Bilingualism

Why You Aren’t Picking Up Spanish Fast

Learn Spanish faster Than You Can Say “Hola!”

Become Fluent in Spanish in Less Than a Week!

Tempting click-bait. I know.

Time: the one thing everyone seems to have so little of nowadays.

Promises like the headlines above address a common pain point for individuals wanting to learn Spanish.

Image by silviarita from Pixabay

As a stay-at-home mother, I find most of my time divided between blogging, social media management, and child rearing. Not to mention the typical cooking, cleaning, and homemaker duties that make the day go by fast. So learning Spanish in “no time” appeals to mothers like myself!

I should mention that years ago I chatted with someone on Yahoo! Messenger (yes, I know I’m dating myself here) through a language learning chatroom. I remember this stranger telling me that I could learn Spanish in a few days. As if speaking Spanish meant nothing more than a hair flip.

Reflecting on that conversation, I believe that native English speakers downplay the difficulty of the Spanish language. Many similarities do exist between both languages but speaking Spanish requires getting into a different mindset. I realized early on that I can’t just slap an “o” or “a” at the end of every word and count that as a proper translation (false cognates). I needed to become resourceful.

So if you find yourself not making progress in your language learning journey, take a moment to reflect on how the Spanish language fits into your life. Then ask yourself, why am I not picking up on Spanish as fast as I want to?

You’re Not Making Speaking Spanish Natural

I touch on this in my blog post about ways to become bilingual.

Believe it or not, how natural we speak revolves around our choices. When we think about what to say next and how to say it, we choose how our words align with the grammatical structures of a language. I never thought that letting go of cookie-cutter sentences was possible until I began speaking from my heart, not my mind.

It sounds cheesy, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very serious. The moment we let go of trying to be accurate and just say what we feel, speaking Spanish becomes more natural! Another thing about choice that I want to emphasize:

Putting yourself in an environment where you have no choice but to speak Spanish helps.

Do not give yourself the option to look things up. Don’t hold yourself back by focusing on the things that you do not understand.

Won’t I miss something important or say something incorrectly?

Sure. And that’s OK! This leads us to another point about picking up on Spanish quickly.

You’re Afraid of Making Mistakes in Spanish

Mom, you forgot to speak to me in Spanish again!

I get it. No, really, I do!

Nobody likes making mistakes. Especially when it results in us looking silly.

Being open to constructive criticism requires some vulnerability.

For that reason, I enjoy writing about anything in Spanish on my Instagram for anyone to see. At the same time, I do put extra effort into running everything I write by my husband, Google Translate or a Spanish dictionary website like linguee or SpanishDict before posting it.

Sometimes my husband doesn’t have the time, however. I end up posting something full of grammatical or spelling errors. At first I was upset that a native speaker had responded to my Instagram story with a correction. Oh no! I made a mistake!

That correction started a wonderful friendship with a fellow mom who still takes the time out to help improve my Spanish.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Whoever takes the time out to correct you just may end up being your new best friend!

You Don’t Make the Time for Learning or Speaking Spanish

Of course nobody has the time!

You have to make the time. Be intentional about it.

The beauty of language learning comes from its spontaneity. We overhear a word or determine the meaning of one from a conversation we had forever ago…the mind works in mysterious ways!

But time is not a mystery. It goes by fast and before you know it, another day has gone by without you speaking Spanish!

Don’t let this happen to you anymore.

Give yourself as much exposure to Spanish as possible.

Scheduling time out has helped me immensely. Even if you have to set a timer, do it. Watch your favorite TV show with Spanish subtitles—or watch a dubbed version, my personal favorite way to get Spanish in because I have visuals to go along with what I’m learning!

I also like task batching, which helps you tackle similar to-dos in one sitting.

So if my goal includes prepping dinner, I will wash dishes, clean the fridge, or organize my pantry. I listen to podcasts while I do this. I also like to read recipes in Spanish as I meal prep.

There are so many ways to multitask it just takes experimenting and creativity!

Find what works for you and stick with it.

Your Spanish Skills Need Accountability

Accountability includes concrete goals, not just people telling you to get motivated.

Connecting with other Spanish speakers should not create a toxic game of comparison but inspire you to excel in your language learning journey. Going at speaking Spanish alone or without concrete goals will not get you very far. I can tell you that right now.

Before my son was born, my family held me accountable for speaking Spanish daily. Every time my suegra or my cuñada would call me up, I knew that I had to communicate with them in Spanish because it was the language that they understood the best.

On a similar note, my Japanese professor from college established a similar relationship with me. She enjoys emailing me or messaging me on Facebook (all in Japanese). At first I thought that her “checking up” on me was like trying to catch me in moments where I did not want to use Japanese anymore.

I realized that her occasional check-ins served as motivation. You may not have a college professor who personally nudges you to speak a language other than English, but you need to have some outside link to the Spanish language or you will not get the inspiration you need to keep going.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

What’s Holding Your Spanish Skills Back?

The plethora of resources that exist out there should make learning a language fun. The time we take out to find what works for us should not feel like a chore. It’s worth putting an effort into discovering what makes us want to power up.

Did a moving story on a podcast get you to back in to the swing of speaking Spanish?

Perhaps you noticed someone speaking two languages the other day and thought, “wow, that’s cool!”

Whatever it takes to remind you of why you want to learn Spanish—hold on to that wonderful reason.

It will fuel you on your path to speaking Spanish in no time!

2 Comments

  • K E Garland

    These are some great tips for what I believe is called, language immersion, which is more common for acquiring a new language, as opposed to the way we learn it in the States. Best of luck to you! And the baby is super cute!

  • Errol De Jesus

    Yes, immersion can do wonders for language learners! How we go about immersion is so important because we should have confidence regardless of our mistakes. Also, thank you for all your support. I’m sure you’ve seen this blog change hundreds of times haha

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