How I'm learning Spanish
But first, why am I learning Spanish?
Though I never studied it at school or had any Spanish-speaking friends growing up, my family went to a Spanish-speaking country (Tenerife, Malaga, Fuerteventura) at least once a year. We went on resort vacations and so I didn’t become interested in the country itself or the Spanish language until I worked in a Spanish restaurant/ bar during my final year of university. I grew fond of the loud, friendly, party animals that I worked with, and from them, I learned that as long as there is food, alcohol, people and music, life is good.
This is what I’m doing to teach myself Spanish. I hope you can take some tips, resources and inspiration from this post for your own language-learning journey!
My Spanish-language goals
To stop being told that I speak slowly, and to be able to effortlessly roll my r's
To not trip over words as I read
To watch an episode of 'Enchufe' without subtitles and understand at least 50% of it
To maintain a short conversation without struggling or needing a dictionary
To obtain a B1-level certification
SpanishDict is the perfect dictionary app (I use the website on my desktop) for learning Spanish.
It has audio, example sentences, conjugations, and even highlights the differences in Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Latin America. There is also a Word of the Day feature to expand your vocabulary.
I use a notepad app called FNote that I love because it lets me edit, colour-code and organise notes into folders. I try to make note of where I came across the word, and so I tend to write an example sentence, a song lyric, a quotation or a short dialogue.
Any words that I don’t understand the meaning or nuance of, I would ask for help on an app called HiNative. I also ask native speakers to check my pronunciation and how natural my sentences are. It’s an incredibly useful app that would have made language-learning ten times less stressful when I was in school!
I also have a Pinterest board where I pin pictures of vocabulary, phrases, grammar and quotations. This really appeals to the visual learner in me!
My method of memorising vocabulary is by using a whiteboard and daily repetition. Writing helps to secure words in my head through muscle-memory.
When I remember a word 3 times (English to Spanish, Spanish to English, English to Spanish again) then the Spanish word goes into my Vocabulary Bank. I revise those words once a week instead of daily.
I have a whole post on my top 5 songs to learn Spanish so I won’t say anything here!
I play more games in Spanish than I do in Japanese or Korean.
A type of game that is incredibly useful for expanding my vocabulary is la sopa de letras or ‘word searches’ in English. They are somewhat fun, test my eyes, and teach me a lot of basic or topic-specific vocabulary.
‘Final Fantasy Tactics Advance’ on game-boy is probably my favourite game of all time (next to ‘Don’t Starve’). Though most of the vocabulary I come across in-game is not useful for my current Spanish level or life in general (e.g. level up and potion), there I have also learned basic words mainly relating to the elements. Words like fuego (‘fire’), hielo (‘ice’) will be useful even outside of magic spells and buying new weapons!
Since I’m not ashamed to be a beginner, I watch a children’s TV show called Peppa Pig that I used to watch when I was younger…but in Spanish! It’s got basic vocabulary, clear voices, and you can learn Spanish in context.
If you’re learning Spanish and you like a good laugh then you’ve got to check out Enchufe! They put out humorous content, many with Spanish subtitles so that you can use your dictionary to actively look up words you don’t understand. I’ve found this to be more productive than watching anything with English subtitles because it’s even more satisfying to be able to understand a joke and laugh when you’re supposed to.
As you could tell from my blog, I’m very interested in travel and languages, so I also watch a number of travel YouTubers like Ceci de Viaje (Argentina), Azul Místico (Spain), and Samuel and Audrey’s Spanish channel.
As you can see, there is a mixture of Spanish and Latin American YouTubers so bear this in mind when you pick up certain words and expressions.
I have one grammar textbook. I like its clear explanations, dialogues, vocabulary lists, and cultural notes, but I don’t recommend this textbook mainly because it doesn’t come with a CD. If you have any textbook and book recommendations then please let me know!
The Missing Link
Unfortunately, I’m lacking speaking practice in my routine.
Of course, I try and make do by listening and repeating after natives in videos, childishly pointing to objects and identifying them in Spanish, and mumbling phrases to myself like ‘Hace frio’ (It’s cold) and ‘tengo hambre’ (I’m hungry). However, I think a weekend trip to Spain is in my future!