If you're learning the Spanish language for the first time or refreshing your language skills after years of not using them, here are 5 things you need to know to get the most out of your early Spanish education.
5. Number & Gender
In English, nouns, articles, and adjectives don't have to agree in number & gender. But in Spanish agreement between these three is of the highest importance. The advice to new speakers is to make understanding this principle a priority and start using it right away. You'll make mistakes in the beginning, but don't hold back because your hard work early on will pay off soon. If this is confusing, let me break it down for you:
La bicicleta roja es buena = The red bike is good
La = article
bicicleta = noun
buena = adjective
Las bicicletas rojas son buenas = The red bikes are good
Las = article
bicicletas = noun
buenas = adjective
Understanding basic pronunciation is vital to proper Spanish speaking. To avoid forming bad habits that will make you look foolish down the road, start learning & implementing proper pronunciation in the things you say now, even if it's difficult. Spanish is great because with only a few exceptions, most of the letters in the Spanish language are pronounced exactly the same every time. So once you've memorized the proper pronunciation, it will become natural and you won't give it a second thought. But native Spanish speakers will notice right away and give you credit for the importance you've placed on pronunciation. For help with pronunciation, check out my Beginner course.
3. Step into the Darkness
As with learning any new skill, many of us begin our learning experience with a lot of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. But over time as reality sets in we find that learning & developing skills is not always easy, so we become discouraged. No doubt you'll encounter this...everyone does. Those that successfully navigate these moments have something in common.
I've always believed that anything worth doing is not going to come easily, which means it's worth our time to have patience, set a lot of small & realistic goals, and persevere through the difficult moments because that's where the most growth and learning takes place.
I learned early on that it's crucial to develop a "stick-to-it-ness" when it comes to learning Spanish. Instead of getting discouraged by the obstacles you're certain to encounter, consider them "moments of truth" where your true character will be revealed. When I hit roadblocks in the early days, one trick I used often was to know that the answer exists somewhere. I didn't have it, so I needed to get it. Don't get me wrong, learning Spanish is not nearly as difficult at advanced algebra or quantitative analysis. It's more similar to learning to play an instrument where you might fumble with the notes but with a lot of repetition and practice the masterpiece will finally reveal itself.
So when you face those moments of unknown (any moment where you find your progress is stopped by missing pieces), don't give up. Taking a step into the darkness means that you are willing to identify a few things you can do to solve the problem and start taking action to pursue those steps. Doing this will reveal clues and information that will fill in the puzzle and allow you to make progress. Stepping into the darkness is a skill that helps in many areas of life (business, family, school, relationships) and like any muscle it requires training and development. Over a time if you are developing this muscle, you'll get really good at working through barriers, whether it's related to the Spanish language or some other aspect of life.
2. Practice Practice Practice
One of the best strategies to start speaking Spanish fast doesn't require a teacher in a classroom. Instead of sitting and listening, start speaking the language! You might ask, "well how do I speak the language if I don't know it yet?" Good question. The answer is to find one of your favorite books in Spanish, a book with a story that is familiar to you, so that you can still follow the story as you read. Then, in a quiet, private location, read the book out loud in Spanish. That's right, read the Spanish text out loud!
Not only will this help your pronunciation, but it will help you hear how the language flows. It's a form of training your ear and tongue to hear and mimic the Spanish language. I often hear people who learn English as a second language that one of the best aids for them was watching TV in English. Reading a book out loud is similar to this.
1. Master verbs
One of the skills new Spanish speakers should prioritize is that of conjugating verbs properly. Learning and speaking using conjugated verbs is not difficult--especially in the present tense--and mastering this skill will have immediate returns. Learning to conjugate verbs in Spanish doesn't take long and it does more than any other skill to improve you ability to communicate complete thoughts, significantly expanding your vocabulary along the way.
This is where we chat about all things Spanish. Feel free to ask a question, challenge me, passionately disagree, or rant about whatever. Just make it interesting.