5 Language Tips for New Spanish Speakers
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.
After six months of planning, design, & development, we are pleased to announce the launch of our revised & refreshed Beginner Spanish Version 3! The team at eSpanishTeacher is extremely proud of this product and know that our customers will love it too. Boasting improved audio, more effective visuals, more comprehension exercises, and 4 brand new lessons, Beginner Spanish Version 3 is the complete package for folks wanting to learn to speak Spanish quickly.
And like previous offerings, Version 3 ships with 101 Spanish Verbs as a free bonus! So you get even more great Spanish instruction in a personalized setting with from an actual Spanish teacher for the same great price. That's right, we're giving you more language learning content without increasing the price.
This is a no brainer for people wanting to learn Spanish or brush up on speaking skills you haven't used in some time. Past customers have told us that the course also works for younger audiences. So don't wait any longer. Click here to start learning and speaking Spanish today!
BusinessInsider.com cites a 2003 study by Henry L. Roediger, III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke that revealed a better way to recall what you have studied. This is especially applicable for language learners who spend time studying but then need to recall the material & rules in real life situations where speaking a language is a necessity. The article states:
Results showed that participants who’d read the word list five times performed much better on the recall test five minutes later. But participants who’d read the test just once and been tested performed better on the test one week later. In other words, testing helped boost the participants’ long-term memory.
More recent research suggests that combining testing with immediate feedback (finding out whether you answered right or wrong) is more effective, and can even boost memory right after the information is learned.
Are you traveling to a Spanish speaking country in the near future and don't have time to learn Spanish? Here are the 10 most useful phrases that you need to know to get around in Spanish speaking countries.
Of course this is one of the most common phrases in Spanish and one you need to know before you go. The phrase means "Where is...?" Obviously you'll need to finish the sentence with any number of options, such as el baño (the bathroom), la playa (the beach), or la estación de tren (the train station). If you ask someone this question, however, hope that they point you in the right direction instead of explaining all the detailed steps to get there.
La cuenta por favor
This is to be used when you are eating at a sit down restaurant and are ready for the server to bring your check. It's the equivalent of "check please!" La cuenta means the bill as in the final tab on your meal. Oh, and another tip on tipping at restaurants. In many countries outside the USA it's not customary or expected for patrons to tip, so make sure you know the local customs in this regard to save face and money.
¿Cuánto cuesta...?, ¿Cuánto cuestan...?
This is what you say when you want to know how much something costs and translates to How much is... Just like with ¿Dónde está...?, you'll want to finish this sentence with some type of noun or pronoun, such as el libro (the book), ésto (this), or éso (that).
el baño, el servicio, el aseo
These words mean washroom or bathroom, as in can you point me to the restroom?
Buenos Dias, Buenas tardes, Buenas noches
These are the easiest way to say hello in Spanish. Dias is used in the morning through most of the day. Tardes is for afternoon greeting, and noches is used after sunset. You might be tempted to say hola but that greeting is much less common when people greet each other.
This translates to very well or ok. It's perhaps one of the most common sayings in the entire language, so get used to it but don't confuse it with our next word...
The meaning of bueno in Spanish is good. You can use this to say la comida es buena (the food is good) and hace tiempo bueno (the weather is good), but you would not use it to say I'm doing well (see muy bien).
Vamos por..., Vamos en...
These two phrases translate into we are traveling by... You would use them to say things like Vamos por autobús a Panamá (We are going to Panama by bus).
¿Qué hora es?
This is another common question that you may find yourself needing to answer while traveling. It means What time is it? and can be useful if your cell phone is out of batteries or you're off the beaten path where no clocks can be found. But as long as you don't have any major commitments that are crucial to your trip, don't get too worried if you find yourself without the time as it can be very liberating to simply forget time and just enjoy the experience.
Muchas gracias, muy amable, adiós
This phrase translates to thank you, very kind of you, and good bye. With all the help and directions you'll need while traveling, you're bound to use this phrase a lot. Chances are locals help a lot of travelers so be sure to say it with a sincere and grateful smile.
There you have it! These are some of the most useful words and phrases you'll need for your next trip to Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, or any of the other wonderful places where this beautiful language is spoken.
As a bonus, here are a number of other helpful words:
museo = museum
teatro = theater
hotel = hotel
llegar = to arrive
salir = to leave, to exit
carro, coche = car
calle = street
maletas = luggage
viaje = trip
viajar = to travel
avión = airplane
taxi = taxi
Can you really learn Spanish for free?
There are a seemingly endless number of online resources that help you learn to speak Spanish. But are these really effective? With so many resources available, what can you do to ensure you are using your time and money effectively and avoiding resources that won't help you meet your goals?
A new quora post addresses the topic of what approach and mindset are best when learning a new language. Two of my favorite points the author makes are #10 on ensuring you not are not just reading language instruction, but have the audio to accompany it. Using audio lessons or explanations is important because your ears and mouth are just as important as your brain when learning a new language like Spanish.
The author also recommends not being too hard on yourself and not being afraid to look silly when trying to speak out loud. He's right! Successfully learning a language requires you to be vulnerable, put yourself out there, have a sense of humor, and just start speaking.
So while online resources can be useful, it's very difficult to rely exclusively on free online resources to learn to speak Spanish fluently. The main reason for this is because language is just that...it's communication between two or more people! In order to get really good at it, you need to speak it out loud and in live situations where you have a healthy level of pressure to speak and speak correctly.
Other reasons for seeking more than just the free Spanish language resources include:
1. Speaking out loud to teach the muscles in your mouth & throat the correct positions.
2. Speaking out loud to train your ear to hear and repeat what you hear.
3. Having a teacher, tutor, or fellow student present to work off each other, respond to questions, and provide feedback.
4. Having a teacher break down the problematic areas of the language that are specific to you and your progress.
5. Leveraging technology to understand the language and measure your progress.
If you spend the time and effort to learn to speak Spanish, why not put it to good use in a beautiful destination. I was on Pinterest recently looking at some photos of Cancun, Mexico. Some of the photos I pinned have some great advice on the top activities in Cancun. Look at that water and those white sand beaches! I think I just found my paradise.
Have you ever tried flan?
Flan is an open pastry or sponge cake containing a sweet or savoury filling. A typical flan of this sort is round, with shortcrust pastry. Usually coated with sweet syrup. Flan isn't common in the United States, but can be found. It's commonly consumed in Latin America, Europe, Africa and more.
The history of flan begins with the Ancient Romans. The eggs figured prominently in many Roman recipes. The flan prepared by the Ancient Romans was quite different from the food we eat today. Their flan was often served as a savory dish, as in "eel flan," although sweet flans, made with honey and pepper, were also enjoyed. When the Romans conquered Europe, they brought their culinary traditions with them. One of these was flan. Both sweet and savory flans (almonds, cinnamon & sugar; cheese, curd, spinach, fish) were very popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, especially during Lent, when meat was forbidden. According to Platina's De Honesta Voluptate [On Right Pleasure and Good Health], an Italian cookery text published approximately 1475, custard-type dishes were considered health food. In addition to being nourishing they were thought to soothe the chest, aid the kidneys and liver, increase fertility, and eliminate certain urinary tract problems. Caramel evolved in France.
5 Tips For Learning Spanish
I have my own tips to learn Spanish, but came across Omniglot's 5 Top Tips for Learning Spanish. My favorite and the one that resonates most with me is to use literature. In fact for years I have suggested finding your favorite book in Spanish and reading it out loud as a strategy to improve your speaking ability. Assuming it's not a children's book or short on pages, you'll have a pretty good grasp of the language by the time you get to the end. Reading out loud could seem uncomfortable at first, but what happens is your mouth and tongue begin to learn how to form the necessary shapes to make the correct pronunciations. Give it a shot.
Traveling to Mexico?
US News has a quick list of 9 of the top travel destinations in Mexico for you and me.
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.