Posted by: Anni Orekh | August 16, 2012

How to Learn Everyday Spoken Spanish

 Want to learn conversational Spanish quickly?

Many years learning many different languages have made me realize that the quickest way to become competent in a language is to practice speaking as soon as possible. Don’t worry about making mistakes.  Ask people to correct you!


Don’t worry about memorizing grammar and vocabulary!
I will use my experience   of learning French as an example. At the university and for the semester, I had one-on-one two-hour lessons three times a week. I worked my way through my ‘Business French’ textbook with my professor  and, after six months, I was very good at conjugating verbs in all tenses and my vocabulary knowledge was quite impressive.

However … when I arrived in Guadeloupe   for work, I found that I could hardly understand a word of everyday spoken French (it was so fast!) and trying to construct my own sentences was just as hard.
In hindsight, if I had spent more time listening to  and   practicing everyday phrases  rather than memorizing scores of irregular past participles, things would have been much easier.

Thankfully, my spoken French did then start to catch up with my ‘theoretical’ French but I wish I’d spent more time practicing everyday conversations from the very beginning.

Spend more time listening and speaking from the very beginning!
For most, a few short lessons in basic Spanish grammar and all-important Spanish pronunciation are all you need to get going. After that, focus on learning Spanish phrases and sentences (not single words) and practice saying them out loud and incorporating them into everyday conversations.

If you do not have Spanish-speaking friends or relatives to practice with, there are many websites that offer language-exchange practice for free. Check out this link  for ideas.

Why listening to Spanish will have you striding ahead of the crowd!
Whether you’ve successfully learned a foreign language before or not, take a second to think about how you speak English. Assuming you’re native/fluent in English, I would be very surprised if you consciously use English grammar rules to construct your spoken sentences.

If you had to think about which verb tense and conjugation to use every time you spoke, conversations would be very slow! We’re able to speak quickly and fluently because sentence structure becomes intuitive through repeated listening and practice.

The same will happen as you learn conversational Spanish. It will be slow to start with (I’m afraid there’s no way of avoiding that altogether) but you will make much quicker progress in spoken Spanish than your peers because your brain will quickly begin to recognize patterns in the Spanish language.

Don’t be surprised to find that you have picked out the right gender of adjective or the right verb ending without thinking. It’s proof that focus on listening and speaking works!

Should you learn grammar and vocabulary?
I know people who simply cannot remember grammar rules from one Spanish lesson to the next but have still achieved fluency in Spanish quickly and easily through practicing phrases and sentences alone.

Only YOU will know whether you’re interested in grammar rules and whether or not you’re likely to remember them. They certainly serve a purpose and can be very helpful if you’re planning to write a lot in Spanish.

However, my advice is not to worry about grammar at allif it causes more grief than satisfaction. You will not learn conversational Spanish through grammar, but through focusing on listening and speaking. Grammar is just a ‘nice-to-have’ when it comes to competent spoken Spanish.

The same goes for learning vocabulary. You will learn your most useful Spanish vocabulary  when you learn words and phrases in context. Not only will these words be more useful, but by learning them in context you will find that you intuitively know how to correctly use them in sentences.

The fastest way to learn conversational Spanish!

The best way to learn conversational Spanish is to learn whole phrases and sentences, listen to lots of Spanish audio and practice speaking as often as you can.

By all means continue to learn grammar rules and structuring of Spanish sentences. But do not lose sight of the fact that, in order to learn conversational Spanish most quickly and easily, you must spend most of your time listening to and practicing whole Spanish phrases and sentences (not learning individual words).

Notice how quickly you progress from only being able to pick out odd Spanish words to understanding whole sentences!

Sooner than you expect you’ll be learning new Spanish words  simply by knowing the context of the rest of the conversation : hola como esta, amigo?

… and it just gets easier and easier after that.

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