Learning Spanish or any language is a journey that you have to commit to, and one of the hardest things that I find is actually noticing my own progress. I seem to feel stuck and like I’m not getting much further, but when I look back at my level when I first moved to Spain – it’s obvious I’ve made some extreme progress!
Give yourself credit
You’ve got to give yourself credit for the little milestones – like nailing a new tense, or remembering that obscure adjective, or finally hitting present tense conjugation on the head! I also think envisioning yourself speaking fluently can be very helpful, it gives you the confidence to keep trying because you believe one day that you will be fluent. If you can nail the commitment and the manifestation, then you’re going to succeed!
Incorporate learnt words and phrases into daily life
Sometimes I sit at home and I study, I stare at these new words and phrases that I’ve accumulated and it doesn’t seem to be going in. A lot of the time, if you’re not a keen studier, or a practised studier like me, then it’s difficult to concentrate and command your brain to retain this information. Sometimes, it can just look like letters, and even though you’ve read it through and written it down several times – you just don’t feel like it’s stuck. Incorporating the new words and phrases you have recently learnt into your daily conversations is a good way to make sure it all sticks.
It can be tricky to remember what it is you need to practise, so I recommend keeping some notes on your phone and checking over them every so often. This could be a good reminder of what to practise. A friend suggested this method to me and it makes so much sense.
Not everything translates exactly
Another major thing that I’ve realised, which helps me more than I can explain, is that things don’t translate exactly from language to language… That might sound really obvious to a lot of people, but before I realised that, I was regularly confused and frustrated. I was trying to translate my sentences word for word. I don’t know if you’ve come across the Spanish word ‘lo’ but, that’s one of them that threw a spanner in the works for me. It can be used in many different contexts, it’s something you just have to remember.
Spend time in the country
If you want to really submerse yourself in learning a language, then I would genuinely advise spending a decent amount of time in a native country. This really helps you to connect with the language itself and to be able to hear it every single day. Don’t get me wrong, not being able to understand the most basic parts of everyday life is frustrating, but just remember that it’s only for a while. Eventually you will progress and understand more.
Beginning to speak a new language, and bringing it into your daily life can be so daunting and anxiety inducing. You tend to think that the people who are on the receiving end of your basic skills will be judging you. That is not the case in the slightest, unless you come across some particularly moody or busy people. Generally, people are patient and understanding – so keep trying.
Practise with a bilingual friend
If it is too frightening for you to actually bring your skills into a shop or a restaurant, then I would suggest practising with a bilingual friend. Practising with someone you feel comfortable with can make all the difference. Talking about the things that are happening around you can be a good, and it can be funny too. You usually end up saying the most obvious things like “that woman has a red coat” and “these trees are tall.” I find learning with a sense of humour helpful, it can bring a lightheartedness, and you are less likely to become frustrated when you’re laughing.
Find someone who wants to learn your native language
The last suggestion I have, which is a difficult one, is befriend a person who wants to speak your own native language (or find an «Intercambio»), but can’t yet (and vice versa). This is of course challenging, as it makes it so much harder to get to know each other, but the practise time you will have is unlimited. It also exercises your patience and allows for each of you to share your time equally, if you’re not comfortable with sitting in silence, then this is a task for you too. Spending time nurturing this practise is rewarding to say the least.
That was my personal milestone, I had a relationship with someone who couldn’t speak any English at all. It was really hard at first but when you becoming comfortable with someone really allows your confidence to grow, and therefor your language skills.
Don’t ever give up!
So, if you’re learning Spanish, or thinking about learning a new language – just remember to enjoy it. Incorporate it into your daily life, even if you aren’t in a native speaking country. Name things around your house, describe things in the street, talk about something completely random to a friend who can’t understand you. Never give up and remember that it can be slow progress, and slow progress is still progress.
Are you ready to start your Spanish speaking journey? Beginner or intermediate – OC Languages is there for you. Classroom environments can be an extremely good place to practise your Spanish skills with other students. For some people, it can be outside of the comfort zone or a little unfamiliar, but using your new found skills with people of a similar level to you can be so rewarding! It makes it all worth while. If you are keen on the idea, then get started as soon as possible. Having a second language under your belt can only be beneficial! See you at OC!