If you are thinking about learning Spanish, but are concerned that it might be too hard, this article is for you. Is it difficult to learn Spanish? Here’s the honest answer in the form of two questions. How well do you want to speak Spanish? Are you willing to try new ways of doing things?
If you only need to go to a Spanish-speaking business or restaurant to ask where the bathroom is, or ask for an item on the menu, you don’t need to be fluent. If you want to memorize a few key phrases that will get you through a quick day trip across the border into Mexico, it may only take one semester or less in a classroom setting.
But, meaningful communication doesn’t happen by saying memorized phrases to another person. Communicating is a complex system of sharing thoughts, responding to another person’s questions and comments, and organizing your own thoughts so you can be understood. If you want to be able to confidently communicate with native Spanish speakers, it will take longer than one semester. Let’s say you want to become proficient at Spanish by taking classes at your local community college. Current estimates are that you’ll be studying for around 600 hours of classes. How does that translate to your personal schedule? In a typical college Spanish program of four-semesters there are only roughly 200 hours of exposure to hearing and reading the language. You still have 400 hours to go! And with all of the vocabulary and grammar memorization just to pass tests, much of that time is wasted just to get a grade. But, do you come out of that experience knowing how to speak Spanish with confidence?
Don’t be discouraged about what it takes to be able to communicate in Spanish. You can reduce your learning hours with a savvy combination of the most effective tools and improved methods based on current research. And the best part, you can learn faster and more easily than the outdated methods used in traditional classes.
When I say tools and methods, I’m not referring to the ads that are plastered all over the internet that promise you’ll learn Spanish in ten days for $10. I’m going to be blunt. I’ve tried these programs along with many other people, and can tell you the ads are not honest. I’m also not talking about a website full of grammar and vocabulary games. If you want to take a break during your lunchtime, these can be fun, but they don’t contribute to fulfilling your desire for Spanish fluency.
It doesn’t have to be hard to acquire Spanish proficiency. You only need three things:
– Lots of hearing and reading the language in a manner that you can understand (also known as comprehensible input)
– A significant amount of interaction with other people who speak the language
– Some help making sense of how the language is constructed (I’m referring to simple explanations as they are needed, not pages of boring grammar exercises).
To see an example of comprehensible input and making sense of how the language is constructed, I invite you to try my first e-learning lesson. It’s completely free, and is sufficient to give an idea of what I’m talking about. In fact, if you have any comments to offer, that will be much appreciated.
Lesson One can be found at the “Register for Lesson one here” tab at the top of this page. Part One should only take 15-20 minutes. If you want to try all three parts to the lesson, you’ll probably be about an hour. When you are done, you’ll be able to use three of the most frequently-spoken verbs in Spanish with confidence. In full sentences. (Hey, that wasn’t a full sentence.) Also, you’ll be familiar with a bunch of Spanish vocabulary.
This is probably much different than the way you have been taught Spanish in a classroom. If you’re willing to try something new, you can acquire the ability to communicate in Spanish this way (even if other methods haven’t worked for you).
Mark Mayo has an M.A. in Instructional Design for Second Language Education. He currently lives in Northern California with his wife, kids, and dachshunds.