The realisation of my own language inabilities struck me again whilst I was sitting in yet another meeting conversing via Skype with my international counterparts. My co-worker based in Barcelona was speaking fluent English (better than me in some cases) and translating to his colleague beside him in super fast Spanish during our meeting, I was already envious of his talents at this point and even more so when I found out he was Italian, so he had no less than 3 languages in his toolkit. It’s times like this I feel completely inferior and know I’m not embracing the full human experience by limiting my ability to converse in only one language.
I decided that something needed to be done and that this time (unlike the other 6 times I’ve made an attempt) I would be successful. I’ve always had a love affair as such with Spanish culture, so it felt natural to choose Spanish as my language of choice. But as most of us busy people, I had a lot of time constraints and needed to find a way to utilise the time I had as effectively as possible to provide maximum results. How can I learn a new language fast and sound credible was my new mission.
In this article, I will share the 8 techniques that enabled me to bring my Spanish language skills to a high social conversational level in only 8 weeks. You will never be fluent in this time, but you can easily upgrade your brain to hold a good conversation with a group of Spanish natives and show off to all your English speaking friends too.
Be consistent but don’t overcook it
One of the big mistakes I made when embarking on my language journey was believing that I needed to practice 2-3 hours solid a day to get anywhere fast. This amount of focus on one task each day led to burnout and frustration as I was trying to run before I could walk essentially, your brain can only assimilate so much information in one session and making it work this hard with new information was not the right method.
After some research and through my own experiments I found a happy median of practising 15-30 minutes a day, firstly this was a much shorter time slot which helped a lot more in the hectic days of life and I noticed that I was absorbing information more easily with this method.
A little work each day, goes a long way.
Learn the most common 100 spoken & written words
Did you know that we rarely use more than 100 words from our own language in the majority of our life? It’s hard to imagine that considering we have thousands of words that make up several languages.
An easy technique I found was to research the 100 most common spoken & written words used in the Spanish language along with their various meanings. In a social conversation, I don’t feel you’re going to need more than the key 100 words to convey your points, now presenting to a large audience would be another story but in 12 months your skills could reach that level too.
To save you searching across the far galaxy of the internet, I’ve provided links below to a number of sites that contain all the resources you’ll need to get started:
Many of these sites also offer resources for any language of your choice, if Spanish isn’t your preference.
Embrace technology and get some apps!!
Advances in technology over the last 7 years have provided a mega boom in the opportunities now available to utilise for language learning. We now have a great mixture of paid and free apps that you can utilise across any device, I personally use a mixture of 3 which I feel allows me to learn in multiple ways which keeps my experience fresh and engaging.
Babbel – This is a paid for app, but you get a week free trial when your first signup. Babbel has been one of the best language learning apps I’ve used and I like using it more for the fact that is one of the rare apps that integrates speaking exercises and real life conversation scenarios.
Memrise – UK based company that is helping people to remember not just words from language but information from many fields. Memrise is quick, simple and really reinforces key words along with phrases. You could improve your lingual skill greatly just through 10 mins of practise on this app a day. The app is free to use but does have some paid for features if you want to get more advanced.
Duolingo – You may have heard of Duolingo before as it’s been on the market for sometime, this app is completely free and is simple to use. Duolingo sits at the bottom of my list as I feel it does try to move you along a bit too quick and doesn’t really teach you some of the more key components of a language and how to use them in everyday life. Although, with that being said it will still give you a solid base and is better than Rosetta Stone in my eyes.
You may have noticed that I didn’t include Rosetta Stone, what is the most prolific language learning program advertised. I don’t use Rosetta Stone as I find it clunky, unfriendly and the content generally bland, with this article being aimed at the time conscious and also keeping your financial investment to a minimum, I don’t feel Rosetta Stone is your best tool to use.
Rosetta Stone will set you back approx 150 – 200GBP whereas 6 months membership with Babbel will cost no more than 20GBP total.
Practice with others
In the digital revolution, we now have more ways than ever to communicate with native speakers across the globe. Remember when you were in school and you would write hand letters to a penpal, well no more as we have great online alternatives with websites like Interpal.
Interpal is a community for those who want to exchange languages with others across the world, it’s simple and free to register. The site is very basic, user friendly and all you need to do is create a quick profile showing who you are and what languages you’re looking to learn or even help others with (it wouldn’t be a community if we didn’t help others).
It’s simple to meet others, arrange skype calls to practice language skills with native or exchange messages via IM or email if you wish too.
Watch & Read Foreign Media
One of the best ways to learn a new language is to read articles, listening to music or watch your favourite tv shows/films from your native language in the language which you’ve chosen to pursue.
I’m a big sports fan, so I chose to read Spanish sports websites about the latest news and also watch live football games with the Spanish commentary which was very fun – the Gola!!!!!!! shouted for long periods of time is forever cemented into my memory. I found watching some of my favourite films dubbed in Spanish was very useful too as I already knew the words the character was saying in English so I could then understand how to pronounce the same lines in Spanish, listening to music is also a great tool too – although you don’t have to listen to Enrique Iglesias if that’s not your thing.
It’s very easy to access foreign media & film, Netflix has a bunch of foreign films/documentaries on offer and you can easily put subtitles on any film/tv show you watch. You can find a number of websites with a quick Google search to access an encyclopedia of newspaper articles & magazine in any language and I would also suggest using Googles translate tool to translate the language from a website you regularly visit into that of the chosen one you wish to learn.
Find native speakers locally & find language meetup groups
Learning a new language can be even more fun with others and even more so if you can find a native speaker locally with whom you can test your learning on. It’s a big, big world and people of all nationalities live in many parts of the world so it maybe easier to find a native speaker of your chosen language than you think – I managed to find a native Spanish speaker via one my friends after asking around. You can also find groups in your local area who also share your language learning interest and wish to learn with others too.
Plan a trip or study abroad
Sometimes there’s no better way of studying a new language than immersing yourself in the culture of that country and spending time around numerous native speakers to perfect your lingual skills. A number of companies can offer you bespoke packages across any country where you wish to learn the native tongue, for example for Spain, I found a number of packages for language learning retreats in Madrid, Seville & Valencia.
This method won’t be for everyone as finances will dictate if you can do this, however if the option is available it would be worth exploring.
That concludes my tips on how to learn Spanish (or your chosen language of choice) in 8 weeks. Have you used any of these techniques before? did they work? would you add anything else to this list?
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