably going to be forced to clear some items from your calendar—for the time being—to free up time for Spanish language learning.
I’d suggest that you put aside at least three to four hours each day for intensive learning. I know it sounds like a lot, but you’re attempting to cram loads of information into your brain in a short amount of time. Put the hours in and you’re more likely to hit your deadline.
But these hours don’t have to be all in one bunch. In fact, science has the numbers down to the minute: Work for 52 minutes, rest for 17. Rinse, repeat.
This is known as the Pomodoro technique, which advocates taking a brief rest after each study session. Need help sticking to this regimen? Get a Pomodoro app to keep you on track.
Now, the hardest part: Jump into this fast-track adventure!
Step 2: Choose a Course and Get to Work
I’m not going to try to blow smoke up your dress or sell you a bridge on this one. Just the unvarnished truth here.
There’s really no getting around it: Fast-tracking this language means you’ll need to work twice as hard to hit your goal compared to just learning at a more leisurely pace.
Choose Your Spanish Course
To get this job done you’ll need an excellent language course. Having a structured way to learn will increase your chances of success, so finding a great course and sticking to that program is your top priority.
In fact, finding and paying for a program will make you more likely to stick to it, since you’ll have wasted your money otherwise!
Here are some excellent courses that feature authentic content and native speakers:
Mango Languages introduces real-world Spanish through mock conversations. There’s a lot of repetition of core vocabulary and it’s a great way to grab some quick, intensive practice.
Additionally, the program will prepare learners for more advanced levels by building a solid foundation.
Need something even more structured? There are several fast-track courses that can be done without time constraints.
Choose one to add a do-anywhere, tackle-anytime component to your learning adventure!
How to Use Courses to Learn Spanish Fast
To make the most of your course studies, remember to focus on building a basis for future studies. This means understanding basic sentence structure and slowly increasing it in complexity, and forming a large core vocabulary.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
While hammering down the coursework, remember: Don’t obsess over grammar rules. After all, you probably can’t name the function of every word or the tense of every sentence of your native language but you still know how to use them!
Of course, if your course offers grammar lessons, do give them a look—but don’t waste time trying to memorize them. Instead, get the basics down and look for patterns in the language.
And have confidence that with use, some finer details will eventually become clear.
Just think of a child learning the past tense in English. Without being told, she knows that “walk” turns into “walked” and “crawl” turns into “crawled.” Over time, you (like the child) will become naturally aware of exceptions to the rules (like “run” turning into “ran” instead of “runned”).
It’s all in the vocab
The best thing to do while immersed in your coursework is to build a core vocabulary. Learn all the words your course has to offer, then add more words and phrases to your vocabulary list on your own.
Concentrate on adding a certain number of words a day to your list—and don’t go easy on yourself here. Remember, this is a speedy Spanish adventure so go big on vocabulary acquisition.
If you’re wondering where you’ll get all these new words, check out this list of 1,000 Spanish words. It’s broken down into 20-word chunks and each section has a corresponding quiz so you’ll know just how much information you’re retaining.
At least a dozen words added to your vocabulary each day will set you up for success. If it makes it easier to remember the words, group them by subject.
For example, learn words for colors, sports, food, transportation and so on, in clusters.
A great spot for building basic vocabulary is this Word of the Day app. Sometimes apps provide words or phrases we might not think of on our own that could come in handy!
The key here is to learn these words in context, placing them in sentences. Familiarize yourself with Spanish sentence structure and start linking your random words into full, albeit initially short, sentences.
123 Teach Me has several online worksheets that’ll help you get your sentences structured correctly with minimum fuss!
As you study, you’ll find that your sentences get longer and more complex!
Step 3: Surround Yourself with Spanish
Now that you’re deep into whatever course you’ve chosen and your vocabulary and basic grammar are on point, it’s time to think outside the box.
Immerse Yourself at Home
The next best thing? Create an immersive environment at home.
And since this is a get-the-job-done-fast program, don’t skimp on the surroundings: Put Spanish in your day-to-day life in as many places as you can!
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Literally label items
Train yourself to think “mesa (table)” when you see the kitchen table by physically writing the word on the table. I mean with a post-it note (unless an artful mesa scrawled across your coffee table fits in with your decor).
Everything that can be labeled should have a label.
If making your own sticky, post-it type labels isn’t your thing, buy some translation stickers.
Tune in to Spanish television
Stream television shows for a combination of relaxation and study time. Watch with the subtitles enabled and jot down unfamiliar words or expressions. Hearing Spanish spoken in a natural manner will give you a feel for the cadence of the language.
Don’t be shy about repeating lines after you hear them, either. Practice your pronunciation as often as possible!
Listen to Spanish music
Most of us play music in the car, at the gym and in our homes. For this epic speed-learning adventure, continue to do that but commit to listening to only Spanish music. You can even stream Spanish music online for free!
Spanish music is so varied (think Ricky Martin, Daddy Yankee, Paco de Lucia, Julio Iglesias and so many others) that there’s bound to be a singer or group that makes you shake your booty!
Actually speak Spanish
To get the most out of this endeavor, don’t just learn the language—use the language!
Ask your friends if any of them would be willing to speak Spanish with you. Make a lunch or dinner date and don’t speak any English.
If you don’t have Spanish-speaking friends, Meetup is a great spot to find some. The more Spanish you speak, the more comfortable you’ll feel speaking it, so find as many ways as possible to use the language.
Cook in Spanish
We’ve covered your environment, downtime, car and gym sessions and even your friends and dating options but we’ve left out a vital piece of the puzzle.
Who doesn’t love to eat? Even on a journey to learn a new skill in the least amount of time possible, you’ll have to take food breaks and that means bringing Spanish into tu cocina (your kitchen).
Recipes in Spanish provide language and cooking practice all at once. Start with simple recipes for the food and language win.
If you’re not comfortable in the kitchen, go to a Spanish restaurant to grab some fried plantains or arroz con pollo (rice and chicken). But remember: order in Spanish!
Step 4: Move Fast!
This step is a crucial reminder that if you want to succeed in learning Spanish fast, then you have to move fast.
There will be times in your life when you can stop to smell the roses. This isn’t one of those times, so push as hard as you can to reach your goal.
Ramp Things Up
As your skills increase, add more and more facets to your Spanish program.
Options to consider include reading Wikipedia in Spanish, changing your Facebook feed to Spanish (just choose Spanish in the language drop down menu) or getting hooked on a Spanish telenovela.
Fill every possible moment with some kind of Spanish language-learning activity.
Remember: No nitpicking! Don’t agonize over every tilde or the gender of every noun. The more you’re exposed to the language, the better you’ll get at it.
Your focus is on targeting basic conversational skills, so learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. The only way to do that? Follow our plan and put those hours in!
“If things aren’t breaking, then you’re not moving fast enough. People learn by making mistakes.” –Mark Zuckerberg
Move so fast you barely leave a footprint.
Don’t sweat the minutiae. Look at the big picture and glean as much information as your head can possibly hold.
Learn so fast that you break some things. Like, a lot of things!
There’ll be time for fine-tuning later.
But now? Go for speed!