Struggling to learn Spanish? You’re not alone. Many beginner (and higher level) Spanish learners struggle at times to get a grip on their language learning journey. For some, time is a major constraint, others don’t know where to start, maybe you have no one to practice with, or perhaps you’re a bit shy and nervous to practice speaking. My biggest challenge was definitely confidence!
However, there are ways to overcome these challenges to learning Spanish. There are a few Spanish learning tips I’ve picked up over the last almost twenty years of language teaching (and learning), and many of them boil down to mindset. Learning Spanish is like learning any new skill; you need practice, consistency and dedication. Let’s look at some ways you can seize control of your language journey.
Seven things to consider if you’re struggling to learn Spanish
1. Why do you want to learn Spanish?
Why do you want to learn Spanish? It might seem odd to start here but before you plan how you’ll learn Spanish or what you’ll need to learn Spanish, you should define your motivations for learning Spanish, your why. Having a clear purpose will set you on the right path to achieve your goal. Here are some common Spanish learning incentives:
- For travel to a Spanish-speaking country
- Preparation for moving to a Spanish-speaking country
- To improve job prospects / get a promotion
- Fulfilment of a long held life goal
- To communicate better with Spanish speaking community members
- To connect more deeply with family members/ loved ones who speak Spanish
- To reclaim a piece of one’s cultural identity
- Love of the culture of a Spanish-speaking country
Do any of those apply to you? Once you’ve determined your overall incentive for wanting to learn Spanish, question yourself even deeper. Why is this important to you? How will learning Spanish change your life? When you zone in on the key driving factor behind your desire to learn Spanish, you will reaffirm your commitment to the learning process. This will become your motivation, the push that will encourage you to persevere even when you hit the stumbling blocks along the way. Say it aloud, write it down, tell someone. Own it. This is your dream.
2. Determine your starting point.
You’ve visualised your dream and you know where you want to go, let’s focus on the now. Take a moment to consider where you are in your Spanish language acquisition journey. What words would you use to describe yourself. Be intentional about this exercise. Deep dive into how you feel about Spanish. What thoughts first come to mind to describe where you’re at in the process? What do you believe to be your greatest challenges. (Share them in the comments below if you wish). You should also contemplate what you believe to be your strong points as a language learner. Which areas are you good at? (Share those in the comments too).
This is your starting point and your dream is your end point. Once you have those two places identified, you can begin mapping out the best process to arrive at your dream.
3. Consistency is paramount.
There is no one perfect learning path to commanding the Spanish language. The journey you must take is unique to you. However, there is one thing we all need: To be consistent in our practice. When you feel like you’re constantly struggling to learn Spanish it’s easy to want to step away from it all. Don’t… at least not for more than a day or two.
You should set aside some time each day or five or six days out of the week for focused practice. It could be as little as thirty minutes. However, you must know ahead of time what you will be doing in those minutes. Have your daily objective and plan of activity before you settle in for your practice session. Stay determined to achieve your objective that day.
4. Native speakers are allies.
Many new learners feel a sense of dread when speaking to native hispanohablantes (Spanish speakers). That fear, though understandable, is almost completely unfounded. They aren’t waiting for you to make a mistake and laugh at you or judge you. In fact, the majority are thrilled to meet someone who has such a vested interest in their language and culture. Speaking or practicing with a native speaker is fantastic, authentic learning. You may even pick up a few slang expressions along the way! And if you make some funny errors as you go, it’ll be a great story to tell later!
5. Take your time when speaking Spanish.
So you’ve decided to embrace conversing with a native or more advanced Spanish speaker, and you’ve noticed how fast they speak. That’s great for them and a good way for you to absorb pacing and intonation in spoken Spanish. It is not, however, a competition. Don’t try to match their speed. If you go for speed over quality, you’re more likely to make mistakes, which could cause you to become more anxious. Relax, listen and when it’s your turn to speak, find your own comfortable pace.
6. Age is just a number. Sometimes more mature students are deterred by the prevailing expectation that children learn languages better and faster than adults. There have been several studies that link the neuroplasticity of children’s brains to higher performance in language learning. However, there are also studies showing later learners can achieve mastery of their target language. Do you know what advantage adults often have over children learning new languages? Higher levels of motivation and active learning. As an adult, you make a conscious choice to learn Spanish and have a deep-seated desire based on your circumstances. As someone who has been teaching my own children Spanish and teaching adult students (ages 18 to 60+), I can assure you a key factor in success is motivation! Don’t ever let age deter you.
7. Set realistic expectations of your abilities. This is the most important point to remember. If you’re new to Spanish or haven’t practiced the language in years and years, don’t expect to have a philosophical debate about the pros and cons of the vegan lifestyle. Pace yourself. You will make mistakes and that’s OKAY! You can learn from them and with daily practice you will get better and eventually achieve your Spanish language goals.
Language acquisition is immensely rewarding but there are challenges along the way. If you’re struggling to learn Spanish, remember you are not alone! Try some of the above tips to help remove the stumbling blocks along the way. Believe in yourself. Make the commitment to persevere. You can learn Spanish!
Start practicing now with these FREE resources:
Beginner Spanish lesson (with grammar, pronunciation and culture components)
Travel Spanish eBook (with audio links and mini comprehension)
Cheat Sheet: 5 Most Frequently Used Irregular Verbs (Tenses included: present, past, imperfect and future)
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