As a beginning Spanish student the first challenge you’re going to face is figuring out where to start, especially if you’ve decided to learn Spanish on your own. This article is going to give you some initial direction to help you get started down the right track to achieving your goal of becoming a Spanish speaker.
Let’s get started.
In the beginning it’s best to keep things simple, so these are the four things I recommend you focus on to start building your conversational Spanish skills.
1. Get a good learning Spanish audio course
2. Work on your pronunciation
3. Build your vocabulary
4. Learn how to conjugate verbs
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these.
1. Get a good learning Spanish audio course
In my opinion a good learning Spanish audio course is critical to successfully learning to speak Spanish, especially if you’ve decided that taking traditional Spanish classes is not for you.
Why should you use an audio course you ask? Great question!
Even though you’re learning on your own, you still need a Spanish teacher to give your learning the proper structure and guidance to help you build a foundation in the language.
A good Spanish audio course provides you with a solid curriculum and teaches you Spanish using what may very well be the most effective language learning approach, listen and repeat. You may not realize it, but you learned much of your native language by “listening and repeating” what you heard around you. That’s why these types of courses are so successful at teaching people languages.
By using an audio course, you’ll build the foundation you need to become fluent, or at least conversational in the language. It will teach you how to put sentences together, vocabulary, pronunciation and help you learn how to conjugate verbs by internalizing the conjugations through usage as opposed to the monotonous process of wrote memorization.
Without a good learning Spanish audio course you may spend lots of time going in circles with an inefficient learning plan, or even worse, no plan at all, which will make your path to fluency longer and harder, if you get there at all.
I’m going to recommend two courses, both of which you can get from Audible.com for free.
The first one is what I used, Learning Spanish Like Crazy.
It’s a complete Spanish course that has over 30 lessons (about 30-40 mins each) that will teach you everything from the present tense to the subjunctive.
I’m not going to give you a long winded sales pitch, you can click here or on the image to listen to a sample and read the customer reviews for yourself.
And if you look closely at the image you’ll notice that you can get this course for free with an Audible trial. Even if you have to pay for it, it’s very reasonable priced. I paid $99 for my copy when this course was first released (and in my opinion it was worth every penny), so it’s current pricing is a steal.
The second learning Spanish audio course I’m going to recommend is Pimsleur Spanish.
This is also a great course. I didn’t use this as extensively as I did Learning Spanish Like Crazy. The only reason I didn’t place more emphasis on this course is because I didn’t hear about it until I was already a few years into my studies and I was past the basics that this covers. However, it is effective.
I run a conversational Spanish group and I come across people all the time who use this as the foundation of their learning and they have nothing but positive things to say about it. And I have to admit, they also speak quite well. Well enough to make me a believer in the quality of this product.
Again, I’m not going to give you a sales pitch. You can click here or on the image to listen to a sample and read the reviews. You can also get this course for free with an Audible trial.
The only issue I have with Pimsleur is to get the complete program you have to buy several different courses which makes it very expensive. But getting the first set of lessons free is certainly a good way to get started learning Spanish. Your local library may also have a copy you can borrow, so be sure to check that out as well.
There are many learning Spanish audio courses, these are just my recommendations based on my experiences with these products. But the bigger point here is that you should find an audio course that works for you, just make sure it’s based on the listen and repeat method of learning.
2. Work On Your Pronunciation
Spanish pronunciation is similar to English, so overall this shouldn’t be too difficult to learn. The one thing that always trips people up though, is the vowels.
Spanish has the same vowels we do (A, E, I, O, U) but pronounced slightly different. Master the vowels sounds and you’ll make huge improvements in your pronunciation overnight, so pay a little extra attention to those vowel sounds.
In fact, here’s a great video on YouTube that discusses the vowel sounds in Spanish.
Teaching your brain to suppress the English vowel sounds and use the Spanish sounds will be more difficult than you think, so be aware of this and make a concentrated effort because it will take some time and effort. This is something that still trips me up on occasion 13 years into my learning Spanish adventures.
3. Build Your Vocabulary
I don’t think I need to explain the importance building your vocabulary, so I’ll cut to the chase and give a great YouTube Channel that will really help you with that.
There are plenty of word of day websites or apps, and those are ok, but in my opinion those pale in comparison to the Spanish Made Easy YouTube Channel. The host of this channel has a Spanish word of the day playlist that I strongly recommend you subscribe to.
Despite the fact that I’ve managed to become quite fluent in the language, I still follow this channel because she provides great insights into the usage of the words and I occasionally learn some very interesting nuances. Plus I just find it a fun channel to watch.
One last word of advice, when you watch these videos, don’t just listen. Pause the video and repeat the word and each and every phrase she does, and do it out loud. It may seem silly, but it’s crucial to building your conversational Spanish skills.
4. Learn How To Conjugate Verbs
I’m not going to lie to you.
This is going to be one of your biggest hurdles when it comes to learning Spanish, in fact, it probably is the biggest hurdle.
Learning to conjugate Spanish verbs is going to require a lot of hard work and perseverance, but it’s critical that you learn how to conjugate verbs, and you’ll have to be good enough to do it on the fly in the middle of a conversation, without hesitation.
The good news is if you take my advice and get a good learning Spanish audio course as I mentioned above, you’re well on your way to mastering Spanish verb conjugation. There are a lot of verbs tenses and moods you’ll have to learn, but as a beginner the one you should be focusing your attention on is the present tense.
Spanish also has a ton of verbs, so we need to narrow that list down a bit. You’ll learn a lot faster and retain more by starting with the high frequency verbs, the ones you’ll find yourself using the most. My recommendations are the verbs ser, estar, tener, hacer, poder, decir, ir, ver, comer, tomar and querer to start with. You don’t have to limit yourself to just those verbs, but those are the ones I would initially put the most emphasis on.
Most likely your chosen Spanish audio course is going to walk you through those verbs and many more, but I think it’s also wise to pick up a good book that will help you with conjugating verbs as well.
And there’s probably no better book around for that than the Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Verb Tenses book.
This is an awesome book with straight-forward and simple explanations and examples. It covers all of the verb tenses and teaches you the uses of each tense as well the conjugations. I recommend it. I own an older edition and still refer to it today on occasion. You can click here or on the image to take a look at it in Amazon.
Wrapping Things Up
And that’s it. If you follow this bit of advice you’ll be well on your way to building a strong foundation in conversational Spanish.
Do you have any helpful advice to add? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.
¡Saludos y hasta la próxima!