Read this only if you are interested in the big picture-and would like to know how to learn basic Spanish in a month. This is my language-learning hack. It words for Spanish, it works for any other language too.
Why Learn a New Language?
When you arrive to Barcelona, you will notice that locals speak Spanish & Catalan – but that is it. Some locals speak a bit of English and French. But you will need to speak Spanish if you want to communicate well.
Knowing the local language is a great way to meet locals and understand the city better. Some tourists decide to hang around only with foreigners and live in a bubble where they never get a chance to interact with the local scene. This is a shame – and also a missed opportunity.
Spanish is one of the hottest languages right now, regardless of what Donald Trump has to say about it. Let’s pick it up!
How To Learn Basic Spanish In A Month (Or Any Other Language)
Spanish is not too complicated. But still, getting started is still a pain in the ass.
If you are reading this, chances are that you are already curious about the language, and maybe even have some basic skills. You probably tried several methods – only to find out all you can say is “Una cerveza por favor!”. Meh.
Look, I am not going to lie: learning a language well is a difficult feat.
But to speak basic (even broken) Spanish is not rocket science. This is not a how to read Borges in 2 weeks guide. This is guerrilla learning. This is about getting by in a new language.
Get started by memorizing say 100 words that fit everywhere. Start with the basics, forget about the rules. Speak like a child, but speak. #WIN
It all boils down to this: If you have a clear motivation, learn a basic toolkit and finally and most importantly, practice, practice, and practice.
From then on, you can polish, relearn, and keep improving your skills. But the start is what it is.
Step 1 – Get your Motivation
The first and most important step in any adventure is your motivation. There is nothing that can substitute motivation.
Some are motivated internally, and some others externally. Whatever suits your style, motivation is the catalyzer, the trigger, the only pre-requisite.
Some motivational points:
Spanish is a big deal. Learning Spanish is a great investment nowadays.
It is the second language in the world by numbers of native speakers – only Mandarin Chinese surpasses it!.
Traveling in South America will become a piece cake – and much more fun.
Spanish literature is great! From Cervantes’ Don Quixote, to the modern works of Borges, Vargas Llosa, and Garcia Marquez. You won’t run out of good books to read.
So – how to get started? Once you are all pumped up, the best thing is to dive in and start learning the basics.
Step 2 – Learn The Top 100 Basic Words (The Takeaway)
There is nothing more painful than change. Starting to learn a new language is no different. But it is rewarding.
While some find it easier than others, learning a new language is painful in the beginning (but fun). Your brain will have to get used to new words (eg gracias), new sounds (eg r, rr, and z), and pronunciation (Spanish pronunciation is very easy).
The difficulty in learning Spanish will depend on whether you already know any related languages, the time you put in, and the practice. But knowing related languages makes it a hell-of-a-lot easier. Ask the Portuguese and Italians – for them it is a piece of cake. If you are one of them – your takeaway is the approach.
My personal trick to learn a new language very quickly is to learn a basic set of very dynamic nouns, verbs, and “link-words”. And then build on.
Get Started with just 100 words. Then get to 200, 500, and 1000. But start with 100, it’s a powerful number.
100 words that get you started learning a new language
6 Pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, you
6 Basic words: yes, no, hello, thanks, bye, please, this
9 Verbs: want, need, sleep, go, buy, travel, work, must, can
8 Words: supermarket, hostel, price, room, bed, person, name, last name,
4 Connectors: because, but, and, also
6 Quantity: a lot, a little, more, less, with, without
4 Places: center, beach, church, street
4 Food: meat, beer, sandwich, soup
6 Adjectives: good, bad, cheap, expensive, big, small
5 Questions: what, where, how much is it, when, why
5 Transport: bus, train, station, subway, ticket
7 Time: today, yesterday, tomorrow, before, later, always, never. day, week
7 Days of the Week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
3 Weather: weather, sun, rain
20 Numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-20 (recommended also tens 20-100, and hundreds 100-1000)
With this basic toolkit you will be able to communicate basic ideas, and understand basic interactions. In fact, I promise, you will be amazed about how much you can understand and say once you know this 100 words.
100 words = 5 words a day for 20 days
The idea is that you get these 100 words in your active vocabulary, so that you can recall them on the spot and use them. This “small” effort will make a huge difference. Come on, it is 5 words a day for 20 days.
Step 3 – Practice: Try, Make Mistakes, Learn
The next step is just a classic. PRACTICE.
Practice means getting out of your comfort zone. It means forgetting about what others will think about you. It means making mistakes, and being humble and staying motivated.
Practice means starting with taking a small notebook (one you can carry in your pocket, otherwise too big) and noting all the words above, then looking up their translation to Spanish (or whichever language you are learning). Then memorize them!
After all, you already learned once how to speak a language. So you can do it again.
The best ways to get exposure is to be immersed in a culture that speaks the language. Then you are forced to speak it. That is why so many people chose to travel to Spain or South America to study Spanish. Logically, when you need something, you have pressure to learn it quicker. And you’ll remember it better.
Another technique is to find a native boyfriend or girlfriend with whom you’ll generally spend a lot of time and hence learn the language in a comfortable environment. I’ve seen many cases of friends learning Italian or German in months, just because they spend lots of time with their partners.
On the go with an app. While you can learn Spanish on your phone using great language-learning apps such as Duolingo, Memrise, or Busuu – it never works well. You will realize that in a week of immersion you can learn more than in hundreds of hours of fiddling on your phone.
To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who “speaks” a language he learned on Duolingo. Most people use these apps to guide their initial learning (ie develop the basics as per above). And well, that is ok, but honestly I would not make it the main practice channel.
Learning a new language is not easy, but it is fun and it has never been more accessible. Pick yours and start today.
Barcelona is a fantastic place to be in any case – and great for learning Spanish too. Sun, beach, culture, and nightlife. What else?
The three keys to getting started in a new language is finding your motivation, learning a few hundred words, and practice like crazy. You won’t be disappointed with the results.
Now that you know how to learn basic Spanish in a month, get your notebook, a pen – and start now!
Have you tried learning new languages quickly? What is your technique?