Spanish for beginners – where to start?
Are you dreaming of travelling through the national park of Sierra Nevada, or maybe you would like to read Don Quixote in the original? Setting a goal is the first step towards achieving it. Therefore, before you start your adventure with Spanish, think about why you want to take the trouble of learning a foreign language at all. Don’t be discouraged by your goal being too ambitious. If you aim high, it is unlikely that you will be stuck at the Forever Beginner’s Spanish level. The sky is the limit – follow this rule when setting your destination point.
1. Beginner, Intermediate – how to determine your level of Spanish?
Before you start learning a language, you should determine your level. If you have never dealt with Spanish before, the matter is quite simple – Spanish courses for beginners should be the right choice for you. The choice of method and tools is a separate issue.
However, these days a large number of people have encountered Spanish at some point of their lives, e.g. during the early stages of school education, or simply through contact with the
language on a daily basis: movies, series, games, etc. etc. Therefore, the second step we suggest before taking on learning is to determine your actual level. The best method to do that is a placement test. You can do it for free, e.g. in the SuperMemo application, which has this type of test tailored to specific courses. You can also check whether you qualify as a beginner in Spanish with the help of your internet search engine. Just enter “Spanish placement test” to get a whole lot of useful links.
Starting language learning at a level that is inappropriate for your skills can cause you a lot of frustration. If you choose Basic Spanish for fear of taking on challenges, even though your actual level is higher, it will be hard for you to find motivation. On the other hand, if you are too ambitious and you skip the basics, it will be difficult to progress to the next levels in Spanish without them.
2. Vocabulary – Your way to say goodbye to Forever Beginner’s Spanish
What should you be interested in at the beginning of your adventure with the Spanish language? Our answer is vocabulary. You only need to know 500-1000 of the most frequently used words to start communicating, and, for example, the SuperMemo A1-A2 Spanish courses will help you master approx. 20,000 words! We also offer special courses aimed mainly at acquiring new words, for example Extreme Basic. Something very helpful in expanding your vocabulary is the ever popular flashcard technique, i.e. cards which on one side have the word in your mother tongue, and on the other side in the language you are learning. Words are also placed in an example sentence, and therefore embedded in context. You can use either traditional or virtual flashcards – the latter are available in the SuperMemo application as so-called MemoCards. Also, try to create word lists yourself. Writing out newly learned words on cards and grouping them thematically will speed up the learning process.
3. Regularity as the basis for learning Spanish
It is impossible to move from the basic level of Spanish to the intermediate level without systematic revision. Any knowledge you acquire can become lost in memory, which is why its consolidation is so important to your success in learning. However, repetitions should not consist only of passive and mindless repetition of the acquired material in the head. The most effective form of repetition is active recalls. What is this method about? Instead of reciting and memorising a litany of words, create questions to which the answers contain the words you are learning. Are you learning travel vocabulary? Ask yourself – what do you need to pack? How will you get to your destination? What will you do on your vacation? Make sure that the answers are the newly acquired words.
4. Spanish learning habits for beginners
How can you achieve systematic improvement of your language skills? Learning should become second nature to you! That is why you should work on building useful habits, such as devoting 15 minutes every morning to revising the material you learned the day before, or reading at least one Spanish paragraph every day. Regardless of how hard your day is, how little time you have outside work and all your other activities, there will always be 20 minutes that you can spend on repeating the material.
A strong will is necessary to build habits, and it works like a muscle – it can get tired. So try to eliminate the factors that weaken your will. These include stress, among other things. A strong will also depletes in making everyday decisions, so if you can plan some things a day ahead, do so. If you are able to plan your breakfast in the evening, prepare your clothes for the next day and make a preliminary plan for the day, the next morning you will have less on your mind. Then it will be easier for you to focus and persevere in your resolutions, including those related to learning Spanish.
You can also get virtual support by using SuperMemo. Our application will remind you to repeat the material. This is a very important part of learning. Omitting this element leads to backlogs and makes the acquired knowledge disappear from the memory faster. So instead of relying 100% on yourself, it is worth using the SuperMemo intelligent repetition method, developed by a special algorithm.
5. Linguistic immersion
To move on from the level of Forever Beginner’s Spanish, it is worth surrounding yourself with the language at every step. This method is called language immersion. Of course, the easiest way to get fully immersed in the language is to go on a trip to a Spanish-speaking country. However, a few months’ stay in Spain, Mexico, Argentina or any other Spanish-speaking country is quite expensive, and not necessarily accessible to everyone, if only because of the time.
How can you immerse yourself in the language here in Poland?
Change the user language to Spanish on all your devices
According to data collected by the manufacturer of the RescueTime application (used to measure the time spent, for example, using smartphones) globally, the average time spent using the phone is 3 hours and 15 minutes a day. Therefore, changing the language to Spanish on your phone should be the first thing you do, if you want to surround yourself with this language. The next step will be to switch to Spanish in the Internet browser you use, as well as on any streaming platforms and on all the devices you use on a daily basis.
Listen and read
Listening to the language allows you to work on your accent and facilitates communication. There is no substitute for contact with the living language. Podcasts are a good way to interact with Spanish. You can listen to them during your daily activities, so you won’t give yourself the excuse of not having enough time!
What kind of podcasts should I listen to if I’m a beginner at Spanish?
- Spanish Pod 101– One of the most popular Spanish podcasts, hosted by native speakers from different Spanish-speaking countries, like Mexico or Costa Rica. Thanks to that listeners can acquire natural, everyday Spanish. The hosts adjust the pace of conversations to the comprehension level of beginners.
- LightSpeed Spanish – includes short, 10-minute discussions about Spanish culture. Hosted by a British-Spanish duo.
- Audiria – apart from great podcasts, learners can also access audio texts and other resources. Thanks to that you can not only listen to, but also read the content!
While listening to the above-mentioned podcasts, it’s a good idea to write down any words that you don’t understand. You can then add them to MemoCards in the SuperMemo application. Thanks to the virtual cards, the words will be woven into the system of intelligent repetitions, constructed by the application’s algorithm.
You can also become familiar with the language by watching your favourite series and movies. For easier understanding, also turn on the Spanish subtitles.
In order to complete the immersion, we also recommend books. For those with basic Spanish, books like Papelucho by Marcela Paz, or the Mafalda comic strips, by Quino, should do the job.
6. Know your learning style
The strict division into visual learners, auditory learners, readers and kinesthetics, introduced by the New Zealand teacher Neil Fleming, is currently treated with some reserve. The effectiveness of learning consistent with belonging to a specific group has been questioned, for example, by Dr. Husman, whose study did not show that using one learning style brought better results.
It cannot be questioned, however, that everyone has their own individual preferences. Knowing whether it is better for you to remember words by writing them down on cards, or by assigning words to specific pictures will help you make faster progress. It is also important to know the time of day when you are at your best, or to recognize signs of fatigue and the need to rest. These are important factors, and analysing them will help you learn. Knowing your individual learning style will make it easier for you to move on from the Forever Beginner’s Spanish level.
Spanish for beginners – common mistakes
1. No clearly defined goal
Learning for the sake of learning rarely brings results, because motivation can quickly run out. Think about what you need Spanish for. Certainly, there are many reasons for studying.
2. Lack of systematic learning
Newly acquired words have the tendency to easily slip from memory. Regular repetition, on which it is sometimes enough to spend only a dozen or so minutes a day, facilitates the consolidation of knowledge and progress in learning. It is worth using applications such as SuperMemo, which, with the help of special algorithms, adjust the frequency of repetitions individually.
3. Moving too quickly to a higher level
Without mastering the basics, it will be difficult for you to navigate efficiently in the later stages of learning.
4. Avoiding speaking Spanish
You learn to communicate in a given language. If you don’t use it, you won’t be able to get fluent. Without practice, there are no results. That is why it is so important to overcome the language barrier and try to speak.
5. Focusing on only one aspect of your learning
Language is a complex system. It cannot be learned by focusing only on vocabulary, or only on grammar. That is why sustainable learning is very important.
When you start your adventure with the Spanish language, it is worth arming yourself with a set of learning aids and getting to know the basic mistakes that should be avoided at the initial stages of learning. This knowledge will certainly help to increase the pace with which you climb the next steps up the language ladder, until you are fluent in Spanish.