Some people may wonder if it would be more effective to learn Spanish by actually going to a Spanish speaking country and learning the language through immersion. While there are immense benefits to being able to immerse yourself in a language and culture, there are a couple drawbacks too that you should be aware of. So in the spirit of simplicity, here is the eSpanishTeacher list of pros and cons for learning a language by living in a foreign country.
1. An experience you will likely never forget
2. You will meet amazing people that will become lifelong friends
3. You'll gain an appreciation for new cultures, customs, new ways of thinking, and new perspectives on life; you're also likely to increase your appreciation for diversity of thought, value systems, social structures, etc.
4. Not only will you learn the language, you'll pick up the regional accent, slang, vocabulary, and linguistic nuances specific to that region.
1. You will surely miss out on learning the structure of the Spanish language. In a formalized learning setting you'll be taught the construct of the language, how communication is put together, rules for structuring sentences, grammar, pronunciation, agreement, irregular uses of certain words, etc. For many students, this foundation is essential as a jumping off point for reinforcing confidence and further development of language skills. If you miss out on this, you may find yourself asking basic questions down the road and lacking the confidence you need to refine your speaking skills.
2. Whether it's pronunciation, grammar, or vocuabulary, you may form bad habits that are difficult to overcome.
3. Similar to #2, you may learn uses of words or rules that are unique to your specific region and when you travel outside that region you could be so entrenched in "your way" of communicating that you are unable or unwilling to pivot and adapt to the new region's way of communicating.
4. Living away can be costly and can disrupt balance in your life. While some people jump at the chance for new adventures, a move to a foreign country to learn a language would require one to dedicate many months at a minimum to the endeavor. Proficiency in Spanish is not something that can be achieved in a matter of a few weeks. Uprooting your life to live abroad has some very real ramifications that need to be considered, to name a few:
-leaving/changing jobs, finding employment
-legal status in the new country
-diet and lifestyle changes
So while learning a language by physically moving and immersing yourself in another country's culture could be a wonderful experience, there are realities that should be considered.
Lucie Fink studied Spanish in high school but hasn't spoken much at all since then. Now, she wants to brush up on her Spanish language skills in a quick 5 days. Is it possible in such a short time to effectively start speaking Spanish? Watch the youtube video and find out how well Lucie does on her 5-day crash course to re-learning how to speak Spanish.
I won't give away the result, but Lucie does cite four main principles where she'll have to be disciplined: time, dedication, practice, and repetition. Watch the short video to see how she does.
You need to learn Spanish from a specific region of the world or a specific Spanish dialect, right? You're not interested in learning Spain Spanish 'cause you're traveling to Mexico or maybe visa versa. The truth is that there are roughly 21 countries where Spanish is the official language and many more where Spanish is commonly spoken. Additionally, inside each of these countries there are provinces and regions where the dialects vary widely. Given this reality, how are you supposed to find a Spanish language program that targets the specific region within the specific country you'll be traveling to?
LangFocus has a great explanation of all the various Spanish dialects. He supports what we've always said that students should learn the mechanics of Spanish first. Then, once they are grounded in the basics (grammar, vocab, usage, number/gender agreement, pronunciation, etc), they can start learning and immersing themselves in the regional Spanish dialects, slang, and other language quirks. In other words, learn the language rules first and then you'll be in a position to break them.
Spanish originated in the Castille region of Spain and as it migrated further and further from that area the language evolved. Despite regional changes, grammar rules and the language mechanics are fairly consistent throughout the world, which is what the eSpanishTeacher program teaches. Once you're interfacing with Spanish speakers from a given region, it won't take long before you pick up on their slang, dialect, accent, and more.
For more Spanish help, visit these great language resources:
Learn Spanish on Amazon
Learn Spanish on eBay
Learn Spanish on Groupon
Learn Spanish online with Udemy
Is it hard to learn Spanish?
As a Spanish teacher I get asked this question very often. How difficult is it to learn Spanish? The answer may surprise you. In short, it depends on a number of factors, but usually isn’t too difficult. Let me explain.
The first question you need to answer is why are you learning Spanish and how proficient would you like to become. This is important because if you are learning Spanish for a job in a professional environment, then it’s likely that you’ll need to be nearly fluent in order to excel at that job. However, if you want to learn Spanish so you can speak to your neighbors and your goal is not to be completely fluent, then conversational Spanish proficiency is all you’ll need.
Do I need to be fluent in Spanish?
Speaking Spanish fluently means that you could go into a doctor’s office and describe most of your body parts in Spanish. It means that you could attend an institution of higher learning, comprehend perfectly the materials that your professors would teach, and write pages on specialized topics in Spanish. But most of us don’t wish to become that skilled in the Spanish language. And despite the claims of many Spanish language products and courses, becoming fluent in Spanish would likely take years of living in a Spanish speaking country and rarely speaking English.
More on conversational Spanish
Conversational Spanish is not difficult to master. Even the poorest classroom students are able to learn to speak in casual conversations with native Spanish speakers. In fact, many who don’t perform well in traditional classroom settings do extremely well learning languages. This is because learning a second language is similar to memorizing the words to your favorite song. Think about the last time a great song came on the radio. You hear it a few times and before you know it you could sing the lyrics from memory without any help from the band.
You may have noticed that each day we hear, see, and use Spanish words, phrases, and popular catch phrases. Chances are you already know a good amount of Spanish. Here are some of the popular phrases used in today’s culture:
Adiós = Goodbye
Pronto = Hurry up
Por favor = Please
Grácias = Thank you
Si, se puede = Yes we can/Yes you can
De nada = Don’t mention it
Mi casa es su casa = Please feel at home
¿Cómo estás? = How are you?
Buenos días = Good day
Hasta la vista = See you next time
Mano a mano = Man to man
Se habla español = We speak Spanish
Learning to speak Spanish is not difficult and becoming conversant in the Spanish language is something that the average person can accomplish. The key is to have a few great resources that can explain the rules of the language, such as grammar books, a Spanish-to-English dictionary, and a friend who speaks Spanish. This way you’ll be able to overcome some of the confusing concepts that surface from time to time. Lastly, make sure you get a good amount of verbal Spanish practice, perhaps through watching the Spanish channel on TV and repeating what you hear, listening to Spanish radio, watching movies in Spanish, or having actual conversations with people who know how to speak Spanish.
Learning Spanish is expensive
It’s common to believe that learning a new language is an expensive proposition. You might be surprised to know that there Let’s look at the available options.
Books on the Spanish Language
First, you could buy an old textbook, regular book, or book on tape. Most of these are written by PhDs who’ve spent years studying, but have never learned to teach the language to regular folks. If you’ve ever attended a college or university, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Professors who are too busy researching and writing that they fail to improve their teaching ability.
Spanish language books might set you back anywhere from $10-40, but typically don’t offer much in terms of helping you speak Spanish. Most of these books will have you repeating phrases and vocabulary that have very little real-world application and certainly will not give you feedback on your speaking ability. Additionally, they won’t address your specific questions and definitely won’t help you overcome the topics that are most confusing to you. Finally, Spanish books really don’t provide any opportunities to practice what you are learning via conversation.
Private Spanish Tutor or Community Education
Your second option is to hire a Spanish tutor or take a community education Spanish course. Working one-on-one with a skilled tutor is effective, but will cost you from $20/hour and up. When I was tutoring high school students in southern California, parents were happy to pay my rate of $60/hour for quality tutoring. A community education course will cost from $80-$400, depending on a number of factors. Factor in as well the time and money you’ll spend traveling to meet your instructors. These options are somewhat effective, but will cost you time and money.
Expensive Spanish Language Software
Finally, you could purchase expensive Spanish language software and learn from the convenience of your home computer. The consensus on these courses is mixed because it’s difficult to determine which software courses actually teach the student to speak Spanish effectively. One well-known company offers a sleek-looking software package for more than $500 to learn Spanish 1, 2, and 3. I always find it interesting that despited the price tag and appearance of quality, the most expensive courses generate countless negative reviews online. Just do a Google search for “[insert Spanish course name here] course review”. You’ll get lots of result that will give you a better idea what to expect when you fork over hundreds of dollars to learn Spanish.
There are countless products that claim to teach you Spanish. Unless you are absolutely convince that a certain product is right for you, don’t waste your money by purchasing expensive and ineffective language programs that won’t help you meet your goals. Look for a Spanish course that is reasonably priced and will teach you to speak Spanish effectively.
Myths about learning Spanish: Vocabulary and phrase memorization should be a major part of learning to speak basic Spanish
With so many choices about which Spanish language course is best, how are you supposed to know which one to invest in? Many of the courses on the market today are databases of vocabulary that have been programmed to aid in word/phrase memorization, not language mastery.
Instead of teaching you how to speak, these courses will overwhelm you with lists of vocabulary words and common phrases, encouraging you to spend time memorizing them. For example, they'll teach you that Dònde estå el baño?' means Where is the bathroom?, but they don't teach you WHY it means Where is the bathroom? And what if you need to say Where are my friends? or Where is the bus station? Wouldn't it be much more effective to approach the "Where is..." topic by teaching how to ask about the location of things? Instead of that approach, unfortunately many courses are happy putting one single arbitrary phrase in front of the student and asking the student to memorize it?
But they never actually present the Spanish language in an understandable and digestible way. I've taught Spanish for years and one of the first lessons I learned when teaching was the students need to understand language structure early. Unless students have a grasp of how communication is structured in the beginning, they will be lost. It would be like someone asking you to build a house, but not mentioning the order and organization required to complete the job (i.e. first dig a hole, then lay the foundation, next frame the house, etc). I hear similar complaints over and over again from my students who have used other courses. This is one of the worst ways to learn a language, especially Spanish.
Despite what you may have read or heard, learning to speak Spanish should not be expensive. There are quite a few Spanish language courses available to you, but most usually cost $100 or more just to start, then they require another payment at a later time if you want to continue learning. Or some may charge an attractive lower up-front fee only to surprise you with a monthly charge to your credit card that you weren't aware of. Usually these courses are only trying to make a quick dollar and they don't offer support resources to their paying customers who are sincere about learning Spanish. So my suggestion is to be careful when researching which Spanish language companies are best. Read online reviews and if you can find a truly no-obligation trial, that's always best.
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.