When most people think of learning a new language, they think of enrolling in a class at a local community college, university, or language school. However, what if you want to learn Spanish but don’t have the time or money for traditional classes?
Don’t worry—there are plenty of ways to learn Spanish on your own, and many are free! In this article, we’ll outline some of the best methods to learn Spanish without paying a lot of money for classes.
So whether you’re just getting started or you’re already an intermediate speaker, read on for some great tips.
Best ways to learn Spanish on your own
A mixture of everything
There’s no silver bullet for learning a language, i.e., sitting down and studying grammar rules for a few months is not going to miraculously turn you into a Spanish speaker. It takes a lot more than that— which is why most people fail at learning languages from books or from classrooms alone.
That said, there are some things you can do on your own or with very low-cost tutoring to help yourself learn the ropes faster and better during those inevitable periods when you have no one around who can speak it. Here are ten ways how:
Improve your listening skills
Listening comprehension is the key to any successful language acquisition—if you don’t understand what native speakers are saying, then you will not be able to shape your mouth around the words. However, many learners mistake listening comprehension for just being able to hear every word correctly – it’s more than that.
There are three factors at work when you listen in a language—understanding the content of what is being said (i.e., making sense of what is going on), recognizing individual words correctly, and lastly, identifying specific sounds in their correct order.
You can improve all three by simply getting yourself accustomed to hearing/understanding native speakers talking about familiar topics or concepts that are related to your daily life activities.
If you’re watching Spanish movies with Spanish subtitles turned on, then this may help too because when people talk in movies, they usually tend to slow down and are more articulate. This is because they have the time to plan what to say ahead of time, so it’ll sound much better than if you were to listen to someone talking in real-time. Pick topics that are appealing to you—news shows about political affairs, sports events, or soap operas—something that will keep your attention span long enough to let you hone your listening comprehension skills over a sustained period of time.
Read for pleasure
Imagine being able to understand any Spanish book without having to look up what every other word means… It can be done! But not by always looking up words one by one as you plod through textbooks page by page. This kind of tedious work has never helped anyone learn faster and better, even though it is the most common language learning practice.
When you learn a new word, think of that word in terms of its meaning and how it relates to other words around it—if it’s an object, then gather all kinds of associations in your head that are related to that concept.
For example, ‘house’ may conjure up images in your head of cozy living rooms with fireplaces, warm houses on cold winter nights when you’re curled up in front of the fireplace, etc. The more mental connections you have between individual words, the stronger your memory for them will be when you need them later on during conversations or eventually when speaking/writing essays or stories.
Keep track with journals and diaries
An easy way to trick your brain into using the language is to write in it, at least for a little while each day. But many learners don’t know how to start writing in Spanish – so they either stick to writing short sentences or resort to copying what’s already written on the page they’re reading (which really doesn’t count).
When you want to learn Spanish effectively, it helps if you just open up a blank document and type anything that comes to mind when you think about subjects that interest you.
The added bonus of this is that when you encounter words or phrases that are new to you but also seem interesting enough because they catch your attention, then these will most likely show up again in future entries. That way, it becomes easier for you, later on, to remember them by association.
Hear and sing along to Spanish music
Music can be a very powerful tool for learning languages, but the trick is to pick songs that you really like and enjoy singing along with (or at least tapping your foot) because then you will actually want to listen to it – instead of forcing yourself through meaningless songs sung by bands or singers whose names you don’t even know.
One way of improving your listening comprehension skills is by associating certain words with their emotional context—i.e., what feeling do these words evoke?
Feel your way around new words
When you come across a new word, take some time just thinking about it and the associations that come to mind. How do these associations make you feel?
Try to remember what kinds of memories or images are triggered by this new word/concept combination, then think about how you would use it in a sentence—is it an object? A person? Are there any physical characteristics involved? Does it have anything to do with weather conditions or seasons of the year?
Use rhymes and analogies
This is one of the most efficient ways to learn vocabulary because it works so well on two levels. First off, when you break down words into smaller parts (i.e., their roots, prefixes, and suffixes), then your brain will start looking for connections between these word fragments and other words/concepts.
When you rhyme words, then it’s like hitting two birds with one stone because that will help you remember them faster by using the sound-alike technique (just like when you’re listening to music).
For example, if you learn that lección is Spanish for ‘lesson,’ then your brain will associate the word with the English word ‘accession,’ which sounds very similar—so whenever you think of lección, accession will come to mind too.
Watch TV shows & movies in Spanish
Many people tend to think of this channeling method as a passive activity since they expect to just sit there and watch an entire movie or television show without understanding much of what is being said instead of actually mentally processing the language like they would if they were reading a book.
This is a misconception, though, because unless your goal is to just pass the time passively, then you should really try and concentrate on the visuals as well as the audio. Don’t just watch something for half an hour and expect any results.
But what you can do instead is stop every few minutes to look things up in the dictionary or ask about words that confuse or puzzle you—this way, you’ll start building your vocabulary faster than ever before.
Learning Spanish on your own can be a great way to get started, but there are some things you should keep in mind. If you’re looking for more structure and accountability, consider taking group classes or hiring a tutor. But if you want the freedom to learn at your own pace and focus on what interests you most, then learning Spanish through online video courses is the right choice for you.
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