Spanish, Espanol, also known as Castellano, Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in Europe’s Iberian Peninsula. It is spoken as a first language by approximately 360 million people worldwide. Mexico had the most speakers (greater than 85 million) in the early twenty-first century, followed by Colombia (more than 40 million), Argentina (greater than 35 million), the United States (greater than 31 million), and Spain (greater than 30 million). Spanish is an official language in 18 American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela), as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and is spoken in Europe and Africa by Spain and Equatorial Guinea. It is the world’s second most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese, and the fourth most spoken language overall, after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi. Now that’s quite an achievement!
So, if you are seriously keen and would genuinely like to improve your Spanish; there here are the 5 crucial steps you could follow to learn Spanish:
1- Set goals for yourself.
Short and long-term, for all four skill categories; reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Apart from this make a guideline for yourself, that you could measure your goals against! A typical short-term speaking guideline could be, learning 35 words in a week, and a long-term guideline could well mention being able to speak and recollect about a minimum of 500 words! Your goals should be realistic, achievable, and measurable. Steer clear of overambitious goals that can burn you out. Instead, utilize the Pomodoro technique to divide your learning into small chunks, that can be attended to, during several small intervals in a day.
2- Put the internet to its best use
Look for error-free, authentic, resources online to help you practice your language skills. Use free flashcards apps such as Anki and Memrise to help accelerate your recollection abilities. Look for free online apps such as Duolingo etc. to help you practice and learn more. Alternatively, you could learn Spanish online with Spanish lessons available at Rosetta Stone, Busuu, etc. Watch Spanish movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, documentaries, talk shows, and as many authentic video resources that you can find online; initially, these would be of great help to develop your listening, as they would help you get familiarised with the accent, the speech modulation, besides helping you train your ear to catch Spanish words. In this manner, if you would be able to identify the Spanish language from, so many other European languages when spoken. Watch the videos with English subtitles and if possible the same English videos, if available, with Spanish subtitles. In order to improve your Spanish speaking, I also suggest you to use the shadowing technique and mimic the speech that you hear in the videos with a near possible accent. I also encourage you to listen to multiple authentic Spanish audios such as the Spotify playlist, podcast, songs, and many more.
3- Read a lot and read aloud
In order to improve your reading, I suggest you start by reading children’s books first! Do not feel embarrassed to read these; instead incorporating this tip in your language learning would go a long way. Language learners are extremely anxious to be able to start building their own sentences and start speaking the language. However, in order to do that they need to be able to start framing simple meaningful sentences in Spanish. And that’s exactly where children’s books would prove helpful. Children’s books contain smaller words and simpler sentences that a child can understand. As a language learner, these small words and simple sentences would be of great help to you when you try to build your own sentences and initiate your first ever conversation. Underestimating the power of learning through children’s books could be disastrous. Apart from these, learners could access and use authentic and reliable literature from the internet or libraries.
4- Make your own dictionary.
I suggest learners of the Spanish language capture all new words they hear through audio or video in a journal or a diary. If you are a beginner you must ensure that these are words, which are commonly used in day-to-day conversation. Keep a tab on the meaning and the context used, so that these could serve the purpose to the dictionary for you whenever you need to make sentences of your own and initiate a conversation. As you progress, you could look at a slightly higher level or more complex words to build longer sentences. You could also use online Spanish translators to help you if you do not have any Spanish-speaking person available around you tp help.
My final suggestion, while still not the last, would be to go ahead and seek conversation partners for yourself. I recommend you practice speaking Spanish, with the Spanish natives. If they are not available in and around your neighborhood, you may want to search them online through various sites such as Hello Talk, Tandem, Italki, Language partners, conversation partners, and many such sites. Use them to give you feedback, correct your mistakes and also give you information about words that you may have collected in your journey or diary, but you do not understand or need clarity about.
Spanish is a beautiful language that is a part of romance languages. Along with Sardinian and Italian, Spanish is a descendant of Latin and has one of the smallest degrees of difference from it (about 20%). Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary comes from Latin, including borrowings from Ancient Greek. This makes Spanish an easy language to learn for English speakers, who are already proficient in Latin alphabets. Its vocabulary has also been influenced by Arabic, having developed in the Iberian Peninsula during the Al-Andalus era, with approximately 8% of its vocabulary having Arabic lexical roots. Iberian, Basque, Celtiberian, Visigothic, and other neighboring Ibero-Romance languages have also influenced it. Furthermore, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly other Romance languages such as French, Italian, Mozarabic, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Occitan, and Sardinian, as well as from Quechua, Nahuatl, and other indigenous languages of the Americas. You could look for online Spanish classes to hone your language skills and become proficient in the shortest possible time.