Five Simple Tricks to Learn Spanish Quickly | Top Universities

Five Simple Tricks to Learn Spanish Quickly

By Mathilde Frot

Updated October 3, 2022 Updated October 3, 2022

Is your Spanish basically on par with Joey’s French? If your language skills are not up to scratch, there are so many free resources you can use nowadays to learn a language quickly that all you really need to be fluent in Spanish is a smartphone and the desire to learn. From Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s free online language courses to apps that connect you with other learners and native speakers, you’re thoroughly spoilt for choice. If you’re looking to learn Spanish, or another modern language, in your spare time, here are some tips to help you.

Never pay for a group lesson in your life ever again


You’re not at school anymore, so don’t feel as if you have to join a group class in order to learn a new language. In fact, group classes are a tad outdated because beginners will all learn at their own pace, depending on their native language and language skills, and you’re never going to get the attention you need from a teacher when their focus is split between 10-15 students.

Fortunately, if you can’t afford private lessons, there’s a good mix of free online resources to help you, like MIT’s Opencourseware, the BBC’s Spanish language section, DuoLingo and Babbel (two apps which have great user interfaces), the public domain language learning material compilation LiveLingua, or SpanishPod for free audio and video lessons, flashcards and a forum.

Repetitively test yourself on commonly used words until they come to you naturally


There’s no point in learning obscure rarely-employed words you’re probably never going to use in your day-to-day life. A good starting place for beginners is to drill the 100 most commonly used words until you can write, speak and comprehend them without effort. One way to encounter these on a regular basis is also to change your phone language to Spanish (or whichever language you’re trying to learn). That way you’ll see common words on a regular basis and get used to using them.

Another trick to build vocabulary fast and build your confidence are cognates, words that sound or look similar to the English, e.g. delicious vs. delicioso. Like commonly used words, you’ve just got to drill them until you can recite them easily and quickly.

Have a good old chinwag in Spanish with native speakers


It used to be slightly trickier to practice speaking a language with a native speaker if you weren’t actually based in the country, but these days, thanks to a range of dedicated language apps and websites, you can speak to a Spanish teacher or native speaker from your living room in just a few clicks. The social language site Lang-8 connects you with native speakers, while Italki lets you book Skype lessons with vetted teachers online.

Train your ear by listening to videos and films in Spanish


It’s important that you listen to Spanish as often as you can to pick up the nuances and cadence of the language. Immersion is key, but if you aren’t based in a Spanish-speaking country, there are many resources you can use, like BBC Mundo’s video section and the vast range of Spanish TV shows available to stream on YouTube for free. Don’t expect to understand everything at first, but do put yourself out there and trust you will eventually have that lightbulb moment.

Immerse yourself in Spanish articles, news and picture books every day


Don’t neglect your reading skills either. Depending on your interests and level of Spanish, you might want to read magazines like Cosmopolitan in Spanish, news on sites like BBC Mundo, or even just funny cartoons for adults like the Argentine comic book series Mafalda. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start with something slightly more basic like children’s picture books just to practice simple words and verbs.

There’s also a number of different apps to practice reading in Spanish, like Readlang, which lets you turn Spanish-language websites into virtual language lessons, by saving any words or phrases you highlight with your cursor as flashcards so you can practice them later, and MosaLingua, which features a library of e-books with an instant translation tool and a similar flashcard function as Readlang’s.

¡Buena suerte!

Lead image: Contando Estrelas (Flickr)

This article was originally published in October 2017 . It was last updated in October 2022

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