How to learn Spanish easily? What is the fastest way to learn Spanish? What is the best way to learn Spanish on your own? How to learn Spanish using YouTube? How can you learn Spanish online? These were some of the questions I have had while trying to pick up Spanish. This post gives an insight into my experience so far with trying to learn Spanish. Read on.
A brief trip to the lovely Mexico City is what kindled an interest in me to learn Spanish. This was back in 2018 when I managed digital transformation for one of the largest bakeries in the world (Read about it here: https://sampathmk.com/a-dash-of-life-in-mexico-city). The trip was altogether exciting for me since it took me to a place that I had never been to – an unfamiliar, colourful city with a vibrant culture and rich history.
What made it all the more interesting was that most of our meetings were held inside the Bakery’s main facility, which meant a constant supply of freshly baked doughnuts, cakes and cookies, with the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread engulfing us.
If you have been to Mexico City (CDMX), you will know how difficult it is to navigate the city without knowing Spanish. All the signboards are in Spanish, and most people prefer speaking in Spanish to English. At work, most of the discussions were in Spanish; hours of discussions would then be translated to a single sentence in English for my benefit. (Thankfully, though, not much seems to have been lost in translation given that we completed the project we undertook successfully. This now leads me to believe that they were actually discussing the previous night’s game and not work stuff. In which case, I regret not being able to follow those wonderful conversations).
My Mexican friends helped me settle in. Joaquin, Manuel, Arturo and Crhistian introduced me to their wonderful cuisine and helped me pick up Spanish vocabulary related to office and food. Ivan was the master of street food and gave me some wonderful books to read. (Aztec, by Gary Jennings, was a great read indeed).
This kind of immersion helped me get started with Spanish. But I now had to get beyond hola, como estas, buen dia, salud, provecho, igualmente, adelante and such.
So I hired Jorge (Spanish for George, and pronounced “Hor-hay”) to help me. He was a student part-timing as a barista at a coffee shop near my office – one that I used to frequent. He spoke good English, so I asked him if he would be willing to take a few Spanish classes for me. He agreed to a small fee. He taught me muchas Palabras en Espaniol and introduced me to Spanish verb conjugations. That was a good start for me, but it ended shortly thereafter since I had to return to India.
Since then, I have been trying to continue where I left off. There are a few things that stick with you, ones that you keep doing, though occasionally. Those are the things you probably enjoy doing. Learning Spanish is one such for me, and I wanted to continue learning the language at my own pace.
Learning a new language while living in a new country is, of course, the fastest way to learn a language. The next best way is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible with tools at your disposal.
So here’s how I am continuing to learn Spanish:
Using Language learning Apps
Apps can be a good way to get introduced to a new language, and they can help you with basic conversational topics. Since most of the apps have ‘gamified’ the way they teach, they are also fun.
I have tried Duolingo, Memrise, Busuu and Babbel. (There are, of course, many more apps in the market today that you can explore). Among these, I have spent more time with Memrise and Duolingo (since I found them more engaging). Memrise had clips of native speakers speaking words and phrases, which gives a sense of authentic accents to the learner. Duolingo gave me a more fun experience. Though both these gave me a good enough start, they alone will only get you so far.
Learning online from native speakers
There are several online websites and Apps through which you can book classes run by native speakers. iTalki is one such app that I have shortlisted based on reviews and comments from friends and acquaintances. I have downloaded the app to give it a try but am yet to book a class since my current work schedule is crazy. However, I will do so soon and report back.
Listening to Podcasts
While many podcasts can help you learn Spanish, Radio Lingua Network’s Coffee Break Spanish is by far the best podcast I have come across. I listen to them on Google Podcasts, but you should find the episodes in your favourite podcast apps as well. They have a fun, conversational style of teaching that is very enjoyable, with each episode lasting about 20 minutes.
Listening to Radio broadcasts
I have grown to like Mexico City’s WRadio broadcast. You can download their Android app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.prisaradio.replicapp.wradiomexico.Their English music selection (which usually plays during India day time) is awesome. So you can listen to this radio even if it isn’t for learning Spanish.
Reading Books and Stories
Reading Children’s stories is a great way to practice your reading and comprehension skills. Apart from this, some great books help you understand the structure and grammar of Spanish. One excellent book that I downloaded and am learning from is Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish: A Creative and Proven Approach.
Watching Movies and Shows
With Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime, there is no dearth of movies and shows you can watch in any language. Some of the shows and movies you could check out: ‘Money Heist’, ‘The Occupant’ and ‘The Platform’ (Caution: Very dark and possibly gross). ‘Run Coyote Run’ was one comedy series that my friend Manuel had recommended, but I cannot find it on any of the platforms. So if you find it anywhere, please let me know.
This is a surprise addition and the latest that I am hooked on. There are rooms where noobs and native speakers get together and try to improve their speaking and listening skills—a great way to get rid of your inhibitions and start practising what you have learned.
Lastly, this extreme step
I am toying with this last idea and haven’t yet got the courage to do it, but I think it may help. That is to set the default language on my phone to Spanish.
Now with all these at my disposal, the only thing I need to crack the DELE levels is the discipline to learn every day. You can also check out Tim Ferris’ technique to learn a language fast: https://tim.blog/2014/07/16/how-to-learn-any-language-in-record-time-and-never-forget-it/.
So with that, it is time to say Hasta luego amigos!
What about you? Are you, like me, pulling your hair out trying to master Spanish? If so, I would love to hear from you about what works and what doesn’t for you. Feel free to comment and share.
Header image courtesy: Ian Schneider (Unsplash)
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